Secret lives of teachers

Posted: December 11, 2019

Minnehaha teachers enjoy unique interests, hobbies outside of school

When at school, it’s pretty easy to find teachers. They’re most often in their room doing something like lesson planning or grading. But, once their work is done, there are many different places they go to do interesting things. Who knew Minnehaha Academy’s teachers have secret lives outside of school.

Carmella Whaley cooks and makes homemade pasta, Jenna Kirkwood rock climbs, Dante Britten collects shoes, and Sam Terfa recently won two European Championships in broomball. They are just a few of the many fascinating teachers at MA that do unexpected things in their free time.

Carmella Whaley

Science teacher Carmella Whaley (born with the Italian surname DeRose, which is now her middle name), learned how to make pasta and other Italian dishes from her grandmother, also named Carmella DeRose, who moved to Chicago from Italy as a young woman. Whaley remembers learning some of her grandmother’s techniques when she was five to ten years old, but it has been in the past five years that she has had more time to do her own cooking and pasta making.

Her second inspiration for getting into cooking is the dozen or so trips she’s taken to Italy.

Whaley now cooks around five nights a week, makes pasta from scratch two to three times a month, and entertains small groups of people pretty much every weekend in her St. Paul home, with guests ranging from family, friends, people she’s gone to Italy with and her parish priest.

She describes her house as “central to where everybody lives so they come over a lot.”

For Christmas Eve, Whaley has a family tradition of making fish. When she was a kid, there would be seven fish dishes on Christmas Eve, also known as The Feast of Seven Fishes, an Italian tradition. She no longer has seven fish dishes on Christmas Eve, but usually makes pasta with some kind of seafood. Her recent favorite is linguine with fresh clams. Overall, Whaley finds the kitchen to be a “very fun and peaceful place that smells good and makes you think about your family and friends a lot.”

Jenna Kirkwood

Spanish teacher Jenna Kirkwood remembers trying rock climbing for the first time in fourth grade and was “definitely not into it.” She remembers thinking, “Okay, that was fun and I’m done.” In high school, she went a couple times with her family but really got into while going to Bethel University. She would go with a group to the St. Paul location of Vertical Endeavors where they had half-off rentals and day passes for students. Currently, she has a membership at Vertical Endeavors, and if time allows, goes twice a week to the Bloomington location with her roommates or siblings. Kirkwood has also been outdoor climbing a couple times in Red Wing with her siblings, and she gets tips from her brother-in-law who has taught climbing classes at the University of Minnesota. She has even gone ice climbing, where she used crampons and ice picks to climb up a frozen waterfall.

“It’s a very physical activity…,” Kirkwood said, “you have to have certain muscle sets or develop certain muscles in order to be able to do it, but it’s interesting that it’s not solely how big and muscular you are…because another lesser known aspect of climbing is that it’s a very technical sport as well. I love that it’s mentally engaging and that you kind of solve this problem of ‘how am I going to get to the top?’

Dante Britten

In his junior year at Rantoul Township High School, in Rantoul, Illinois, Dante Britten, a Phy Ed teacher and coach of football and track, bought a pair

of Air Jordans to wear to prom. “Ever since then, it just kept going,” he said. He now has a collection of around 100 pairs of shoes organized by number and kept in their original boxes on a shelving unit in his basement so they’re not touching the floor. After he wears a pair of shoes, he cleans them before putting them away. He’s even stood in line for eight hours with friends for a pair of shoes to expand his collection. But, it all started with the Jordan 11 Bred. “I was really into fashion quite a bit,” Britten said,” and so shoes were always an important part of the outfit, so I just kept enjoying the Jordan shoes, and I just kept buying them.” Although his collection stopped growing since he and his wife had kids, his favorite part of having a collection is the varying options and being able to wear a different pair every day for a long time without having repeats. Out of all his options, his favorite shoe is the Jordan 11 Concord.

“It looks like a basketball shoe,” he said,” but it’s really kind of classy looking too. I like to wear them with dress clothes.”

Britten’s advice to his athletes when he first started coaching track and football, “They should wear Jordans with their tux instead of dress shoes.”

Sam Terfa

In Early November, Sam Terfa, tech department, specialist and AP Physics teacher, won both the men’s and co-ed titles in the Euro-pean Championships for broomball which were located in Angers, France this year. Terfa got his start in broomball when someone invited him to play after he moved from Michigan to Minnesota, which happens to be a hot spot for American broomball where the best teams typically play due to its proximity to Canada (broomball is a Canadian sport). Since he played hockey in both high school and at Calvin College, he enjoyed broomball because it uses hockey skills but not a lot of hockey players are in the sport. He’s now part of the Min- nesota Flames broomball team, and plays twice a week at Augs- burg College where he’s been playing for the last six years.

“I just like to play,” Terfa said,” and these are nice people.” When a lot of guys he plays with were heading to the European Championships and needed an extra guy, he was able to do it, and he and his team made the trip to France where Terfa played 10 games in two days, and secured wins in both tournaments he played and the trophies to prove it. Overall, Terfa sees broomball as a unique thing he does where he can enjoy the hockey skills it uses and the good exercise it provides.

“It’s super tiny in terms of the number of people who know about it or are playing it in Minnesota,” he said, “So, that’s what you do, you just find something that no one else does and you practice that thing and then you excel in it.”

You may also like…

The ins and outs of sports medicine

MA's athletic trainer and strength & conditioning coach support students Minnehaha is home to many exceptional sports teams and hundreds of student-athletes.  Behind those teams and athletes are many amazing coaches who know how to bring out the best in each...

Expect the unexpected in the 2024 election

With two very elderly candidates, one candidate facing criminal trials & AI deepfakes undermining truth, this election will be unique. Will peace follow the outcome? As the 2024 election approaches, many concerns are being raised. It has been described by many to...

College Camps: a Journey of Discovery

Many high school students are finding new ways to impress colleges. Is going to a college camp one of them? Stepping onto campus, you take in the sprawling grounds. You inhale the warm summer breeze that carries anxious excitement. The possibilities are endless, you...

Sleep’s Impact on Athletics

Undervalued by many teens, sleep holds the key to better performance Getting roughly 8 to 10 hours of sleep a night is difficult for most student-athletes to accomplish, especially while trying to balance other things like homework, a sustainable social life, and a...

Brain games

Online word and number games are fun, but can they actually help your brain? Wordle, Strands, Connections, and The Mini. All of these may sound familiar to you and in all likelihood you have played them before. According to, just by the start of 2024, the...