On Wednesdays, District 25’s Communications Coordinator Adam Harris, catches up with a District 25 retiree. This week he was able to find time with a former teacher who wore so many hats!
Can you start by telling us the details of your career in District 25?
I am one of those people who embraces change, and I sure had my share of change in D25.
I started teaching in 1968 and taught 3rd grade for two years at Ridge. I became very interested in why some students that I believed to be really bright were not learning. That interest pushed my decision to go back to school and get a masters degree in psychology. I ended up working for a professor who was in charge of a new lab that specialized in supporting students with learning disabilities. The field of students with learning disabilities was new at that time, and I became fascinated with aspects of testing and teaching to my student’s abilities. That gave me the confidence to go forward into that field instead of psychology.
I then came back to D25 and taught in a resource room for students with learning disabilities. A few years later, my principal Phil Worland moved to South Middle School and asked if I would be willing to go with and start and learning disabilities and behavioral disorders program (LD/BD). I accepted and really enjoyed my time at South, but after a few years I began to wonder what it would be like to teach the special education students at a much younger age. I wrote up a grant with Greg Best from NSSEO to begin the first self-contained LD/BD program in elementary school in D25. My grant was accepted and I was thrilled to be chosen to start the program.
Starting the first self-contained LD/BD program at Greenbrier was perfect because Principal Jim Hall was one of the most supportive people I could have had as principal.
After two years at Greenbrier, I started to realize that I had been in special education for a long time and that I was losing touch with the typical classroom environment, so I decided to go back to the classroom. I knew that I would have to leave the building for the sake of the students in the LD/BD program, so I ventured to Olive where I taught 5th grade for two years.
At that time I became interested in cooperative grouping and knew Elaine Seaman (read Elaine’s Remember WHENsday here) and I could work well together. When the opportunity came up to go back to Greenbrier and work with Elaine, I jumped at it. Elaine and I taught cooperative grouping workshops and often combined our classes.
After being home for a year, I received a phone call that there was a need for a morning kindergarten teacher at Patton and I thought it might be fun. I learned a lot about Kindergarten from the pro Rosemary Biel (former D25 teacher).
I moved on to a job sharing position with friend Laura Renfus. We shared a 2nd grade class at Patton. I loved working at Patton, but had to move on to Windsor when Laura decided her commute from St Charles to Arlington Heights was too far to travel because of her three little ones at home.
My new partner, Karen Roemer, and I shared a classroom at Windsor. That was the final school before retirement. I did end up jumping back into special education for the last few years of my career.
What is your fondest memory of working in D25?
One of my most impactful memories is the time my best friend Karen, who taught at Windsor, died of cancer when she was only 40. Superintendent Dr. Strong (read Don Srtong’s Remember WHENsday here) was so sensitive and caring. He came and talked to me several times, and was one of the people who helped me get through that period of time.
Finish this sentence: “I remember when…”
I remember when…my early years in D25 were filled with so much camaraderie. We would have union parties several times a year and we were all out for a good time. We worked very hard but we also played hard. We all loved what we did. I always say, teaching is not a job, it’s a calling.
What have you been up to since retiring? How’s the family?
At the age of 45 I received a phone call asking if I wanted to adopt a little girl. Are you kidding me, of course I would! And that is how Samantha came into our lives, and what an absolute blessing that has been. She now has one term left at Northeastern and is going into communications.
Now that Sam is in college, Gary and I are empty nesters and we really enjoy traveling to small towns looking for antiques. We also went to Alaska last year and loved it so much that we hope to return this summer.
My college roommate lives on Maui and I have been there 8 times to visit my Japanese-Hawaiian second family. That is also where my godchildren are.
I also do some volunteer work and teach a Bible study at my church every Tuesday. We just studied the Old Testament and it was fascinating!
Any message to the Arlington Heights community?
The community needs to understand that when you enter a classroom each year, you have a wide range of IQs and reading levels and you want to reach each and every student; most teachers try so hard to do just that.
Also, I always told parents, give me an average student with good social skills and he will be a success. I just wish that parents knew that social skills are more important than straight A’s.