“It’s not just a football game. It’s a religion.”
“Penn State was my second home.”
It’s noon at Beaver Stadium, 106,000 Nittany Lions are sacrificing their voices for the love of the game.
“We are… Penn State… We are… Penn State… We are… Penn State!”
Ms. Brooke Kenna is widely known for her unmatched classroom energy and passion for teaching.
“Ms. Kenna never fails to bring every drop of energy possible to the classroom. Whether it is first period on a Monday or last period on a Friday, you will always begin class with a door slam followed by a borderline scream of ‘Hola Chicos,’” said Dante Perri ‘20.
Many do not know Ms. Kenna’s journey to teaching was not a simple one.
“It was super duper bittersweet, and I was really sad to leave Penn State. I knew I could go back and visit while branching out and exploring my own journey.”
Ms. Kenna graduated from Pennsylvania State University with a broad academic background. She double majored in Spanish and Communications with a specialization in advertising in Public Relations. She also minored in International Studies. It did not take her long to land an internship with the Philadelphia Phillies.
“I graduated on Saturday and started my internship on Monday,” Ms. Kenna said.
Ms. Kenna started with the Reading Fightin’ Phils, the minor league affiliate of the Phillies. Initially hired as a group sales representative, Ms. Kenna could not have foreseen the unpredictability and fast pace of her new position.
“[In the] Major league you have a job and that’s what you do. Minor league baseball is not like that,” Ms. Kenna said. “One day you could be cold-calling churches for a religious event, like faith night at the ballpark, and later that day be tending to the field.”
Determined to climb the proverbial corporate ladder, Kenna also worked tirelessly to help members of her community. She co-ran existing sponsorships and actively recruited new ones. Also, she started a “hit the book” program that ended up reaching 50,000 kids in Essex County through reading programs and free tickets. At twenty-two years old, she was promoted to assistant general manager and oversaw all game-day operations while remaining active in community relations. Even as assistant general manager, she knew her job still threw lots of curveballs.
“I remember one day our mascot called out sick, and I had to jump into the costume and do an appearance as the assistant general manager of this team,” Ms. Kenna said.
By the end of her tenure with the club, she felt that the fast pace had reached a crescendo reflected in her daily caffeine routine.
“I would have three extra large Dunkin’ Donuts coffees with two shots of espresso before lunch and then start drinking sugar-free Red Bulls at about three o’clock when we started getting ready for the game,” said Kenna.
After leaving the team, she had a brief stint in New York and then returned to Philadelphia working with a small company as the director of marketing. After a downturn in the company, she “began thinking about teaching” and completed her teaching certification within four semesters, followed by a masters in education.
“I taught K-5 Spanish,” Ms. Kenna said. “I was teaching little kids at a public school, and I said, ‘Nope, God bless those elementary school teachers,’ but it just wasn’t for me.”
Although she planned to return to her elementary school teaching position, she decided to entertain a job interview offer from former Head of Upper School Mr. Matt Green.
“I interviewed with Ms. Davis and Mr. Thorburn and in total seven different people that day, and I actually had surgery the day before,” Ms. Kenna said.
She felt grateful for the Haverford students and faculty that made her feel at home, despite her previous inexperience with private institutions.
On the other hand, Ms. Kenna said, “I grew up with all boys, so talking to young men was something that comes pretty naturally to me.”
For the past six years, Ms. Kenna has continued to feel inspired by what she sees in students and her colleagues.
“Every single time I talked to a teacher at Haverford, they were doing such amazing things. So just when I thought I was doing good, they were doing better and it pushed me to do better,” Ms. Kenna said.
Having finally found her new second home at Haverford, she remains a Nittany Lion at heart.
“It’s really fulfilling to me to watch you guys start at the top of Centennial Hall and in a quick four years end up at the bottom as the leaders like I did in the stands at Penn State,” Ms. Kenna said.
With the abrupt conclusion to the 2019-2020 academic year on campus, members of the Sixth Form can reminisce about all the good times with their friends and teachers before the coronavirus pandemic.
“Ms. Kenna is able to see when a student is not fully himself and will be sure to reach out for help,” Perri said. “She’s always there to help listen to students about their regular lives and provide help.”