Our Newest Theology teacher

A look into the life of Sam McConnell

Sam+McConnell+teaching+his+Capstone+Theology+course.

Kailey Mulcahy

Sam McConnell teaching his Capstone Theology course.

New to Juan Diego this year, Sam McConnell is loved by all his new students and faculty. When it comes to theology teachers, students can have mixed feelings, however, our new theology Mr. McConnell has gotten nothing but love from both his students and fellow faculty.

I was raised in Salt Lake City,” McConnell starts. “I transferred to Juan Diego halfway through my Sophomore year of High School. Starting a new school in the middle of the year was quite a social and academic challenge.  When I was a student at Juan Diego, I used to talk too much in class. Now Juan Diego literally pays me to talk too much in class, so I’m living the dream.” Mr. McConnell is the “capstone theology” teacher here at JD, but has worked for the school for many years. Formerly, he was the smart and harsh grader behind all the capstone students’ papers. “I went to Calvin College in Grand Rapids Michigan to study Scripture, Theology, and Philosophy. That was such a vibrant era of my life. I’d spend countless hours debating abstract ancient concepts with my closest friends. We had a gift for connecting obscure 17th Century philosophy to our own personal lives.”

Education at its best feels like live theater. The great ideas from every era in history come together in real-time and students create something new.”

— Sam McConnell

Students were surprised to see Sam McConnell’s name on our schedules for theology this year since we knew him as our seminar teacher. “Theology is my passion, especially the Bible. The Bible taught me how to be human. Studying the prophets and the Gospels and Wisdom Literature showed me how to center life around empathy and grace.  Scripture has this grand complexity which makes you see the bigger picture from the perspective of thousands of different viewpoints. Scripture, more than any academic subject I’ve encountered, mirrors the lived experience of real life. A lot of happiness involves living life as a story. Theology is where you get to learn that kind of narrative thinking.” His passion for theology is definitely apparent and this passion is reflected to his students in class every day.

My high school self is disappointed that I’m still at JD. My high school self is wrong. Teaching here is a good fit for me.”

— Sam McConnell

In class, Mr. McConnell often explains his religious background and how Catholicism is not his first religion. “I’ve certainly been on a spiritual journey,” McConnell said. “I’ve been Protestant,  I’ve been a radical Calvinist, I’ve been Reformed, I’ve been an existential determinist, I’ve been an atheist.  For a couple of months in 6th grade, I was a secret Zoroastrian. Life is a conversation with God, and He’s done most of the talking. I value the traditions I’ve explored, and it’s excellent that I get to teach students from a broad array of spiritual backgrounds. I would never have found my home in Catholicism if others hadn’t constantly challenged my viewpoints over the years. I hope that Juan Diego classrooms get to be a launching pad for challenging, meaningful theological journeys.” 

“There’s a certain glee to teaching Catholicism in a Catholic school as a new Catholic. I was only welcomed into the church last summer, and I’ll totally admit there’s a lot I still have to learn. I’ve been trying to study up on a new Doctor of the Church every week. (I just got to know St. Thérèse of Lisieux, the little flower. I was sobbing as I read through her profound life story.) But all of the doctrines seem so fresh! Concepts like the Sacraments can seem somewhat stale and mundane if you go to Catholic School every day, but it’s all so new to me and I think that brings a fun energy to the classroom. For a new Catholic, deeply ancient ideas can still feel novel and edgy.”

I teach a class in my mother’s old classroom. That’s never not going to feel weird. Also, Juan Diego still smells the same.”

— Sam McConnell

Not only is Mr. McConnell a theology teacher, but the speech and debate coach as well! “I love being the Assistant Speech and  Debate Coach and teaching an Introduction to Debate class. Speech and Debate was my favorite activity in high school. Studying Theology was my favorite activity in College. Now I get to do both FOR A LIVING!!!!!! I feel so blessed.” 

Sam McConnell is certainly an amazing and genius addition to the theology faculty at Juan Diego. His passion for theology creates a much more engaging class and discussion. It will certainly be a great year for capstone theology and speech and debate students.