English teacher Ian Wuertz will soon wrap up his year as an Alum Service Corps (ASC) volunteer at St. Louis U. High.
Wuertz made his way to SLUH after growing up and attending Regis Jesuit High School in Colorado and Seattle University in Washington. Along the way, he made a friend in English teacher Jamie Cordia, who was an ASC volunteer at Regis while Wuertz wasa student, and the two were on Kairos together. After years of remaining in contact, they ended up at SLUH together.
“It’s really been a beautiful blessing to see him go from kind of a weird, nerdy, little sophomore in high school, to becoming a leader on campus, to becoming this really cool college kid who’s working at Starbucks, and now to a full time teacher,” said Cordia. “It's been one of the most awesome things to witness.”
Wuertz stepped into the role of teaching freshman English with his passion for writing, and despite encountering a few minor hurdles at first, he grew into the role and showed a lot of success.
“As a teacher it was tough because I had never really done any education thing,” said Wuertz. “I was really just winging it at first. It really was just, ‘Here’s a classroom, here’s some books, go crazy.’”
Partnered with fellow English teacher Micheal Mohr, S.J. as his mentor, Wuertz was able to find his rhythm eventually and made a powerful impact on the freshmen in his class.
“He had such a sense of confidence and was such a team player with the English team,” said Mohr. “He brought in his own personality to the students, which I think really resonated with them. He’s a really cool guy.”
“It was a good relaxing style that really helped me learn,” said freshman Brandon Harris. “Overall, I think everyone was comfortable with asking him questions and I think that helped a lot of other people learn too.”
To give his students a break from the stress of transitioning into SLUH, Wuertz would have what he called a “Fun Friday” every week, when the class would play a game or do an activity that related to what the class was currently learning about.
Another unique attribute to Wuertz’s classroom was the creative writing assignments he gave at the beginning of classes. In order to get his students’ minds active, he would dedicate the first few minutes of class to a quick creative writing assignment.
“I always thought that’s actually really wonderful,” said Cordia. “Kids need more of that. They need more of an opportunity to be creative and to foster a passion for writing. I think he worked really hard for giving students that outlet.”
Wuertz continued to find ways to spark a creative side in his students, whether it was by passing a sheet around the room on which students could write a creative comment, or helping design the new creative writing assignment for freshmen.
Despite his early struggles with teaching, the SLUH community was quick to welcome Wuertz into their home.
“It was super easy just to start fitting in,” said Wuertz. “Since I went to a Jesuit high school, Jesuit university, it was very easy to get into the environment here.”
The community is what Wuertz will remember most when he looks back at his time at SLUH. Community is also one of one of the big tenets of ASC life, making it a staple of his daily interactions since he lived across the street from SLUH with fellow ASC volunteer Sigmund Gusdorf and the De Smet ASCs.
“Every Monday (the other ASCs and I) would go over to the Jesuit’s residence on campus, have a little Mass, have a little dinner, and just hang out for hours,” said Wuertz. “And that’s so much fun, to hang out with people outside of the classroom, outside of the school, and to get to know them is great.”
“(Wuertz) was clearly a big part in kind of cultivating the joy and the comradery that that community had, and I got to be a part of that a few times, which was a lot of fun,” said Mohr.
Along with teaching English, Wuertz also coached JV hockey with a background in playing the sport and skating.
“He was awesome,” said senior Andrew Zerega. “He was funny and someone that made me look forward to coming to the runk for practice or games. He was always positive and a big help to all of us. He loved to chirp the refs which always made us laugh. He’s a great guy and coach and I was lucky to have him as a coach.”
As his year as an ASC comes to an end, Wuertz has been interviewing at other Jesuit schools on the East Coast. He is certain he wants to continue his teaching career as he moves forward with his career.
“Mr. Wuertz is just a gem of a human being and super funny,” said Cordia. “For all the people at SLUH who got the chance to know him, I think they are pretty lucky, and probably better people because they got to know him.”