WILMINGTON — Salesianum School held a special place in the heart of a girl growing up in north Wilmington in the 1980s and ’90s, so much so that she decided early on that the school was where she wanted to work. And for the last 16 years, that’s exactly what Katie Godfrey has done, teaching math to students in a building that is a huge part of her family.
“Every major male figure in my life has graduated from this institution. It was really important to my grandfather, William Boeck, and I was very close to him,” Godfrey said recently.
Her late grandfather attended Sallies when it was located at Eighth and West streets in Wilmington, and her father and brothers graduated from the current location at 18th and Broom streets. Catholic education was a given for the family.
“There were six kids in my family, so there were a lot of us,” Godfrey said. “We all went through St. Ann’s. I went through Ursuline. My brothers went through Sallies. We had a lot of that Catholic education and being part of the parish and the CYM program.”
Godfrey was nominated for The Dialog’s Teacher Feature by a vote among a group of Salesianum students. She said it was her dream to work there, and she was hired before she graduated from Washington College in Chestertown, Md., in 2004.
Now in her 16th year at the school, she said she believes in its mission and traditions. She wants to pass on to her students what she absorbed growing up from her male relatives. She said she saw what kind of men they became and wanted to be part of that.
Like her father, Anthony Orga, she teaches math — geometry and statistics, to be specific. The subject appeals to her, she said, because it involves logic and being able to solve a problem. Her late mother, Eileen, also was a teacher at several local schools, including Ursuline.
Many of her teachers at St. Ann’s and Ursuline had an impact on her, and she keeps in touch with a number of them. At Salesianum, she credited retired longtime math teacher Matt Kegelman with giving her some sage advice.
“One of the things he said was, ‘If they know you care, they will start to care,’” she said. “I try to build a strong rapport with them right away, find out about them, their interests, their family, their background. Then I can really build off of that.”
Godfrey, 38, is no stranger to sports fans in Delaware. At Ursuline, the former Katie Orga was a three-sports standout. She went on to play basketball at Washington College. She spent a year as the junior varsity basketball head coach at Salesianum, and her team went 19-1. Godfrey was pregnant with her first child during that season, so she stepped down from the position as she and her husband, Rick, started their family, which now includes four children.
Godfrey believes she is the only female head coach in school history. She credited former Sallies basketball coach Mike Gallagher with having the faith in her.
“I felt I could attack that having his support. The overwhelming support I had from people, a lot of alums, was great. I think they knew that I loved the game and I loved the school,” she said.
Last year, she and former Salesianum varsity head coach Brendan Haley took over the freshman basketball team at Sallies. Athletics has always been a passion for her. She said she loves the games, the competition and the camaraderie.
“It teaches you teamwork. It gives you opportunities for leadership. You have to work hard. Just practicing at something to get better, it’s such a rewarding experience with your teammates. You go through those ups and downs,” she said.
Another of the lessons learned through sports is how to deal with losing. All of that translates to the classroom, she said.
Athletics remain important to her, but her main sports outlet these days is through her three daughters and one son, ranging in age from 3-12. All attend Immaculate Heart of Mary School. She said her husband does a lot of the coaching of their teams, and they, like many families, work together to get everyone where they need to be. They live in Brandywine Hundred, one neighborhood over from where Godfrey grew up.
Finding avenues for her kids to burn their energy keeps her busy. She prefers a buzzing household.
“There aren’t too many minutes alone when you have four children. But I always wanted a big family. I’d rather not be alone. I want to be working and moving,” she said.