Ms. Kumkum Bonnerjee, who teaches physics at Cristo Rey St. Martin College Prep, continues to credit Fr. John Milton, CSV, with helping her develop into an educator, nearly two years after he passed away.
“Yes, I am thinking about Father John a lot these days,” Ms. Bonnerjee says. “You know, I am blessed.”
Last month, Ms. Bonnerjee learned she was a recipient of one of the Outstanding Educator Awards from the University of Chicago. She was nominated by one of her former students, Cristian Garcia, who now is a freshman at U of C. Each year, the university gives newly admitted students the opportunity to recognize educators who have made a difference in their lives.
Some of the criteria includes: “They think carefully about their instruction. They share an infectious love for learning. They care about their students, both inside and outside the classroom. Outstanding educators go beyond everyday teaching and leave an impression that is carried over a lifetime.”
In learning of the award, it prompted Ms. Bonnerjee to “reflect on her teaching journey,” including the influence of Fr. Milton.
Ms. Bonnerjee came from the corporate world, in 2006, when she first started teaching at CRSM, just two years after it opened. Within four years, Fr. Milton would join the staff as a science consultant. It was a win-win for both parties. As a retired physics professor from De Paul University, and founding member of the science staff at Saint Viator High School, he was not ready to leave the classroom. Besides, he often said: “Being around young people keeps me young.”
Fr. Milton ultimately spent 10 years serving as a consultant to the science department. Mostly, he worked with Ms. Bonnerjee, in setting up challenging lab experiments, accessing equipment and ultimately creating AP physics and other science courses at the school.
“Fr. Milton took Kumkum under his wing,” says Preston Kendall, President of CRSM, “and really helped her become an outstanding physics teacher.”
Fr. Milton passed away in January 2022 at the age of 92, but his legacy continues at the school. Within a month after he died, school officials dedicated the physics lab in his memory and just last month, the school received the highest possible designation from the College Board for its AP program, which Fr. Milton had helped to start.