Academics > Upper Grades > Eighth Grade

Eighth Grade

Richard Leonard
rleonard@omcparish.com

Eighth Grade Webpage

Teaching Philosophy

Eighth graders are at a place in their lives where they really want to show what they’re capable of doing and I feel that many of them get frustrated if they feel people are talking down to them. When you have high expectations, they always rise to the occasion. That’s a regular occurrence at OMC. Every week that goes by, something new impresses me.

My goal is to break down the wall between different subject areas wherever possible: use drama to explain religion; short stories to explain science; art and music to expand upon literature. We work in small groups to generate the interaction and creative tension you’d find in any workplace. OMC, more than any school I’ve worked in, encourages this type of student-centered classroom.

I believe that the best learning environment comfortably—but not casually—fosters unorthodox solutions to problems. Just as Christianity questions society’s misguided priorities, our classrooms must teach our students to see beyond themselves. A great mind is worthless without a great heart. Children have to be shown that all truth—religious, scientific, literary—is rooted in God.

Overview of Curriculum

My background is writing: if students can be taught to write well, their chance of success in all subjects increases. I used to qualify that remark and tell parents that with better writing, their child’s chance of success will increase in all subjects but math, but now, with “constructed response” essay questions on all standardized tests, students must write paragraphs even in math to explain their reasoning.

As the Eighth Grade homeroom teacher, I teach religion, science, and ELA (English Language Arts) to the Eighth Grade class while Mr. Iraci teaches Math and Ms. Bihun teaches Social Studies. I also teach ELA to the Sixth Grade class. This “high school prep” approach allows each of the teachers to focus on their specialties and track the progress of students as they move through our upper grades. For example, students complete writing samples for a portfolio that is passed along from fifth through eighth—and from there to high school.

As an ELA teacher, I like to scaffold the students’ working knowledge of literature. For instance, we will learn roughly eighty literary terms and their applications before we begin to read and perform Romeo And Juliet. Such a practice allows for insightful literary criticism of individual scenes instead of forced, uninspired plot summaries.

Background/Education

  • B.A. in English-Writing from La Salle University
  • 25 years of teaching experience in the Philadelphia Archdiocese in North/South/Southwest Philadelphia, Manayunk, and now Chestnut Hill
  • 2009 Philadelphia Teacher of the Year Award by the Philadelphia Children’s Scholarship Fund