RB new staff (from l. to r.): Matthew Holdren, Kendra Cagle, Mia Pitzaferro pose in the hallway.
RB new staff (from l. to r.): Matthew Holdren, Kendra Cagle, Mia Pitzaferro pose in the hallway.
Ella Herr

RB welcomes new staff for 2023

Cagle, Holdren, and Pitzaferro are all new staff in the Applied Arts department.
Kendra Cagle

This 2023-2024 school year, Riverside Brookfield High School has welcomed new staff member Kendra Cagle as division head for CTE and as an applied arts teacher. Cagle performs duties that help support the students at RB, providing opportunities and options for students as far as their post-high school plans.

As division head, she takes on many tasks for different subjects and classes at RB while also teaching applied arts. As CTE includes a broad range of classes at RB, Cagle’s responsibilities cover a wide variety of subjects.

“As the division head, I’m in charge of wellness, applied arts, and fine arts,” Cagle said. “What I do consists of data for the department, making sure that we’re meeting the criteria for testing, even for courses that aren’t tested. I want to make sure that we’re applying good assessments for our students at RB. I am also in charge of doing some ordering, dual credit, and dual enrollment through Triton College.”

She helps promote a quality learning environment as division head by collecting statistics that keep the school informed about assessments and whether or not they are meeting their criteria.

“CTE is Career Technical Education, so CTE encompasses all of the teachers in applied arts, that would be drafting construction, business, culinary arts, health op., child growth and development,” Cagle said.

Cagle has only taught in the area a year prior to this current school year. She is from the southern part of the state and is undertaking the task of learning about and navigating the new environment, community, and school while in her occupation.

“I’m actually not from the area. I’m from southern Illinois. So, in this position, I’m learning all about the area, the community, and the school on top of all of my duties,” Cagle said.

Although she is relatively new to the area, she is experienced in teaching, having taught for eighteen years.

“This is my eighteenth year of teaching and most of it consisted in southern Illinois, in Marion. Last year was my first year in northern Illinois. I taught at Hampshire,” Cagle said.

Despite coming from a different part of the state, she has felt at home at RB due to its welcoming environment and strong foundation for students. Her interest in teaching at RB stems from its inviting atmosphere and the way she feels students are given a lot of opportunity.

“From my first impression of RB, it was like a little family, and everybody is kind of welcomed into the community of RB. RB has a lot of opportunities for students to have success outside of high school, and I really enjoy the fact that they’re wanting to build on what we already have as a foundation,” Cagle said.

Cagle’s interest in teaching comes from her own experiences as a student, as she was inspired by one of her teachers during high school.

“My certification is in Family Consumer Science, and when I was in high school, I had an amazing Parenting and Child Development teacher and Early Childhood teacher,” Cagle said. “I decided that I wanted to be just like her when I grow up.”

Matthew Holdren

After the retirement of former teacher, Gary Prokes, Matthew Holdren stepped up as new director for RBTV at Riverside Brookfield High School. Holdren decided to take a more modern approach on the long-lasting tradition of filmmaking at RB.

Before Holdren was an RB staff member, he previously taught at Homewood Flossmoor High School. Holdren was heavily involved in the activities and electives at his old school. When he came to RB, Holdren wanted to make a bigger impact on the students in and outside of RBTV.

“I was at Homewood Flossmoor High School for fifteen years as a teacher. I taught Film, English, was the department chair for Fine Arts, and coached varsity football for ten years. What brought me here was the opportunity to take over a traditioned program and lead it myself,” Holdren said.

Although Holdren is the director of RBTV, he makes sure that his students experience the leadership role and get to use their creativity freely.

“It’s 100 percent a student-led thing. He is there to help, and he has been so helpful with everything that he has been implementing here,” TV Manager and Senior Makayla Angshed said.

In addition to giving the staff creative freedom, Holdren is focused on constructing a safe and social environment for his students, as well as working together with the new material they learned this year.

“I love the connection I have with other classmates and being able to put all of our ideas together to make really cool content especially this year with the modernized stuff that we do,” Social Media Manager and Senior Jenny Thomas said.

Along with working hard to get content out twice as fast, Bulldog Weekly was newly instated this year, giving students a chance to create more videos and features. In addition, Holdren is using his film expertise to teach his students everything there is to know.

“He’s a really great teacher,” Thomas said. “We’re learning a lot, and I think that he has a lot of experience and is going to point us in the right direction.”

The students are always out and about making new videos for RBTV, and their social media is always updated with the newest current events. Holdren is constantly hands-on with the staff’s projects and is able to provide help when necessary.

“He has done so much for us already in terms of just getting our names out there and making so much content for the school. He’s constantly working and trying to improve things,” Angshed said.

As a result of coming to RB, new possibilities are open for Holdren to interact with the school. Having energetic spirit and good clubs has aided the RBTV staff in order to create the best content they can produce.

“[The] student-body here is fantastic and the school spirit that exists here is unlike any other school I’ve ever been at. For me, with what we do with the TV program, you have to have students invested, and you have to have school spirit for it to be successful. I think that is a perfect combination of what we have here,” Holdren said.

Mia Pitzaferro

Riverside Brookfield High School has welcomed Mia Pitzaferro, a new teacher this year who will be teaching Food I, Child Development, Health Occupation, along with Human Growth and Development classes within the next semester.

Pitzaferro’s inspiration to become a teacher progressed throughout her high school career, the dreams of being an educator leading to her current position at RBHS.

“I helped out in my culinary classes in high school, I did demos, and instead of going to culinary school, I decided, maybe teaching is my passion; this is what I want to do, and I want to help kids,” Pitzaferro said.

Pitzaferro grew up surrounded by family members who pursued occupations in the food industry. Rather than attending culinary school, Pitzaferro attended Illinois State University where she graduated with a degree in family consumer science and teacher education. She also received a Bachelor’s Degree in Science.

“My dad used to be a chef, so I kind of grew up in the restaurant industry. He owned his own restaurant called the Pitzaferro’s Banquet. Ever since I remember, I’ve been in the kitchen with him, so that was something I was always interested in growing up,” Pitzaferro said.

Pitzaferro’s educational position, associated with the family consumer science programs, was exactly what she wanted to pursue. Pitzaferro feels welcomed and excited to be working here at RBHS, especially with the plans that will be going into action within the next few years with her students.

“We are going to get industrialized kitchens and commercial kitchens here at RB. It could give us the opportunity to help those students who want to learn more beyond the simple basic skills we learn, so they’ll be able to learn about how the industry standards are and how to work front of house or back of house.”

Pitzaferro is thrilled to be a part of the school. She has loved the support coming from the staff and students.

“I think my favorite part about being a teacher, especially an FCS teacher, is just being able to help my students grow and be able to help them grow in their life that they have right now because these are your four years of high school, not your whole life,” Pitzaferro said. “But, there are so many major things that you have going on in your life right now, and being able to be there for them through these major times are super important, in addition to being able to help them follow their passion and what they want to do in the future, seeing them grow up, and seeing them become the young adult that you guys are when you graduate.”

Not only is Pitzaferro excited to pursue her job at RBHS, but also seeing her students develop into the people that they are once they graduate. In addition, how all of her students will continue on their academic path.

“I want to help other people strive and follow their goals and their passions throughout their high school career, and even on into the future.”

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