‘Wise’ pursues teaching passion over office success

Photo by Dan Chmielinski

Rachel Mann, asst. features editor

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Students walk into 
Room 192 and receive a personalized “wassup” from Steven Weissenstein, business education teacher. According to senior Vicki Powers, Weissenstein, commonly referred to as “Wise” by his students, plays the role of both teacher and friend.

Before Weissenstein was a teacher, he worked at the accountingfirm Arthur Andersen for two years. There, Weissenstein determined a 9-to-5 job wasn’t for him.

“Everyday when I come to [GBS], I drive by a train station, and I see so many people going downtown,” Weissenstein said. “That would probably be me today if I stayed an accountant. I knew pretty much [when] I started working there that it wasn’t going to be something that I could do for the rest of my life. After a couple years I said, ‘I have to make the break now. If I keep working here, I’ll never get out.’”

Weissenstein used his accounting degree earned at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to become a business education teacher. In 2009, he won the Distinguished Teacher Award at South.

“[The Distinguished Teacher Award] was a great honor,” Weissenstein said. “It’s a shame that more teachers can’t get honored because there are a lot of really, really great teachers here.”

He coached Titan football for nine years, and this will be his 13th year as head coach for the varsity girls basketball team.

“I played basketball in high school; it’s my favorite sport,” Weissenstein said. “I just love working with kids [and] watching them get better over the years. We have a lot of really committed athletes at South and it’s really fun working with them.”

Senior Colleen McDonagh believes Weissenstein has an impact on both inside and outside the classroom.

“I’ve played [basketball] for him since my sophomore year,” McDonagh said. “I also had him for a teacher for consumer, so I kind of know him on both ends. He’s just a really, really awesome coach and teacher. On the court, he’s always so supportive of all of us, and really brings us together. He [coaches] because he loves it and you can totally tell that.”

Whether it be coaching or teaching, Weissenstein believes it is essential to have passion for one’s profession.

“In a lot of my classes, one of the first things we talk about is that the most important thing is to love what you’re doing,” Weissenstein said. “I think there’s a lot of people that the first thing they look at is how much money you’re going to make. But if you [have] money and you’re miserable, it doesn’t do you any good.”

In order to make the most out of his classes, Weissenstein integrates his students into classroom topics.

“I love to hear their opinions and I think that their opinions make other students want to voice their own opinions,” Weissenstein said. “I think that’s how you learn best, to let other kids get involved because they are the ones who are learning.”

Powers, currently enrolled in Honors Accounting, believes Weissenstein goes out of his way to make the class enjoyable.

“He creates a really good balance between work and play,” Powers\ said. “I really like that his class is interactive. We don’t always read from a book or listen to a lecture; we’re often working on a balance sheet or income statement, so I really appreciate that.”

Weissenstein teaches Consumer Ed, Business Law,and Accounting. According to Weissenstein, Business Law is his most popular class.

“[Buisiness Law is] a class that kids enjoy because it refers to things that are going on right now,” Weissenstein said. “I think the law is interesting to everyone, that’s why it has become so popular.”

In class, Weissenstein uses nicknames for his students to lighten the mood.

“It’s easier for me to remember names if I give kids nicknames, so I just butcher their names and manufacture it into something [else],” he said.

Senior John Pease, who Weissenstein refers to as “The Peasa”, appreciates the use of nicknames in class.

“I love my nickname,” Pease said. “It’s cool that even if it’s just putting ‘the’ in front of the last name, that he has a nickname for every one of his students.”

In addition to creating nicknames, Weissenstein implements different catchphrases into class.

“You just kind of once in a while throw [catchphrases] out there, if they catch on, you keep using them, like ‘extra credit time’,” Weissenstein said. “It’s kind of a fairly recent one. For a long time I never did that. One time I did it, kids kind of reacted to it, so I kept doing it.”

In some of his classes, Weissenstein’s test questions  are based on the students in his class.

“Most of the time people don’t think taking a test is fun; [but when students] start looking through the test and try to find their name, it just kind of makes the test more fun,” Weissenstein said.

Junior Heléne Van den Berg, who took Business Law, enjoyed the test taking process.

“I was in a class with [junior] Stephanie Mitchell and one of our questions was about robbery,” Van den Berg said. “The question said I broke into a 7-11, and Stephanie was the cashier. He makes funny situations for people and [uses] inside jokes from each class.”

Robert Bertog, 2011 South graduate, remembers these unique tests.

Bertog now studies at Indiana University and plans to major in business. To this day he appreciates the impact Weissenstein had on him.

“Wise is the man,” Bertog said. “He taught me a lot of stuff that we talk about in college, so it’s cool that it’s still relevant.”

Along with a love of teaching, Weissenstein enjoys the administration and colleagues at South.

“[South] is an incredible place to work,” Weissenstein reflected. “Every day you go into class and you have 30 kids who want to learn. In a way it’s kind of nice that I had a job before this one that I didn’t like. It makes you that much more thankful that you have a job you enjoy.”

 

Words on Wise…

Senior Vicki Powers

Nickname: VP

“He goes out of his way to give each student a nickname, which shows he really cares for his students. Plus, he usually says the nicknames in a funny accent, which adds to the fun.”

Senior John Pease

Nickname: The Peasa

“He’s a good teacher because he’s real with his students. He shows that he respects all the students, so all of his students respect him. It’s just a fun time.”

Senior Colleen McDonagh

Nickname: Coll-O

“I think one of the coolest things […] about him in class is that he knew everyone’s name by like the second day. He really cares about his students and he changes so many peoples’ lives.”

Senior Mac Zabriskie

Nickname: Zabrisk

“My favorite part of class is when he says ‘extra credit time’ in a funny voice. It makes everyone in the class laugh. He is [also] nice and patient, which are good qualities.”

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