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Joseph McFadden: The life and times of a Ryan grad, teacher, and principal

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Born on Nov 20, 1979, Joseph McFadden didn’t think he would be a teacher, but now he is the principal of Archbishop Ryan High School.

McFadden attended St. Martha’s grade school, grew up in Chalfont, and lived there until recently. Growing up, McFadden was the youngest of four children. While growing up, he played several sports but quit all by the seventh grade.

“I quit sports around seventh grade when I realized I wouldn’t play professional,” said McFadden.

When his father, who was a police officer, died in a car accident on his way home from work, it was hard for McFadden and his family, but his siblings helped him a lot.

“Looking back there were times that were hard but my mother never let us know, My siblings helped a lot by driving me to school events and sports,” said McFadden.

After St. Martha’s, McFadden attended Archbishop Ryan High School. During high school, he had a job selling shoes at Franklin Mills Mall. He also was a student council delegate during his time at Ryan.

“ I had a mixed roster. I was in honors English but in third track science,”  said McFadden.

While at Ryan, McFadden had teachers who still teach at Ryan, including Ms. Leone and Ms. Cowley.

“ I didn’t really have a favorite class but I had a lot of fun in Ms. Cowley’s class,” said McFadden.

Before high school, McFadden wasn’t sure about what he wanted to do when he graduated. That changed when he was in Ms. Rosemary Leone’s junior English class.

“Being in her class made me realize that I wanted to teach,” said McFadden.

Leone saw potential in him.

“As a student, he had all the qualities he had now as a principal,” said Leone.

After graduating Ryan as a part of the Class of 1997, McFadden attended Holy Family for four years and worked at Blockbuster.

“[That’s] weird to say now.” said McFadden.

Though he was quiet in high school, McFadden became very outgoing in college.

“I think that helps me a lot today,” said McFadden.

In college, McFadden got a “C” in a science class and realized he would have to work much harder.

“Getting the ‘C’ was a wake up call. I wasn’t the best at science but I think the teacher generously gave me the ‘C’,” said McFadden.

McFadden graduated from Holy Family college in May 2001 and started working at Ryan June the same year. McFadden started teaching English and was supervised by Ms. Kathleen Szymborski.

Mr. McFadden was fun to work with.  He used to tease me that I ‘thought’ I was his boss, but when things were serious, he always did what was expected. Now that he ‘thinks’ he is my boss, things are the same. He respects me and I respect him, and if we can have a laugh or two while working together, then that’s a bonus,” said Szymborski.

In October 2012, McFadden had a heart attack and missed three months of school.

“It really changed my perspective on life. I had to change a lot of things,” said McFadden.

In 2013, McFadden became the assistant principal, and had that job until July 2015 when he became principal. McFadden, who is now 37, may be the youngest principal in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. As principal, he still teaches a senior English class but said being principal is a much bigger job. McFadden is now attending principal leadership classes at Saint Joseph University.

“As a teacher your classroom is like your own little world. When I became principal, the world became a lot bigger,” said McFadden.

Becoming principal was a big change, according to McFadden.

“The days and nights are longer. I am up by 5 a.m., at Ryan by 6:45, and I don’t get home until 4 or 5 most days,” said McFadden.

Though it has been 20 years since McFadden was a high school student himself, he still thinks that it is much of the same.

“High school is high school and kids are kids,” said McFadden.

As principal, McFadden is in charge of things like hiring people and works later into the summer and starts earlier than most at the school.

“By the end of June, it’s like The Shining: I start to look forward to everyone coming back,” said McFadden.

Although he is a busy man, McFadden still watches shows like “Stranger Things” and “House of Cards” in his free time and still rents a shore house with his friends every summer.

 

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