Jennifer Szynal of the Fine Arts Department


“Don’t underestimate the importance music and theatre can have on your life.” That’s the message Joliet Catholic Academy’s band and theatre teacher, Ms. Jennifer Szynal, shares with everyone she meets. “The performing arts help students develop mentally, physically and socially. While many of my students will not perform after high school, what they learn through these programs is more than an appreciation for the arts. They learn to love whatever it is they are doing and to never be satisfied with a mediocre performance.”

Ms. Szynal has been surrounded by music her entire life, which drives her desire to share music with the JCA community. Growing up, her parents exposed her and her two sisters to the arts at a very young age. From classical symphonies, like Antonin Dvorak’s “New World Symphony,” to Disney classics, like “Part of Your World,” Ms. Szynal was constantly surrounded by music as a kid. She remembers her parents sharing memories associated with each song that came on. “That was when I realized that music and theatre illustrate the passion of humanity. They describe people through love, triumph, loss and life. By finding the passion behind each song or show, I found my passion.”

Ms. Szynal graduated from Illinois State University in Normal, Ill. in 2007 with a bachelor’s degree in music education and joined the JCA community shortly thereafter. Over these last eight years, she has been dedicated to growing the performing arts program. “When I interviewed for this position, I knew academic excellence was a hallmark of JCA education. It is important to recognize and nurture our students’ artistic sides as well. JCA’s offers a well-rounded curriculum that allows students to find their own paths and determine their own passions in life.”

Ms. Szynal has been running the band program for eight years and the theatre program for six, and has grown the program to include nearly 100 students. “Drama Club performs eight shows a year, including the student-directed ‘One Acts’ in the spring, and our Musical Theatre Troupe performs large and small productions both inside and outside of the school. Each year, I take a group of students to the University of Illinois Theatre Festival where we participate in workshops, attend shows and network with other schools from around the state. This is a great opportunity for my students to gain a different perspective by learning from other professionals and students. Our band program offers students experiences with small ensembles and full bands that reinforce the 21st century skills they are learning in the classroom, such as communication and collaboration.”

In January, Ms. Szynal received the Joliet Region Area Chamber of Commerce Great Teachers Award. The award honors teachers who instill a desire to learn and achieve in their students. Of the 26 teachers who were honored this year, Ms. Szynal was the only teacher from a private school. “Winning an award like this means that what I have been doing at JCA is making a difference. But it is not about winning awards; this is about empowering students to use their talents to be the person God calls them to be. Over the last eight years, I have worked with the students to give them a program they can take great pride in, and it shows in their performances.”

“At JCA, students learn to think for themselves, problem solve, and to have a passion for life. That is what brought me here. Teachers go above and beyond to help students learn core subjects and life lessons. We are a family; we cry, laugh, pray and learn together. No one is just a number here. You are allowed to be who you are and who you would like to become. I think that is clearly reflected in our performing arts program.”

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