It’s as simple as A+B+C
Tricia Hughes + Danielle Lyons + Rick Sloup equals three Gross Catholic math teachers who proudly call themselves alumni.
Tricia (Riha) Hughes graduated in 1992. Danielle (Mendick) Lyons is from the Class of 1997. And Sloup received his diploma in 1989.
The line that connects Point S (student) to Point T (teacher), however, is anything but straight.
“I was an accounting major first,” said Hughes, who attended the University of Nebraska at Omaha. After a particularly tough accounting class with a tenured professor, she decided to look for a new major that incorporated the classes she already had taken. The answer: math teacher.
Lyons, who earned her math endorsement from UNO in 2003, had been a substitute teacher while raising her three children. She subbed at Duchesne Academy, Mercy High School and Gross until coming to work part-time at Gross in the fall of 2017.
In between all those years, there have been a number of changes at the school, the teachers said.
“I feel that a lot of it is positive change,” Lyons said.
An example is the creation of four Harry Potter-style “houses,” complete with a sorting ceremony each fall to welcome freshmen.
“That’s a really neat way of building community,” Lyons said.
Each house is comprised of high school students of every age, interest, talent and ability. They get to know each other and become friends through house competitions and mutual service hours.
“That’s one huge difference I want my kids to experience,” said Lyons, whose three children attend St. Stephen the Martyr.
Hughes, who is the dean of the McMenamy House, said the house system creates an opportunity for everyone to get involved and show leadership. Other Marianist high schools have “houses,” but Gross adds some flair.
During Catholic Schools Week, for instance, students competed in a talent show. And there is an annual field day with winners awarded the Cougar Cup. But the games are more like tug-of-war, the building of tin-foil statues and a sidewalk chalk challenge.
“It’s not just for the athletes,” Hughes said. “It’s for everyone.”
Another improvement is tighter discipline and respect for the uniform dress code, Lyons said.
“We have a great, new principal (Paulette Neuhalfen) who draws the line,” Lyons said.
Hughes remembers the days when the uniform code was more formal with boys wearing dress shirts and ties each day. She was always hit with detentions because she never had her shirt tucked in.
Hughes came to Gross after attending St. Columbkille in Papillion.
“Our parents wanted us to go to a Catholic high school,” she said.
Her freshman class numbered about 230 – twice the size of today’s freshman class.
“We had fun sharing lockers,” she said of making space for the large class.
Pep rallies seemed to be more fun, too, with so many more students, Hughes said. Today, kids have early-out so the afternoon pep rallies are smaller.
Lyons misses the Homecoming game bonfires. Truckloads of wood would be set ablaze with flames shooting dozens of feet into the air, while students cheered, shouted and chanted.
“That was really cool,” Lyons said.
She also liked the performing arts at Gross, singing in the choir all four years and performing on stage. Once she ran track but quit because it interfered with the spring musical. She also worked part-time at Eddie’s Catering on 24th Street and strived for good grades.
“I did well in class,” she said of taking math with Jana Adams. “I was a perfectionist. I wanted to get an A.”
When she came back to Gross to teach, former instructors, such as Chris Johanek-Boro and Dr. Dorothy Ostrowski, were now her professional colleagues.
“They were good role models,” she said. “They really shaped me.”
During her senior year, Lyons was asked to Prom by her high school sweetheart Chris Lyons, Class of ’97. They have been together ever since.
Hughes also married a Gross alum, Mark Hughes, Class of ’83. Their son graduated from Gross in 2018, and they have a daughter, who is a senior. Next year, another daughter, who is attending St. Bernadette, will be a freshman.
Hughes taught her two children for two years as their math teacher. Before that, she taught her brother Tim Riha and all his friends as a student-teacher at Gross in 1996. Because they were only a few years younger than she was, they thought they could create a relaxed atmosphere in her room.
“I had a great cooperating teacher,” Hughes said of learning how to control her classroom. “You have to lay down the law.”
While the subject of math has not changed much over the years, Hughes sees a change in the way students approach it. Possibly because this generation is raised with electronics that provide information instantly, many math students get impatient if they can’t find the solution quickly. They want instant gratification.
“I remember working on a problem for hours,” Hughes said, then being satisfied when finally solving it.
“Sometimes it comes down to ‘teach us how to do it’,” she said. “There’s not necessarily anything wrong with that.”
Freshmen enter Gross from a variety of schools, creating a student body with differing math abilities, she said. It’s her job to help some kids catch up while continuing to challenge the advanced learners.
Hughes has taught every type of math class Gross has offered, except for Calculus and Geometry, since stepping in front of her first math class in 1996.
“Now I’m teaching the kids of those kids.”
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About Gross Catholic
One of Nebraska’s premier private schools, Gross Catholic High School is a faith and family-based community committed to developing Christian leaders through academic excellence in the Marianist tradition. Recognized locally for its outstanding education, welcoming atmosphere, competitive sports programs, engaging activities, robust faith, and boundless service work, Gross Catholic has energized the Omaha area for over 50 years. We are Faithful, Compassionate, and Driven! We are Gross Catholic!
To discover the Gross Catholic difference, contact us at 402.734.2000 or visit our Admissions page at grosscatholic.org.