Expressive, Candid, and Empathetic: “McKelvey”

“Focus on yourself and don’t try to please everybody, we’re only here once after all!” These are some words of wisdom from Graphics teacher Helene McLaughlin.

Helene McLaughlin, affectionately known to her students as “McKelvey,” which is her maiden name, is truly remarkable. Behind her dark, bouncy curls and wildly expressive gestures, she is empathetic, candid,  remarkably patient, and beloved by her students. 

McKelvey’s lively personality can be traced back to her youth, when she spent her days playing with her sister and singing Irish folk songs in the back of her grandfather’s upholstery shop. She reflects on memories of her grandfather, describing him as a unique guy with a big personality. 

“I was her little minion,” recalls McKelvey of her older sister. She laughs joyously, remembering how her sister was always the one in charge in their imaginative childhood role-play games. She was the priest, while McKelvey played the obedient preacher boy. Such childhood experiences inevitably contributed to McKelvey’s passionate desire to help others. Summing herself up as awkward, emotional, and weird, McKelvey begins to tear up. She confesses her struggle to talk about herself and the past, acknowledging her tendency to sometimes just blurt out what’s on her mind, within seconds arriving at the perfect words to describe herself: “My husband likes to say I talk like a machine gun.”  

Attempting to gratify her family, McKelvey enrolled as an engineering major at Villanova University. After enduring a series of grueling mathematics courses however, she concluded that engineering was not for her. She hated it and shudders to this day as she confesses, “I learned I did not want to do numbers. EVER!”

Shifting gears, McKelvey decided to chase an adventure which consisted of creativity and authentic passion. She transferred to Drexel University and began studying graphic design. McKelvey’s fondness for creating art was nothing new. Growing up, her mother was an artist, her sister a talented costume designer, and her cousin a successful creative director. McKelvey happily earned her degree, yet something major within her life remained unfulfilled. 

Rediscovering her ardent desire to help others, McKelvey took up coaching. She coached girls’ volleyball for a number of years and ultimately realized that she wanted to work with teenagers. She explains that after the tragic events of September 11th she could no longer work a traditional desk job for hours at a time. She completed her education, abandoned her former career in design, and became a high school teacher, never once looking back. 

This school year, McKelvey has taken on the considerable task of creating VHS’s class of 2020 yearbook. She describes the project as a unique way for students to display their own history. 

“High school can be the most impactful years of your life,” she observes. 

With innumerable deadlines and frantic students surrounding her, McKelvey has a lot on her plate. Nevertheless, there is no one better suited for the job. With her impressive graphics skills, and her incredible adaptability, there is no doubt that McKelvey will successfully conquer the yearbook.