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Downers Grove educators say good bye, make way for new crop of teachers

Downers Grove, IL

As this school year ends and a number of teachers prepare to retire, a new crop of college graduates are looking for ways to break into the education field.

Judy Kaminski, director of the satellite network and student teaching for Elmhurst College’s Department of Education, said she has noticed that less teachers are being hired each year as in years past.

“It’s not as good as it used to be, and the market out there is very tight,” Kaminski said.

Her job is to place student-teachers in schools with the hope that the school will hire the teachers at the start of the next school year.

“We’re finding that we’re not getting the number of students being (hired) to teach because the jobs are not there,” she said.

Kaminski said that in her experience, the students she’s helped place as student-teachers got into the education field because they like working with children.

“They also look at it as a job where they can make a difference,” Kaminski said.

She acknowledged that decent pay, job security and benefits do play a part in the amount of college students looking toward teaching. But she insists that part is a minor one.

“I don’t think anybody really goes into it for the money,” she said.

The Downers Grove Reporter spoke with a number of the teachers who are leaving the various schools in Downers Grove to discover why teachers teach and why so many stay in the career for years, sometimes decades.

The children Physical Education teacher Vivian Grell is retiring after 21 years. She said she has enjoyed students’ “boundless energy and enthusiasm for gym.”

“While at O'Neill Middle School, I have appreciated the wonderful rapport between students and staff as well as the (students’) great sense of humor,” she said.

Kathleen Dobill, a resource teacher at Kingsley Elementary School is retiring after 18 years.

She said her best memories are of the children.

“To help them discover their strengths and build on those strengths was one of the greatest pleasures of working in District 58,” she said.

Eileen Boyda is leaving Kingsley after 12 years. “It was such a thrill for me to see students explore new books and then to recommend that book to another student,” she said. Gayle Gissy teaches sixth grade at Kingsley, and will retire this year after 27 years.

“My favorite memories come from the interactions, conversations and activities with my students. I most enjoyed watching my students grow as a whole person, academically, physically and emotionally,” Gissy said.

Professional relationships Fourth-grade teacher Pam Williams has been with District 58 for 30 years.

“I loved developing relationships with the children and families and becoming part of the community. Hillcrest (Elementary) School was a happy place that felt comfortable and peaceful and a great place for children,” she said.

June Green, a reading specialist at Belle Aire Elementary School, said she enjoyed the relationships she developed with the other teachers.  

First-grade teacher Nancy Bergmen will leave Pierce Downer Elementary School after 18 years.

“It's great to have (two) and even (three) kids of the same family through the years of teaching (kindergarten, first and third) grade. I've enjoyed the great parents, super colleagues and phenomenal children I've had the privilege of knowing throughout my career,” she said.

Seeing the fruit of labor Edna Eder, a speech teacher at Hillcrest, spent 24 years with the district. Eder said she has enjoyed watching students progress.

“I have felt satisfied when parents and I communicate on how to work together to solve problems,” Eder said.

Eva Laatz, a nurse for 20 years with District 58, said she has some kindergarten students whose parents she knew when they were in elementary school.

That phenomenon was common among the teachers who continued at the same school for decades.

Over at St. Mary Gostyn Parish and school, second-grade teacher Kathleen McGrady has been with St. Mary for 30 years. Two of her students ultimately graduated from college and came back to teach.

“That’s pretty special,” she said.

She, too, has taught the children of former students.

Bob Bruns, who is the Downers Grove South High School Science Chair and physics teacher, is leaving after 33 years.

Bruns, too, has taught the children of former students.

And after 21 years with St. Mary, Maryalice Dewbray is also retiring. She has witnessed changes in both technology and her students.

“Look at what kindergarten is now, as opposed to years ago,” Dewbray said. “(Students) are doing science. They’re doing reading ... They’re studying science and social studies and there’s an interactive board in the kindergarten. I remember kindergarten is where you go to take a nap ...” Dewbray said.

Now what? Downers Grove South High School English teacher Richard Connaughton has a philosophical approach toward retirement. He has been with the district for 33 years.

“I don’t have a plan ... I’ve seen too many teachers who have this grand plan and they jump right into it and the grand plan doesn’t seem so grand a year into it. I’ve always thought the people who did retirement right didn’t make huge changes at first,” he said.

But Connaughton does want to go back to school to take more classes.

“I’ve always been a better student than teacher,” he said.

Bruns, the physics teacher at Downers Grove South, will continue teaching when he isn’t helping to run his family farm near Quincy.

McGrady, the second-grade teacher at St. Mary, said she will miss teaching.

“Certainly the smiling faces on those little ones every morning with their ‘good mornings.’

That always makes your day worthwhile, their little hugs as you walk out the door,” McGrady said.

Who’s retiring this year?

Downers Grove Grade School District 58

  •  Nancy Bergman         
  •  Carol Biondo                                  
  •  Eileen Boyda                                  
  •  Pam Burkle                      
  •  Kathleen Dobill                     
  •  Edna Eder                                  
  •  Cindy Friedl                                   
  •  Gayle Gissy                                   
  •  June Green                       
  •  Vivian Grella
  •  Fran Hagen
  •  Connie Hodson
  •  Veronica Irish
  •  Deborah Johnson
  •  Arlene Kendorski
  •  Eva Laatz
  •  Diana Laitar
  •  Pat Marengo
  •  Sherrill Shanahan
  •  Linda Welch
  •  Pamela Williams
  •  James Williams
  •  Rosemary Zolnierowicz
  •  Wayne Benda                       
  •  
  • Community High School District 99
  •  Robert Bruns            
  •  Judith Crowther
  •  Deborah Dipert
  •  Will Kupisch
  •  Donna Frasor
  •  Lana Bonser Ognibene    
  •  Mary Biniewicz 
  •  Maria Ward
  •  Nancy Lahey
  •  Judith Unterfranz
  •  Jane Curtiss
  •  Luisa Cogan
  •  Richard Connaughton
     

St. Mary Gostyn Parish and School

  •  Kathleen McGrady
  •  Maryalice Dewbray
     

St. Joseph School

  • Kathie Salek
  • Erin VanIderstine
  • Michelle DeBruler
  • Kathy Boulanger

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