From Italy to IHM, Mr. Mennella has seen it all


Leslie Martinez

One of St. Joseph High School’s most special and recognized teachers who has seen it all, is the teacher you can find in room 405, greeting at students of his business, economics and accounting classes and can even be seen running the busy bookstore right across the gym is Mr. Mennella a St. Joe’s legend. Thanks to Mr. Mennella’s friendly personality he opened up about his interesting start he had to his education and teaching career.

With a last name like Mennella you can quickly infer that Mr. Mennella must be Italian. Well it’s true, was actually born in Italy and immigrated to America at the age of seven. This made it difficult for him to transition from speaking Italian to having to start all over and learn a second language. Fortunately, that didn’t keep him from doing well in school and later even being placed in an honors English class in the seventh grade. He explained that early on in his education he enjoyed history, but thanks to his sophomore year accounting teacher, he explained he really understood the material and felt a sense of self worth for the first time.

After high school Mr. Mennella attended South Suburban Junior College, Western Michigan University, Governors State University, Chicago State University, and DePaul University. Years later he  student taught at Hubbard high school a CPS school, which he says to have had a pleasant experience with the accounting courses but unfortunately they had a poor general business class curriculum. When he finally finished student teaching, Mr.Mennella taught at Dominican Christian High School, an all girls’ school. While teaching at Dominican he had the chance to teach the daughters of many political leaders of Illinois like Representative Jesse Jackson.

After thirteen years of teaching at Dominican Christian High school closed but a new chapter was about start for Mr. Mennella. He started teaching at Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM) in 1970 and in 2006 IHM started their second semester along with the boys of St. Joseph High School in the IHM building. Mr.Manella explained that he hated the transition and took him six months to adjust but later realized that he liked coed better and had its benefits. He said that “St. Joseph is so rich in its multi-cularism that it makes it like teaching in a U.N. kind of school.  U.N. stands for United Nations.  Our students are able to communicate with a wonderful selection of academic and different ethnic groups, just like one would in the real world.  This is one of the greatest strengths we have going for us”

Mr. Mennella has now been part of the St. Joseph staff for twenty four years and has been teaching in Christian/Catholic schools for nearly 43 years. When asked about his feelings of Catholic Vs. public school education He said “Student leave with something you may not find in a public school. It’s an intangible; it’s not something that comes in one day, one month, but over the course of four years, they are left with ideals, enriched morals, because of our stricter rules. But, we give more trust in the student to come and reach out to us for any situation.”  Mr. Mennella and along with other teachers of St. Joseph High School staff, continue to add on to the growth and formation of their students day by day.