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Teacher of the Issue: Mrs. Jessica Kenworthey

Kenworthey is not your average theology teacher. She went to Harvard, traveled overseas to become a nun, and gave that up to start a family and to do the thing she loved: teaching.

Kenworthey

Theology teacher Mrs. Jessica Kenworthy has had a love for teaching for more than 20 years, and has spent a decade teaching at Malvern. She currently teaches sophomores in her History of the Church class.

Kenworthey resides in Downingtown with her husband whom she married in 2002 and her two children. 

Growing up in the State College area of Pennsylvania, she attended State High, and later attended Harvard where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Social Studies. After this, she decided to become a nun and moved to France. 

“Part of it was, I wanted to make a difference, I wanted to make the world a better place. Part of it was I was 21 years old, and when you’re 21, you think you know everything, and I really thought I knew everything.”

“Part of it was, I wanted to make a difference, I wanted to make the world a better place,” Kenworthey said. “Part of it was I was 21 years old, and when you’re 21, you think you know everything, and I really thought I knew everything.”

She lived for one year in France before becoming a nun, and spent the next four years in Paris before moving to Blois for a year and a half. She spent some summers in Vézelay. While staying for six years in Strasbourg, a city on the country lines of Germany and France, she earned her master’s degree in Theology.

At age 29, Kenworthey began to witness her friends getting married and starting families, which made her question her decision. After considering many different factors, she left the order and came back to the United States.

“Some people might say I made a mistake,” Kenworthey said. “I don’t know if I see it that way, but some people might see it because I left.”

She found Malvern after applying for a few jobs. Ironically, Kenworthey applied for teaching French first, and English second, leaving out the subject she teaches now.

Kenworthey enjoys many things about Malvern. Her favorite aspect, though, is the sophomore service and retreat program at St. Augustine’s Church in Philadelphia.

Junior Rhys Werny took Kenworthey’s class last year. He said he enjoyed her class and learned a lot.

“It was a very interesting class. There was lots of note-taking, but the information, I thought, was pretty interesting.” Werny said.

The various projects and note taking helped Werny be better prepared for classes later in the year and gave him skills for the future.

“I just love Mrs. Kenworthey. I thought she was a very good teacher,” Werny said.

In addition to teaching theology, Kenworthey coordinates SpeakUp! at Malvern. SpeakUp! is a major after-school event every year at Malvern that aims to talk about sensitive topics and help students and parents communicate more effectively, according to the SpeakUp! website.

“I was asked to help with SpeakUp! about 13 years ago by a counselor and health teacher who is no longer here,” Kenworthey said. “At first we used to travel to Merion Mercy and attend the event there, but we have since started our own event and invited [Notre Dame], Villa [Maria] and Devon [Prep] here.”

According to Kenworthey, SpeakUp! is is a groundbreaking event that permits honest dialogue between teens and parents. “It opens people’s eyes to the struggles of their parents, sons, and peers, and it really promotes communication and openness in a very concrete and real way,” she said.

Kenworthey also moderates Speech and Debate. Speech and Debate gives students the chance to interact with their peers at about 23 other schools.

The club has had some great successes in the past several years, including some significant wins in districts and qualifying for states.

“The biggest wins for me occur when a student wins a round arguing a point he actually does not support, as when Hunter Peck ’16 won arguing for the repeal of the Second Amendment,” Kenworthey said. “Last year we even hosted a tournament here. It is an incredibly important activity and builds real world skills like analysis, quick thinking, logic and public speaking.”

Kenworthey loves Speech and Debate, especially for the long-lasting impact it has on student debaters.

“Several alumni have told me upon or after graduation how much the activity helped them come out of their shell or grow in poise and confidence,” Kenworthey said.

Sophomore Greg Gaasche participates in the club. “She does her best job to try and make everyone prepare for the topic as much as possible,” he said.

Gaasche also has Kenworthey for his History of the Church class. Gaasche said he learns more than just facts about the past of the Church but also more about his faith.

“Faith is something you always have to live with and deal with,” Gaasche said. “I remember this morning she talked about how faith was more important than math because no matter what you will always have your faith but not always have to use math.”

Kenworthey has many Malvern memories, but what she will remember most is her students.

“I love everything about teaching,” Kenworthey said. “I love the kids who drive me crazy, I love the good kids, I love the kids who are clueless, I love the kids who can’t stand Theology and the kids who love Theology.”

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