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Education

Glenbard West English teacher compiles book about school's history

Steven Wiersum edited 'Glenbard West High School History'

Glenbard West High School English teacher Steven Wiersum, sponsor of the Glenbard West High School Historic Society, has compiled a book on Glenbard West's history. All of the proceeds from the book go to fund the Firley Award, Glenbard West English Department's scholarship given to graduating seniors who have shown passion and ability in the art and craft of writing.
Glenbard West High School English teacher Steven Wiersum, sponsor of the Glenbard West High School Historic Society, has compiled a book on Glenbard West's history. All of the proceeds from the book go to fund the Firley Award, Glenbard West English Department's scholarship given to graduating seniors who have shown passion and ability in the art and craft of writing.

GLEN ELLYN – Those who have spent any time in the classroom of Glenbard West High School English teacher Steven Wiersum shouldn't be surprised he would compile a book about the school's history.

The walls of his room are plastered with photos and mementos that help tell the school's history. Now, that history is compiled in a book that he edited, "Glenbard West High School History."

The book is dedicated in part to former Glenbard West Principal Susan Bridge, who hired him to teach English in the fall of 1994.

"She wrote her dissertation on Glenbard West from 1915 to 1970," Wiersum said. "The reason she is a doctor is because she wrote this dissertation for the education department at Loyola in '91."

In another piece of Glenbard West history, the Fox television series "Yearbook" was filmed at Glenbard West while Bridge was principal.

The building now known as Glenbard West was built in 1922 atop Honeysuckle Hill, overlooking Lake Ellyn. Students in Glen Ellyn had previously attended the Glen Ellyn High School, which was located on the second floor of the DuPage Bank Building.

Wiersum also found another document about Glenbard West's history and used that information along with the information in Bridge's dissertation in putting together the book.

Wiersum's room previously housed chemistry labs, but he moved into it after the new science addition opened last year. At first, he was upset the room had no windows, but then he discovered the advantage of teaching in a windowless room.

"I was so disappointed," he said. "It took me a little while to realize that because there's no windows and it's air-conditioned, everything that's precious can be in here. It's like a museum. It's all climate controlled. Nothing will ever fade."

His room contains such artifacts as the original architectural drawing of Biester Gym as well as class photographs.

"They didn't have yearbooks until 1940," Wiersum said.

All of the proceeds from the book will go to the Firley Award, Glenbard West English Department's scholarship given to graduating seniors who have shown passion and ability in the art and craft of writing. The scholarship is named for Henry Firley, Glenbard High School's first English department chairman.

While researching Glenbard West's history, he discovered some interesting facts along the way, such as who designed the school.

"The architects who designed this building are the same architects that did the Art Institute in Chicago and St. Olaf College in Minnesota," he said.

He also has been able to gain insights about the school by interviewing high school alumni and posting the videos on his YouTube page.

"When alumni come here, I ask them if I can talk to them for 30 minutes," Wiersum said. "I have people from the '40s and the '70s and the '80s. I'm trying to do every decade that I can, and then start to fill in every year. One of the women I interviewed from the '80s, she was a volleyball player and she played with Nancy Reno, who became an Olympian."

Reno is a 1984 Glenbard West graduate who won a bronze medal at the 1997 Beach Volleyball World Championships. Other distinguished Glenbard West alumni include musician and songwriter Laurie Anderson and actor Sean Hayes.

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Want a copy of the "Glenbard West High School History"?

Go to lulu.com, and do a search for "GLENBARD." The book is in three formats – $20 for a softcover book with black and white interior pages, $30 for a softcover book with color interior pages and $50 for a hardcover book with color interior pages.

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