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A Letter to My Naz Girls

To My Dear Nazareth Women,

Nazareth Academy is a very special place. It is a place where we as teachers strive to do our best by the young women that we teach so that they can confidently face the challenges that college and beyond will present them.

But let’s be honest, that last sentence could be the tag-line for just about any private all-girls academy in the area. I however feel that Nazareth is so much more than that tag line and that is why I am writing today.

Last Monday, I was on vacation in Ocean City and we had a 10 AM faculty meeting on Zoom to discuss the challenges that Covid-19 would pose to our school’s reopening plan. While meeting on Zoom is never quite like seeing people face to face, it was nice, after over a month-long break to be amongst my people again, if only in some form. While I have always certainly enjoyed the perk of summers off as a teacher, it is usually around the end of July when I start to miss my friends on the faculty and especially miss my kids.

Despite the unusual circumstances, the faculty seemed in relatively high spirits.

So an hour later when I looked down at my phone to see an incoming call from a colleague, I figured it was some loose end from the meeting or, even better, a call just to chat as some teachers are wont to do with each other during the summer.

Her words, “Morgan McCaffery was murdered by her ex boyfriend this morning,” shot through and hollowed me in a way that nothing has ever approached in my time at Nazareth. Something in the words, “murdered this morning” didn’t seem real or even imaginable.

Morgan McCaffery - Courtesy of Catalano Studios

Morgan McCaffery - Courtesy of Catalano Studios

As a teacher in an all-girls school, I am a bit of a worrier. Beyond the usual academic concerns, I worry about my students getting their hearts broken, I worry about the way the see themselves, I worry about them driving, I worry about them eating, I worry that in our world that antiquated societal mandates will in anyway make them fell less than.

Before Monday, I never worried about one of them being murdered.

As anyone who teaches will tell you, there are kids that you worry about. Kids with stories that keep you up at night and force you to intervene on their behalf.

Morgan was not one of the kids I worried about.

Morgan was in my sophomore English class when I met her. She was cool. She was kind and funny and had an air of being able to sniff out bullshit in people (A trait not uncommon to Naz girls and one of my favorite things about many of my students. They know in-authenticity when they see it). It was obvious that her classmates thought a lot of her.

Although I didn’t teach Morgan again, she would make a point to pop her head in on my class from time to time with a “Hey Turner.” We would make some small talk and she would be back on her way to her class. I liked her a lot. It was hard not to.

Losing her is a tragedy that will take years for our community to come to terms with. It is a tragedy that must be used to prevent other needless deaths from partner violence from occurring. It needs to be part of the blueprint for how boys are not supposed to use their masculinity.

After returning home from Morgan’s funeral Saturday afternoon, I went online and searched #standupformorgan. For the next hour on Instagram and Facebook, I scrolled through dozens and dozens of tributes to Morgan of Nazareth Alum wearing their class rings to honor her – a movement that extended to alums of other all-girls schools in the area.

I cried for nearly the entire time.

I cried because Morgan didn’t deserve to die.

I cried because of the loss her family must feel.

I cried because of how much I know her friends, who are some of the best and brightest young people I know, are aching right now.

I cried because I am so proud to be part of this community of extraordinary women.

There has always been an intangible that makes Nazareth stand out from its Catholic school counterparts. It is something that is hard to put one’s finger on but I believe it is the genuine feeling of love and unity the students feel for one another and the genuine and reciprocal care and concern between faculty and students.

It is palpable in the hallways, cafeteria, athletic fields, and classrooms.

I know many of you who read this have felt that love and still feel it. With the outpouring of emotion over the last week, I hope Morgan felt it too.

I have been privileged to call Nazareth my home for the last 14 years. I have been privileged to meet and share in the lives of so many wonderful women. It is a place that I feel has given me a professional purpose and is also very interwoven into my personal life as I met and worked with my wife Danielle (class of ’99 – Wils to many of you) there.

So I hurt with all of you. I cry with all of you. I am here for all of you.

No matter what. No matter when.

Much Love Always,