With the 2016 Rio Olympics just around the corner, national team players are off completing their final preparations for the tournament. As a result, the NWSL teams need to fill roster spots.
While some called-up players have been training with the team all season, others are brought in for duty during this specific timeframe.
Where do these players come from?
Meet Maureen Fitzgerald, or Mrs. Fitzgerald, if you will. Portland Public School teacher by day, Portland Thorns player by night.
Coming off of her first year as a 6th grade teacher for West Sylvan Middle school, Maureen is already making a statement by challenging the norms and traditions of education by pushing creativity and innovation.
She has a vision that schools should be a place where you develop critical thinkers and citizens of the worlds, and has developed content and curriculum to match those values. She has created a health and wellness after school club, gives extra credit for students who go a month-free without social media , and just just created a GoFundMe to be one of the few classrooms in the U.S to have standing desks.
As it’s summer break now for middle schoolers, Maureen just returned from watching the Euro’s in France, and is now suiting up for a casual game of pick-up on Saturday night at Providence Park.
Maureen Fitzgerald is an Arrow Liver.
So people are wondering, who is Maureen Fitzgerald?
Last time I suited up, my friend sent me a screenshot of the Twitter announcement that I was available for the game and everyone’s comment was “who is Maureen Fitzgerald??” (she laughs) and then someone pulled up my GoDucks.com bio which is probably like 6 years old now.
So you didn’t answer my question…
Oh sorry, who am I? I am from Beaverton I grew up here. I played soccer for Westview High School and the University of Oregon and I am a teacher who has the luxury of taking summers off. I also coach for Concordia so I’m still involved in soccer. I tried out for the team this year with the intent knowing that the Olympics are this year.
How did the call-up come about?
Mark called me a month or two ago and left a voicemail. It was completely out of the blue. I thought someone had called me from the Oregon Athletic Fund, so I didn’t even answer the call, and then 12 hours later I had a physical, got a substitute teacher for the next day off. It was kind of nuts. I was happy taking a day off from my day job to train with the Thorns, but don’t tell my boss!
What grade do you teach?
I teach 6th grade at West Sylvan Middle School.
What did your students think?
They were crazy stoked. I have a lot of soccer players. At the beginning of the year, I had my kids write a narrative and two of my boys wrote about Thorns experiences. One was Michelle’s goal that she scored (Story on Betos’ Goal: HERE )and the other one was just going to a Thorns game. I thought that’s the coolest moment for female sports empowerment. I’ve got these two young boys who wear Barcelona, Man U., and Timbers jerseys often, but their best experience was at a Thorns game. That’s what they chose to write about.
Do they respect you more now that you are a Thorns player?
I told all my kids because I was pretty excited. 80% of the girls play soccer and they were probably more excited than I was… I kept hearing kids at the last game yell “Ms. Fitzgerald!” It felt like I was back in the classroom for a second. This is really good for them though as much I love the experience, it’s important for girls to have strong female role models in their life, and just as important for boys to be around strong women.
Has it always been a dream of yours to play professionally?
Growing up I always had in my head that there was this very distinct difference between my ability and the abilities of someone who would go to UP or Stanford or play professionally. I think that’s the pragmatic mind of my dad talking. I had a pretty discouraging soccer experience in college and didn’t really like the game anymore. But then coaching for Concordia, being a part Grant Landy’s program, who created this amazing positive environment—it was very therapeutic. It took two years, but I learned to love the game again and play for myself again.
Do you feel like you play better now because you have let go?
Oh absolutely, in college I played to get by and not screw up all the time because that was the environment that was fostered, but now no one is monitoring my playing time. No one is trying to get me to play in a specific way, or criticizing me for that matter, so now I feel like it’s total autonomy and freedom and validation.
Have you always wanted to be a teacher?
In a way I did. My mom has been a special teacher for 30 years. When I graduated from college, my dad said you are going to teach and coach so just do it. And like any child I resisted my dad as much as possible. I was interning with the Timbers and working and Nordstrom and coaching at the same time, but then I had this “aha” moment, when I realized my favorite parts of my day were working with kids, so that was that and I went back to school to get my masters to so I could teach.
I saw you started a GoFundMe, what’s that about?
It is a GoFundMe for standing desks for the classroom because I teach 6th grade. The kids get 15 minutes of recess and we expect them to sit still for 7-8 hours of the day no problem. Fundamentally, I know that I can’t sit still for that long, it’s uncomfortable, and it’s bad for me.
This is the first generation of kids who won’t live longer than their parents. I have kids with anxiety, depression, ADHD and ADD at age 11 and 12. We have such a sedentary lifestyle. I feel like it’s really really important especially since I’m a teacher, I’m already doing things completely different with content and curriculum than my peers. Because I have this vision that school should be a place where you develop critical thinkers and citizens of the world. The only way you can do that is through social justice and this is one of the ways to promote healthy citizens. I headed an afterschool health and wellness club this past Spring to promote active and healthy lifestyles and felt that there was still more I could do.
As my formative years of teaching, I know how terrible it is from a personal standpoint and from a scientific standpoint to sit that long. So Gofundme is in the process we have raised about $1500. We need $4,300 just for my class room.
HELP MAUREEN REACH HER FUND GOAL HERE: FUNDME STANDING DESKS
Do you know any other teacher or schools that have implemented this?
Not to my knowledge. I have not seen it in practice, I have just read about it online. It’s nontraditional and that scares people. It scares me at times because from a management standpoint kids aren’t sitting so how will they behave and how will they know where to go? But all the studies point to improved classroom management and productivity. I think there’s a lot of changes in education coming and it starts with this generation of teachers.
How else does your style of teaching differ from your peers?
My number one goal is to make sure my students come out as better people. Period. That requires them understanding other cultures, and learning how to question and think critically about the world. We talk very openly about race, gender, and social class, and these 6th graders have had some profound conversations about all of these topics. It is not the “easiest” or most comfortable thing to talk about, especially for adults, but kids are so willing to have open and honest conversations about the world around them,. It’s my goal to make sure they know how to access that world, and to speak for the voices that aren’t always heard.
Are you excited for the game tomorrow or nervous what are your feelings?
I like to keep expectations low. I don’t mean I have no expectations for myself because I do. But in Buddhism they say, “expectations are the cause of suffering.” Because when things don’t turn out the way you predict that’s when disappointment sets in. All of this is cool opportunity. I am really excited to just be here. I take this as a really big learning experience as a player and, as a coach, to take back with me to Concordia so I can enhance those players experiences as well. If I get in, I get in, but I know that I am serving a much bigger picture than myself, and that’s just as important.
If you get into the game what will you do?
I’m thinking red card immediately. Right off that bat. Set the tone early. Just kidding… I’ve never been red carded, I don’t know how…
What will you do if you score?
Brandi Chastain. Ripping off the shirt. No, it would be pretty cool.