Scholar, philosopher, and philanthrope on sabbatical

Convent of the Sacred Heart Upper School English Teacher and Chair of the English Department, Dr. William Mottolese, embarked on an enriching sabbatical from January 15 to June 5. His academic and social work took him from the classroom to conference halls and across state borders while allowing him to build on topics he has explored for years at Sacred Heart. 
“I did more than I expected because I stepped into the opportunities that sprang up before me,” Dr. Mottolese said.
Dr. Mottolese engaged in experiences that promoted academic growth and connected him with a myriad of people on his academic and spiritual journey.
One of the most time-consuming endeavors he participated in was a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on “The Philosophy of Science.” This course promoted innovative development of critical thinking and writing skills which Dr. Mottolese is excited to share with his classes this year.
“I wanted to deepen my knowledge of philosophy and really explore the place of thinking in our present educational environment and twenty-first century learning,” Dr. Mottolese said.
Philosophy was also the focus of  many conferences Dr. Mottolese attended and presented at during his sabbatical. The University of Washington hosted a conference June 29 and 30 for the Philosophy Learning and Teaching Organization (PLATO) in Seattle which Dr. Mottolese, a member of the organization’s Executive Board Education Committee, attended.
This fall, PLATO will be accepting student essays and projects for the 2015 Long Island High School Philosophy Conference. In an attempt to bring his sabbatical experiences to the classroom, Dr. Mottolese is encouraging senior students to participate.
“The world is a place to change,” Dr. Mottolese said.“We [Sacred Heart teachers] are educating you as whole human beings not to just fit in passively, but to go out and change the world.”
Dr. Mottolese heeded his own advice and used his sabbatical to apply philosophical thinking to solve practical social issues.

Dr. Mottolese, Fr George Winzenburg, Mrs. Pendergast, and Mr. Pendergast at the Red Cloud Indian School.
Dr. William Mottolese, Father George Winzenburg, Mrs. Judene Pendergast, and Mr. John Pendergast at the Red Cloud Indian School. Courtesy of Dr. William Mottolese

Three years ago, Dr. Mottolese initiated a summer enrichment program titled Pine Ridge Indian Reservation Service Learning Opportunity. The program aids the community’s school, which is located in the Pine Ridge Native American reserve in Oglala Lakota, the second poorest county in the United States. His involvement in the reservation during his sabbatical deepened his and the school’s connection to the Red Cloud School in South Dakota.
Dr. Mottolese only intended to stay in South Dakota for one week, but his involvement in the school soon deepened. He met with Sacred Heart Upper School Math Teacher Mrs. Judene Pendergast, and her husband Mr. John Pendergast, Chair of Religion and Philosophy at Brunswick SchoolThe three worked to build a strong curriculum for the Red Cloud School. 
“We became a support team for developing the school curriculum, they don’t have that kind of infrastructure built there,” Dr. Mottolese said. “I spent a lot of time in my sabbatical helping folks in the Red Cloud school with professional development and service days.”
The work Dr. Mottolese engaged in is a reassurance to the Sacred Heart students that felt his absence during his sabbatical.
“His presence was certainly missed in the CSH community, but it is comforting to know that he was doing important and amazing work. I’m extremely glad he is back,” Dr. Mottolese’s former student, senior Julenne Jaramillo said.
The connections that Dr. Mottolese nurtured with the Red Cloud School will enrich the Sacred Heart community as well. Students participating in the service leaning opportunity at the Red Cloud School will benefit from witnessing the direct impact of their teacher’s involvement.
“It will be really special to see the lasting effect that Sacred Heart has had on the Red Cloud community,” senior Emma Wilfert said about students visiting Pine Ridge next year.
Dr. Mottolese is grateful for this opportunity to gain innovative perspectives and insights about academics, philosophy, and social justice outside of Sacred Heart. He feels that his sabbatical has enabled him to bring fresh ideas and a renewed outlook to the school community.
“It was a time to recharge and rekindle aspects of my intellectual life, my teaching life, my commitment to justice issues in ways that I don’t really have time and space to do as I’m teaching,” Dr. Mottolese said.