Staff Spotlight: Matthew Bourke


Kelly Wang, Contributing Writer

For most students, the most exciting aspect of a new school year is discovering what their new schedule holds for them. There’s the thrill of comparing schedules suspended in the air as you pass students huddled together in groups. A new teacher who may appear on schedules is Mr. Matt Bourke, who teaches English II, III, and English Literature Survey at Fremd.

Mr. Bourke grew up about 25 minutes southeast of Palatine. He attended York High School in Elmhurst, IL, home of the Dukes. He went on to pursue a teaching bachelor’s degree in secondary education at the University of Missouri (Mizzou). He studied at Mizzou for three and a half years before returning to the state of Illinois to student teach in Northbrook, IL for one semester and then graduating from college that same year. Mr. Bourke has since become the sponsor of Philosophy Club where he enjoys seeing students put their ideas out onto the table. As a teacher who is fresh out of college, Mr. Bourke looks forward to jumping right into the variety of activities Fremd has to offer and helping Fremd students find themselves through literature.

What inspired you to become an English teacher?

I have had so many transformational educators in my life. I can think back to my 8th grade English teacher, Mr. White, who encouraged us to explore English through satire and conversations about ethics. He actually let me teach a class in 8th grade, and I feel like from that moment forward, this has always felt like something I wanted to do. 

What’s your favorite childhood memory?

There are about twenty of us in my extended family. Every year, we all go to Long Beach, Indiana, which is right along Lake Michigan, and we all cram into this small little beach house for a week. I’m a fairly loud person, but in my family, I’m pretty quiet, so it’s just this loud group of twenty people, yelling and screaming in the happiest way possible, that we’ve been doing that literally ever since I was born.

What aspect of teaching at Fremd have you enjoyed the most so far?

I have absolutely loved the communities students create in classrooms. I think our students do such a nice job of genuinely trying to get to know each other. And especially in an English classroom, if you’re not willing to talk to one another, nothing’s going to get done. I think that Fremd students do a really fantastic job of opening up, being honest, being willing to share, and I’ve really enjoyed that about the Fremd culture.

Who’s your favorite author? Why?

My absolute favorite author is this man named David Sedaris, who is an essayist and a satirical writer. He writes down all of his life stories, and he does it with this very dark form of humor that is so much fun to read and enjoy. He does such a nice job of starting with one story, moving to another story, circling back to that first story. He does it in such a way that makes so much sense and his writing style is just impeccable. I could literally read his book and listen to his audiobooks all day, forever. 

How do you relax after a day of rigorous work?

I think I’m incredibly lucky to be able to have hobbies that are associated with my job. I enjoy reading. There is a lot that I get at work that relaxes me. Especially with this being my first year at Fremd, I don’t get a lot of time to breath, but when I do, I love spending time with my family. I love spending time with the friends I still have around me. It’s really nice to be able to come back and rediscover the city that I left for a pretty extended amount of time.

What aspect of English do you wish people knew more about? Why?

I think that I love teaching English because I love exploring language. “That’s an interesting word you used, why did you choose that word?” “You just made up a word right now, how did you make up that word?” I think that is far more fascinating than taking a red pen and correcting every single time the grammar seems wrong, because we create language as we go as humans. We learn language not by studying a dictionary if it’s our first language, we learn language by experiencing it. I think that it’s a very common misconception that every piece of language is set in stone forever. So I think it’s really cool that English can be changing, and I get the opportunity to teach students how to make use of language as it changes frequently.

What do you enjoy most about teaching English in general?

I absolutely love seeing it in a student’s eyes when they’re like, “Oh! That’s what they meant?” I think it’s so cool when a student has a realization that I’ve never even had when I was reading a piece. Those are my most fun moments as a teacher, where we get to explore text together – where it’s not just me being like “This is how this happens.” It gets boring really quickly to me; it’s much more fun to go, “Let’s look at this together, let’s see what’s going on in this text.” I think that’s so much more fun, and that’s when I’m at the peak enjoyment of my job – it’s when we’re looking at a text together and discovering it together. 

Where do you see yourself in five years?

I think I will be expanding on what I’m already doing. I think the first five years of teaching are the most interesting time for my career, because it’s establishing who I am in a building. During my first year at Fremd, I’m still deciding, “Do I want to get involved with this; do I want to sponsor this; do I want to be a part of this?” I’m figuring out what I hope to get involved in.