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Rick Watson

We Remember WHEN Mr. Watson taught at Greenbrier and Thomas, lead the student council and brushed elbows with a future President, and he remembers a lot more…

Can you start by telling us the details of your career in District 25?

Mr. Rick Watson began in District 25 as a student teacher in the early 70’s at Greenbrier Elementary School. During the spring of that year, he was asked if he was interested in a full time job for the following school year. Watson said yes and to this day notes that he never filled out an application.

“It was all verbal,” he says, “because it was like family.”

Mr. Watson taught 4th and 5th grades and a 4th & 5th multi-age class at Greenbrier until the fall of 1996 when he moved to Thomas Middle School where he taught 6th and 8th grade social studies for nine years and ran the student council.

“I always had an interest in teaching middle school,” Watson said, “but my daughter attended Thomas, so I wanted to wait until she went on to high school.”

Mr. Watson retired in 2003 after a 33-year career in District 25.

What is your fondest memory of working in D25?

Rick Watson had three memories he was most fond of while working as a teacher in District 25:

  • In 2000 I had the opportunity to go to Japan with fellow teachers Amy Pinski and Sharon Takahashi,” Watson said. “It was exciting to get to visit the schools in Japan and then relate it to the experience I had with my kids back at Thomas. It was a great way to gain experience to continue to work closely with Chicago’s Futabakai Japanese School at Rand.
  • George W. Bush and Mrs. Laura Bush came through Arlington Heights on their campaign trail and because I was in charge of student council, I was able to meet them and give Mrs. Bush flowers,” Watson said. “No matter what party you are, I must say, they were high class, respectful, people.
  • One of my greatest joys was leading Student Council and participating in Arlington Heights’ Adopt a Family initiative,” Watson remembered. “Our kids did this entirely on their own. They helped raise about $60000 over six or seven years for families in need. They babysat, shopped, and volunteered with little guidance from us. It was great to show the kids what it was like to give back to people in need in our community.

Finish this sentence: “I remember when…”

I remember when….

  • I started working and women were only allowed to wear dresses and skirts. Yea, that was a thing.
  • …husbands and wives were not allowed to teach in the same school. I met my wife at Greenbrier and after we were married she left to teach at North School.
  • There were no phones in the classrooms. The only phones were in the offices. There were also no TV’s in the rooms. If we wanted a TV we had to rent it out and roll it in on a cart.

What have you been up to since retiring?

Mr. Watson retired and THEN hit the ground running.

“I retired in June of 2003 and my daughter was married two weeks later. That July started working at the Guest Services department at the Arlington Race Course. A former student of mine, who worked there, got me the job.

“The first summer there my job was to go through the coolers at the gates as the customers walked in. As time went on, I grew in my roll and I ended up running the Guest Services department. They made that a full time gig and I didn’t want to be full time so I trained a full time employee but remained on staff as the Guest Services and Tour Coordinator. I act as a guide for dignitaries who visit the track, like Mike Ditka, Ernie Banks, Gale Sayers, Jim Cornelison, Joel Quenneville, etc.

“My job at the race track is totally different than my job in education but I love it in its own way. I love to talk, if you can’t tell already, so I get to meet a ton of people. Its been a great job and I’m blessed to have had it post retirement for 13 years. I’m very lucky and I don’t know how long I’ll keep doing it.”

Mr. Watson is also a SCRATCH golfer. He plays a lot of golf and visits Door County a lot. He owns a condo in Door County that he rents out to vacationers. He said it’s been a great investment as he actually makes money on it.

What did you enjoy most about working in D25?

It’s pretty simple, Adam...I enjoyed most being a part of a family. I know I just repeated what others said but I’d be lying if I said anything else. It’s about working toward providing everything possible for the kids to help make them better. I treated the students like they were my own son or daughter. I have kept in touch with students from my first year of teaching. They sensed that feeling that I was a part of their lives.

“District 25 was a second family. Everyone, from top down, was an equal. They sensed that feeling that I was part of them.

How’s the fam…?

The family is great. I have a granddaughter who is six and a grandson who is eight. They live in Greys Lake and I get to see them once or twice a week.

Teaching has always been in the genes in my family. My grandfather was a principal in Barrington, my mom and aunt were teachers and my daughter followed in my wife’s and my footsteps and became a teacher. 

Any message to the Arlington Heights community?

I believe parents and guardians need to be involved in their child’s education from elementary to high school. Whether it be volunteering on the school board, PTA, or just at the school functions, any way to be involved in the school is good. Arlington Heights is such a wonderful community and our kids will keep it that way.

Adam Harris
aharris@sd25.org