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Retirement is now in session: South faculty say goodbye to GBS with lasting memories, relationships, legacies

RETIREMENT READY: Joining together to reminisce about their careers, South retiring faculty prepares to end the school year for one last time. These staff members have devoted countless years to helping students learn and grow. Featured from left to right: (top) Jerry Zabin, John Lewis, Todd Hansen, Peter Masciopinto, Terry Jozwik, Marty Sirvatka, (bottom) Janice Osowski, Ellen Eichler, Mary Vicars, Kay Sopocy, Dawn Fendt. Not featured: Fred Kocian, Carol May.

Rachel Nwia

RETIREMENT READY: Joining together to reminisce about their careers, South retiring faculty prepares to end the school year for one last time. These staff members have devoted countless years to helping students learn and grow. Featured from left to right: (top) Jerry Zabin, John Lewis, Todd Hansen, Peter Masciopinto, Terry Jozwik, Marty Sirvatka, (bottom) Janice Osowski, Ellen Eichler, Mary Vicars, Kay Sopocy, Dawn Fendt. Not featured: Fred Kocian, Carol May.

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Table of Contents:

Terry Jozwik

Todd Hansen

Mary Vicars

Fred Kocian

Jerry Zabin

Dawn Fendt

Ellen Eichler

John Lewis

Pete Masciopinto

Janice Osowski

Marty Sirvatka

Kay Sopocy

 

Terry Jozwik – Social Studies Teacher

Delicately carved artifacts and trinkets clutter two shelves, threatening to spill onto the floor. Many offices contain documents with a touch of home, but Terry Jozwik, social studies instructional supervisor (IS), ascertains his workplace fits his character by filling it with objects he’s accumulated over his 39 years of teaching at South. Much like the sentimentality of his office, Jozwik’s retirement allows him and others to reminisce on his contribution to the school and its people.

Ever since becoming fascinated with the story behind the Panama Canal in fifth grade, Jozwik knew his passion was history. According to Jozwik, he grew up on the West side of Chicago and attended Illinois State and then Northern University before attaining his first and only teaching job at South.

According to John Sullivan, social studies teacher, Jozwik’s personality is evident in the way he teaches and supervises the history department. Describing him as wise in the classroom and competitive in the activities he advised, such as track, Sullivan believes Jozwik’s character makes him a strong teacher and IS.

“There’s that competitive side you see coaching and then you see in religions that other side [of his personality], which is intellectually always curious and always trying to think and get people to think but not in the same kind of competitive way,” Sullivan said.

Having taught numerous courses while at South, Jozwik currently only teaches World Religions of the West, a course he created, along with World Religions of the East, after becoming interested in varying faiths. With his final year teaching slowly approaching, according to Jozwik, it is small moments in his religion classes he realizes he will miss.

“I’ve been showing the film The Chosen for Judaism for probably 25 years, and when I ended it today, it was kind of weird because I thought, that’s the last time I’m going to ever watch The Chosen with a group of students that discuss it,” Jozwik said. “So, [it was] kind of a sweet-sorrow moment for me.”

After teaching at South and evening classes for numerous years, Jozwik became IS almost accidentally. According to Jozwik, when the previous IS passed away, the administration asked Jozwik to fill the position because he had the administrative certification required. Despite this sudden change, Sullivan believes Jozwik’s leadership as IS was a key factor in the history department’s success.

“I think if I were to point to perhaps the crowning glory of [Jozwik’s] time here, it’s been his ability to […] guide our department through some very difficult times and do so in a way that has left us all feeling good about the direction we’re headed in and ourselves as individuals,” Sullivan said.

According to Jozwik, one of the most important things a teacher must do is establish relationships with students outside of the classroom. Having coached track, co-created the Academy and advised Key Club, he worked to foster relationships with students. One of his biggest impacts, according to senior Grace Kilpatrick, is his involvement advising Model UN.

“The relationship I’ve formed with [Jozwik] over my four years at South has been by far the most impactful on my life and my being,” Kilpatrick said. “[Jozwik] is someone who—from shooting me emails about Model UN to sitting in his office for hours just discussing life—has instilled in me in the same way my parents have and my family has certain values that I think I am going to carry with me from high school and so far forward.”

Further emphasizing the importance of relationships with students, Jozwik is committed to the activities he advises, according to Sullivan. Sullivan believes this dedication is evident in his competitive, passionate personality, shown when Jozwik’s track team defeated New Trier and Evanston for the first time.

“I thought [Jozwik] had died and gone to heaven,” Sullivan said. “I thought he had just about had the greatest experience of his life. […] I don’t think there was a kid who was more excited than he was; he was jumping up and down and screaming.”

According to Jozwik, he is slightly sad and scared about retirement, yet happily anticipates the start of a new chapter of his life. With this in mind, he hopes other faculty members and students remember him as the teacher, coach, sponsor and IS that helped others believe in themselves.

“I think everybody young and old is capable of doing more than they think they can do, and I did my best to get [the students and faculty] to try to see themselves and […] their strengths,” Jozwik said. “And [I tried] to help them develop those strengths so that they can go on and live a more meaningful and successful and beautiful life.”

Kilpatrick believes Jozwik is extremely influential to students, especially in the way he always tries to encourage and spark confidence within them. According to Kilpatrick, Jozwik became more than just an educator but also a mentor who provided her with guidance and support.

“I think when I first met [Jozwik], I didn’t understand the depth of his character,” Kilpatrick said. “After having known him for four years, […] he has become much more of a father figure with the same emotional depth and character as any father would have. I mean over the four years, [Jozwik] has become […] that one sense of home that you have at school. I can’t pick where I feel anywhere more at home than being in [Jozwik’s] office.”

After he departs from South, Jozwik wishes to train educators in the newly required civics course, assist veterans, travel to Vermont and garden large plots of land. Most of all, according to Jozwik, he wishes to embody the message “I am still learning”, which a plaque hanging from his office shelves reminds him to always do.

“[The message] was supposedly said by Michelangelo when he was 87 years old,” Jozwik said “So, I think that no matter how old you are, there’s never a time in your life when you shouldn’t stop learning. […] So when I’m 87, I want to be like Michelangelo and still be learning.”

 

Todd Hansen – Special Education Teacher

Todd Hansen, South special education teacher, is a social studies guru, die-hard Green Bay Packers fan, comedian, coach, outdoorsman and a true kind friend to many. According to Carol Buresh, a colleague of Hansen’s in the special education department, Hansen possesses all of the aforementioned titles. After over two decades at South, Hansen will be retiring after this current school year.

Before the beginning of his career at GBS, Hansen was already informed about the school and was impressed by his findings.

“I still remember one of the first conversations that I had with the individual who hired me,” Hansen said. “He said [to me], ‘you’re not gonna believe what a wonderful place this is to work.’ That has really been the case.”

Hector Carabez, a fellow special ed teacher, would help in some of Hansen’s classes. According to Carabez, there was a distinct moment in a history class in which a student of Hansen’s understood the message of a movie with help from Hansen’s teaching methods.

“That just got me because his way of teaching that got to that one kid and you could just see that student’s bell being rung,” Carabez said. “The message was heard and taught.”

According to Hansen, besides his hair being a little lighter, the biggest change at South throughout his years has been the inclusion of technology in and out of the classroom.

“The lesson plans all used to be on manila folders and three ringed binders and stuff,” said Hansen. “Now everything is on a computer.”

Buresh, who has worked alongside Hansen for all his 24 years at South, witnessed technology’s increasing influence in the classroom and noticed how her colleague adapted to such changes.

“Twenty four years ago we didn’t have […] computers, we didn’t have everything via email and spreadsheets and the Google classroom and all that,” Buresh said. “He kind of, I don’t want to say he was the last one […] but even he got on the technology bandwagon. This was something that really impressed me professionally.”

Carabez has gotten to know Hansen as a friend as well as a colleague. According to Carabez, Hansen has always been there for him during the toughest times, even after the loss of a family member. When Carabez returned to school, Hansen was their to greet him.

“When I saw [Hansen] I said ‘Hey, how are you?’ and he just gave me a big hug,” Carabez said. “I started crying because I had my friend there and [it] was a special moment.”

According to Hansen, he plans to enjoy his retirement with people close to him but will always miss the community at South.

“It’ll be bittersweet,” Hansen said. ”It’s kind of funny to think about [retirement] because students graduate every year. You work with kids, they graduate, they move one. So in a sense, this is my senior year too.”

 

Mary Vicars – Social Studies Teacher

Mary Vicars from the South Social Studies Department is bringing her teaching career to a close in 2016 with her retirement.  According to Vicars, her biggest feat throughout her teaching career has been keeping the curriculum interesting and enjoyable, many of her students would agree that she has succeeded in doing so.

According to Vicars, she knew she wanted to be a teacher since her junior year of highschool at Riverside Brookfield High School.  At the time she said it was hard for teachers to find jobs once out of college, so she did not pursue a teaching degree right away.

“Every year for two years I had a different major,” Vicars explained. “I was in accounting, I tried math, I was all over the place, and I didn’t like it.  I wanted to be a teacher but I thought ‘I’m not going to get a job,’ and finally my father gave me the best advice and I tell my students now: do what you like.”

Vicars explained that her first teaching job actually was not at South, but at Maine South High School in Park Ridge, IL. Vicars said she began her career at South in 1981, and taught until 1984 when she took a break when he had her first child.  According to Vicars she took a ten year break from teaching, but never really felt like she left South.

“The person they hired to replace me quit after about two weeks so the [Instructional Supervisor] Mr. Adams called me and said, ‘Can you just come in and take your old classes until we hire somebody,’ and I did for a few weeks,” Vicars said. “Even though I was out [of teaching] for ten years I [didn’t feel] that I was really out.”

According to Vicars her biggest accomplishment in her teaching career has been sparking interest in dispassionate students.

“Some kids have told me that they didn’t like history and I will make it interesting,” Vicars said. “So I think when I can do that and kids tell me, that is my biggest accomplishment. If a kid comes after class and says hey this wasn’t so bad today I think, ‘Well I guess I did alright.’”

According to Vicars as much as she taught her students, they also taught her important lessons.  She explained that the biggest lesson came from her teaching her language assisted United States history students.

“I’m teaching U.S. history, but I’ve learned so much about [the students’] countries so I think everyday I’m learning about their backgrounds and that’s been really interesting for me,” Vicars said. “If I’m talking about the constitution maybe they start talking about their constitution, or if we’re talking about immigration in American history they start talking about their experience as immigrants.”

According to senior Mary Langas having Vicars as her Honors World History teacher has positively contributed to her social studies career at South.  Langas said even though she was in Vicars’s class freshman year, she still feels that their relationship is strong.  Langas remembered from Vicars’s class that she continuously strived to energize her lessons.

“[Vicars] always had a lot of good examples and videos to show us,” Langas said. “Our class got really involved with a video that she would show us with this one historian named Jared Diamond and we all loved him, also we had a lot of class debates and discussions which were always really fun and helped [us] learn more”

According to Langas her relationship with Vicars was not cut off after the conclusion of her freshman history class.

“She’s just a very friendly teacher and she really makes you feel special because she remembers you in years after,” Langas said. “I’ll see her in the hallway now and she still seems really excited to see me which is why I’ved loved her so much and when my [younger] brother got her as a teacher I was so excited for him.”

Freshman Will Langas also has Vicars for Honors World History, just two years after his sister.  Will agreed with his sister Mary that Vicars’s debates bring life to the class

“Every once in awhile we have debates,” Will said. “The first one we did was what was the greater Greek city: Athens or Sparta, and they end up just getting really heated.”

On top of brother and sister Mary and Will both having Vicars as a teacher, their dad Pete Langas also was her student at South.  According to Pete he had Vicars for United States History during his junior year in 1981, and looks positively back on his time in her class.

“Mrs. Vicars had a lot of energy, and kept me engaged with the subject,” Pete said. “She was one of my favorite teachers and one of those that I not only remember, but made an impact too. She really took an interest in kids’ learning.”

Looking back at her time throughout South, Vicars explained how she sees one of the greatest benefits of teaching is being able to tangibly see a shift in interest or passion for something in a student. Vicars described a moment that she shared recently with a student that illustrated just this.

“One of my students said to me, ‘What are we going to do next year?” Vicars said.  “Who are we going to talk politics [with]?’ and I said, ‘Well you could always email me,’ but that means that he cares about what’s going on and that’s good.”

 

Fred Kocian – Science Teacher

Every year, South loses some of its greatest contributors as teachers retire from their positions come summer. Beloved educators are always missed when their time comes to leave, and this year will be no different. Biology teacher Frederick Kocian has announced his leave at the end of the school year.

Kocian’s tenure at South began in 1994, and he has been an impactful member of the science department as well as coach of the girls’ cross country and track teams for much of his career at South. According to Kocian, his involvement in South’s community with cross country, track, wrestling, and the Variety Show has really made his time worthwhile.

“Getting involved is what we tell the students, but I believe that for myself also,” Kocian said. “You get to meet not only more students, but you get to meet the people you work with. I actually got to know a lot of people in other departments and the custodial staff because you are working side by side with them which is a wonderful thing.”

According to fellow science teacher Christopher Hilvert, Kocian has had a great impact on all of the students he has taught, with his infectious passion for learning and teaching biology.

“His ability to relate to kids is a great strength,” Hilvert said. “Kids enjoy being in his classroom, kids enjoy getting to know him, and kids enjoy getting to learn more about biology because he is teaching it.”

Kocian has been senior Rose O’Grady’s track and field and cross country coach for all of her years at South. According to O’Grady, Kocian’s positivity has helped the team improve exponentially as her high school career progressed, in addition to being a source of support for the team.

“At the conference meet [earlier in May], our 4 by 800 meter relay team did really well,” O’Grady said.  “I remember that when I finished my leg of the relay, he showed me the time I ran, which was my best time I’ve gotten in the 800 [meter race] so far this year. He came up to me and gave me a huge hug, and it meant a lot because he knew how hard I’ve been working to get that [personal record] that I really wanted.”

According to Kocian, while he is glad to be retiring, he still enjoys his job greatly. He has encountered other retiring teachers who have been itching to finish their careers at school, and is grateful that he does not feel that way and is able to fully enjoy his dwindling time at South. However, retirement doesn’t come without sentimentality for Kocian.

“I’ll really miss being in the classroom and coaching the athletes” Kocian said. “There’s always a challenge in both places to try to get people to do their best, and in each place, the classroom and the track, it’s hard work that gets you where you want to be. Helping students and athletes is realize that is a wonderful thing.”

 

Jerry Zabin – Social Worker

His office is filled with the smooth styling’s of jazz playing softly from his computer, personal pictures of him and some of the vintage cars he works on hang in his office and pieces of chocolate wait enticingly on a small plate to be eaten.

This homey set up, a mixture of comfort food, pictures to show openness on his end, a calming melody and his not-so-secret stash of hot cocoa, are meant to foster a feeling of comfort into all the students who go into social worker, Jerry Zabin’s office.

“One of the things I do here is I keep hot cocoa [in my office],” Zabin said. “I’ll always have hot cocoa and I’ll always have candy to give students. Just to make students comfortable. I know some kids I’ve bought lunch or I’ve bought breakfast for, because they don’t have it.”

According to Zabin, his passion in social work did not come to him early in his life. He discovered his love for it only 20 years ago, and was a teacher at Columbia College, a director of two different hospitals and the main runner of two programs.

“I was teaching at Columbia College at the time when they asked me to interview at New Trier,” Zabin said. “I thought it was a teaching position, and I went in and I had maybe twelve people in the room and they started throwing clinical questions at me, […] And I said, ‘Wait a minute. This is not a teaching position?’, and they said, ‘No it’s not. It’s for a social worker’, and I said, ‘Cool I work with social workers in my practice’ […]. I was forty when I began working in a school, and so now it has been 22 years later.”

After interviewing at New Trier as a guidance counselor and eventually ending up at South, the rest is history. His current decision to retire after 20 years of practicing social work, however, was not made based on ability to effectively complete the task at hand.

“I’m worried about the pension system,” Zabin said. “A lot of people are counting the minutes until they retire; I love what I do, so I still have many unused sick days because I love coming in all the time.”

According to ceramics teacher Kurt Webb, he met Zabin 15 years ago while walking through the hall. Webb worked here before Zabin, and according to Webb, the impact that Zabin has had is immeasurable.

“He’s a great listener, and he is non-judgmental,” Webb said. “He finds value in everyone despite sometimes the insurmountable odds […]. He’s a very positive person in the lives that he touches.”

When he is out of school, according to Zabin, he is always busy. He undertakes another counseling program in Evanston focusing on domestic abuse, he renovates and then sells antique cars and motorcycles and he frequently plays the pocket trumpet.

Zabin is also a member of two bands playing recent gigs in Old Town Chicago and other places throughout the year. He actually, according to Zabin, practices the pocket trumpet on a daily basis in order to be his personal outlet for him.

“I go so frequently that they game me a key, and I let myself into the music practice room and I go everyday, and that’s my way to chill out. Some people exercise, some people meditate or some people drink, I play trumpet.”

Webb has also seen Zabin’s deep passion to music. Zabin is able to use his musical passions to help students, according to Webb, and it is through this that he is able to connect with students and help them realize that they are not alone. Furthermore, Webb says that Zabin doesn’t give everything away at once.

“Just recently I attended one of his concerts at Starbucks restaurants,” Webb said. “I always knew he was a good musician, but I didn’t know that he was an expert musician and the leader of his group. […] [He has the respect of his band members, [and this] shows that he puts himself totally into music just like he does at South. It was a really nice discovery.”

However, despite the practice room trumpet perks that come with his job, Zabin believes that the most important piece to his job is creating connections. These connections, according to Zabin, are an honor that he is able to have. Some of his connections, however, come from the beginning of his career at South.

“I used to work with what was called the behavior disorder contained class, so it was some tough kids, and we would commandeer the home ec or the foods room and we would cook breakfast together,” Zabin said. “It was just fun and people working together and then putting out a product and sitting down together and having a meal. It was really just fun.”

Despite Zabin no longer being present at South after this year, the impact he has had, according to Webb, on him is something that not only he experienced but something he wanted his students to experience. According to Webb, Zabin has left a mark on him as well.

“I think Mr. Zabin has helped me listen to students better [and] not react emotionally on first encountering a difficult situation,” Webb said. “He helpes me reflect on the challenges in my own life and as a [recipient] of that I think I’ve become a better person, a better friend and most importantly for Glenbrook South, a better teacher.”

In the future, once his office is void of the smooth rhythm of jazz, stash of hot chocolate, personal pictures and mini candy bars placed thoughtfully on plates, Zabin will be out enjoying his time that he plans to spend with family, repairing cars and focusing on his group in Evanston.

His advice to the newbee who may be filling his spot?

“[Some advice I would give is] learn and listen,” Zabin said. “Attach to older, experienced staff and learn from that; that’s what I did when I got started, and I don’t really see that now. When I started I would attach to people I admired and older staff just to learn. I wanted to become good at what I did. The learning never stops. That’s the other thing, it’s just the learning never stops. I learn from everyone that I meet with, and that accumulates wisdom then.”

 

Dawn Fendt – P.E. Teacher

Three-season athlete, graduate of South’s class of 1977 and coach of four sports, PE teacher Dawn Fendt retires after 15 years of teaching at South.

According to Fendt, she was taught by PE teacher Kay Sopocy first as a student at South and looked up to her as an athlete. Sopocy was the one who inspired and guided her on the path to becoming a PE teacher, Fendt said.

“[Sopocy] had a really special way with kids, no matter who you were and would give 100 percent to each person in class,” Fendt said. “She was very caring, she was very nonjudgemental, and [she] really made me feel special all the time. As a student, as an athlete, I felt important […] Her helping me through everything just really boosted my self-esteem, and I knew I could do it because of her.”

According to Sopocy, she remembers Fendt as a friendly, competitive athlete and recalls a memory from when she coached Fendt in softball.

“There was a particular year that we didn’t even have a backstop for our softball team, and they had created this wooden structure and put chicken wire around the back,” Sopocy said. “We spent our [Saturday morning painting] it blue and gold, so that was pretty crazy.”

Sopocy said that during their years working as colleagues, Fendt played an important role in cultivating the adaptive program at South.

“[Fendt has] worked a lot with the adaptive kids, and I think she shaped that program into a more meaningful [program] for the students in there,” Sopocy said. “[She taught them] that there are expectations and that [they] can do things, and I think that’s been an important factor of her being here.”

In addition to developing the adaptive program, Fendt has helped individuals in her other PE classes as well, according to senior Casey Kleeman. Kleeman recalls a time during her sophomore year when Fendt let her sit out of the mile run in PE class because of her arthritis.

“I don’t really tell a lot of people about [my arthritis] but I knew I could trust Ms. Fendt because that day [the arthritis] was pretty bad and I knew she would understand,” Kleeman said. “She really just helped me through it and made sure I was okay the entire time.”

According to Fendt, in addition to being a PE teacher, she has also coached four different sports during her time at South, including girls’ basketball, girls’ volleyball and tennis. Fendt said that leading the 2003-2004 tennis team to the state championships as a head coach was one of her favorite memories at South.

“When I was the head tennis coach I had a double team qualify for the state tournament,” Fendt said. “They were an unseeded team entering the tournament and the two girls won the state championship. That was a great accomplishment and not many coaches get to say they coached state champions.”

In regards to her retirement, Fendt said that her plans include completing her bucket list of travel destinations, such as Australia, Italy and Greece. In addition, she stated that she plans on spending time with her parents in Florida and staying active as an athlete. Being able to enjoy the rest of life comfortably was a key factor in choosing to retire early, Fendt mentioned.

“I want to retire when I’m young so I can enjoy my life,” Fendt said. “I’ve known too many people who’ve taught very, very long into their life and have had some health issue arise and not be able to enjoy life with their families. I have the years, I’ve put in the time, and life is short sometimes. You never know what might come up, and I just want to be able to enjoy it.”

Looking back on her time at South, Fendt said that one of her biggest regrets was not spending time with other teachers outside of the PE department, and that over the years, she watched the faculty at South become more departmentalized.

“When I first came here, […] they said, ‘now get out of your department and go have lunch at the faculty cafeteria’,” Fendt said. “So my first year, we did. We went down there and we met people, and then little by little, people would just go grab their lunch and go right back to their department.”

Fellow PE Teacher Timothy Cichowski said that the one thing he will miss most about her is the fact that he could always lean on her when times were tough.

“Only her and I will ever understand this, but my final words [to her] would be ‘you’ve earned it, enjoy it, cha-ching, cha-ching,’” Cichowski said. “[…] It’s just gotten us through a lot of our tougher times teaching and coaching.”

When asked for her final remarks about South, Fendt reminisces on her time here as a Titan.

“[I] truly bleed blue and gold, my heart has been here for my whole life,” Fendt said. “I will wish [GBS] well, and it’s been a great ride.”

 

Ellen Eichler – Counselor

While every other student and staff member gets ready for the upcoming year, guidance counselor Ellen Eichler prepares to retire from South. After working at GBS for 19 years, Eichler decides to begin a journey to pursue new adventures outside of the school environment.

According to Eichler, her first, real job was at GBS as a guidance counselor. She was hired in 1997 by Bob Ferrantelli, former assistant principal and director of guidance at GBS, and has continued to work at South ever since.

“I knew from the time I was in high school that I would go into education,” Eichler said. “In high school, I always knew that I wanted to be a counselor. Very strange thing to know back then, but I just did.”

According to junior Isabel Kang, a student of Eichler, she always takes all of Eichler’s guidance recommendations into account in order to make smart decision for her future classes.

“She’s very good at organizing which classes I should take for which year based on what previous classes I have taken,” Kang said. “For example, she helped me schedule for AP physics after I took AP calculus […]. She helps me figure all that out before I entered junior year.”

Dr. Lara Cummings, the assistant principal of Student Services Department believes that Eichler always finds a way to help keep the department together through her use of humour.

“She always can make you laugh,” Cummings said. “We deal with a lot of tough issues in this hallway, but she always finds a way to bring humour into it, which is often needed. She’ll be professional and handle the crisis, but she knows that one right line or thing to say to make some of that tension […] float away.”

Eichler believes that one of the joys of being a counselor is seeing growth and development in the students she counsel. According to Eichler, she is able to see progression and experience many elements over the student’s high school life by being a guidance counselor.

“My favorite thing is watching a student go from 14 to 18 years old,” Eichler said. “The development is wild. I see freshmen boys and four years later they’re kind of like men. The girls are now just lovely and mature. That’s the best part, which is watching them grow up.”

In addition to seeing improvement, Eichler enjoys watching students tackle and solve problems on their own and take responsibility for their actions.

“That’s very rewarding to me when I see the light bulb go on over their heads,” Eichler said. “I think any teacher would say the same thing […] because we’re trying to teach life skills and life planning.”

According to Eichler, if she had to describe South in one word, it would be fantastic. She loves working with her students and the different experiences she gets to share with them.

“[I] love teenagers and the age group,” Eichler said. “[I] love working with families. My job is the coordinator of the student’s experience. I get to experience every aspect of their lives and what their doing while they’re here.”

One of Eichler’s many goals as a counselor is to help her students not regret but accept the decisions they choose to make. She believes it’s an important life skill for students to learn, so they can deal with the judgements they make in the future.

“My goal for students is very often helping them learn to live with their choices,” Eichler said. “A lot of people want to make changes, and that’s not always possible or the right thing.”

Christina Pak, a fellow counselor at South, said she will miss Eichler’s presence and their conversations they share with each other. In addition, there will also be an absence of the energy and the vibe Eichler brings to the Student Services Department.

Whenever she’s not in the building, we notice that it’s so much quieter,” Pak said. “We automatically just sense her absence, so it’s gonna be a huge void to fill when she leaves […]. It’s just not gonna be the same. [Eichler] always says that people are always replaceable, but her personality is irreplaceable. She is really one of a kind.”

According to Molly McBride, a fellow counselor at South, she also will miss Eichler’s thoughtful insights and the wisdom she’s shared with her throughout her years at South.

“I’ve learned a lot from [Eichler] on a daily basis,” McBride said. “When I first started working here, my office was right across the hall. Even though I had been a counselor for eight years at a different school, I still felt by hearing her conversations with other students, parents and families, I still learned something new from her everyday.”

In the future, Eichler would like to spend more time with her family and start a new life in Italy.

“I want to start a new chapter [with] my four granddaughters,” Eichler said. “ I want to go live in Italy for a little while […]. I love nature and beauty. I really want to live there, and I hope I do.”

As Eichler starts to prepare for her retirement, she wants to be commemorated at South for her hard-work and dedication she brings to her job by guiding South students.

“I would like to be remembered for competence and vision,” Eichler said. “I always had a vision on how thing should be done, and I do it. Students first. Families first. I believe all policies and everything that [staff administrators] do should be for clients, which are the students.”

 

John Lewis – Science Teacher

From Snowball to Science Olympiad to Biking Club, AP Physics teacher John Lewis has left his mark all over South within the past 33 years that he has been teaching. Lewis plans to retire this year in order to spend more time with his family and to continue his work with helping struggling science teachers.

According to Lewis, he has cherished his time at South, making this transition a bittersweet one. In recent years while Lewis was working at South, he taught AP Physics for one block and has been an Instructional Coach for the rest of his position.

“Glenbrook South has just been an incredible place,” Lewis said. “I love the people I work with, I love the children I get to teach.  This is not going to be an easy thing for me to just say goodbye because I do have my heart in all the different corners of this building.”

Physics teacher Thomas Henderson will never forget his colleague for his persona and his work. Henderson recalls the first time he met Lewis and the qualities he remembers him by even today.

“He’s really nice,” Henderson said. “That was probably the number one impression. How cordial, kind that he was, [and] outgoing.”

According to Henderson, Lewis truly helped the physics course flourish from where it was at 27 years ago and helped improve the AP Physics course at South. Besides teaching at South, Lewis also is involved in working with science teachers in Illinois that teach inquiry-based science classes for the Golden Apple Foundation.

According to former colleague English teacher Katie Hoover, Lewis has been a positive role model she hopes to emulate in her own teaching.

“In regards to my career, it was really important for me to see someone who is extremely compassionate and full of grace,” Hoover said.

According to Lewis, he feels accomplished when he sees a former student become a teacher because they can now spread their knowledge.

“I’ve always felt, when great people decide to teach other great people, that the whole universe sort of rejoices because they have chosen to make an influence on others who will become an influence on others,” Lewis said.

According to Hoover, she continues to see the same character traits Lewis had in her AP Physics class as she continues to learn from Lewis in his classes for teachers at South. Lewis helps teachers create and discuss methods of teaching that will enhance the learning experience for students. According to Hoover, Lewis also helps enhance the learning experience for students to make them comfortable with the material.

“Learning science and physics is intimidating for a lot of people and [Lewis] has always made it accessible and fun,” Hoover said. “Even as I take his classes now and we just talk about general methods, I find myself wanting to be in his physics class again because he speaks about science so fondly and with such enthusiasm and passion.”

Senior Doug Stryker currently has Lewis as his AP Physics teacher. According to Stryker, Lewis exuberates energy and passion about physics whilst keeping track of student comprehension.

“One of the best teachers I’ve ever had. He’s super enthusiastic about the subject, and he’s also just very good at communicating various concepts.”

Stryker also recounts one of the first interactions with Lewis. According to Stryker, Lewis is genuine with his students and really tries to create a bond with his students outside the classroom.

“The first time that I met him he was the proctor for the ACT in my junior year and he saw my last name and he actually was a soccer coach at GBS when my uncle went here and coached my uncle in soccer so he asked if I knew him and obviously I said I did.” Stryker said. “Even this year he remembered that he’s asked me about my uncle.”

Lewis is not only involved with his students, but he also dedicates his time to ensure that students are felt welcome and comfortable. According to Hoover, Lewis was persistent with his students for success through questioning as well as allowing students to learn at their own pace.

“What characterizes Mr. Lewis as a teacher first of all was his incredible patience that he had with students.” Hoover said. “He really recognized that every student is on their own journey to understanding. We’re all in an individual place and we all have important questions.”

 

Pete Masciopinto – Social Studies Teacher

Just 34 years ago, Peter Masciopinto, social studies teacher started working here at South. Before the 41 years of teaching began, Masciopinto attended an all boys high school, Holy Cross in Rivergrove. His experience at Holy Cross really impacted the way he taught his students at South, according to Masciopinto.

“I would say that my high school experience definitely had an impact on how I teach my students, we always have our favorite teachers, we always have our role model teachers, and I had some role model teachers, in social studies over at Holy Cross and they obviously had an influence on me and inspired me to be a better teacher,” Masciopinto said.

Masciopinto attended Loyola University and then began teaching sociology and psychology at Holy Cross before coming to GBS, according to Masciopinto.

“I had been in the Catholic schools for seven years, and in the old days they were looking for teachers with experience, and I just had the right amount of experience to move from the Catholic schools […],” Masciopinto said.  “I heard about a opening here over at GBS, and I talked to somebody at GBN who told me about the opening, and so I applied.”

According to Terry Jozwick, instructional supervisor of the Social Studies Department, Masciopinto was very enthusiastic when he first started to work at South and his passion in teaching was and still is today very evident.

“He was trying to get students in a recent class that I observed to understand that every student in this building is coming in with strengths and weaknesses, and he was relating it to personality theories in psychology,” Jozwick said.

After retiring from South, Masciopinto still has plans for the future. Masciopinto has experience in being active in church work and hopes that he can be more active in the future. In 2012, Masciopinto went on a trip to Zambia and now for the second time he is going back to work with the underprivileged kids. Masciopinto hopes that he will be able to take that experience and bring it back to the underprivileged areas in Chicago.

“The first thing that I’m thinking of as of right now is the honor and privilege of going to Africa, so I’m going to Africa for about two and a half weeks to teach poor kids and to be involved in leadership in a very remote area of Zambia,” Masciopinto said. “I’ve been to Zambia in 2012, and now, I’m going back for a second time and were going to be working with a lot of underprivileged poor kids.”

Masciopinto has been involved with poor areas in Chicago through church work. He worked at a homeless shelter and gave food to feed the people once every six weeks. Furthermore, according to Masciopinto, he is hoping that he can translate his past in Zambia to helping out people in the United States.

“I’m  hoping to take the experience that I’ve learned in Africa and maybe work with some of the poor kids here in the Chicagoland area,” Masciopinto said. “We have a lot of poor areas like the East Garfield area where I’ve been involved with breaks through ministry which is a homeless shelter […] we go into the inner city and feed them about once every 6 weeks. So I’m hoping to get more involved with church work when I retire.”

According to Jozwick, Masciopinto shows passion for teaching and is able to create an environment where students are comfortable enough to share personal information about themselves. Masciopinto agrees that he has found his passion in teaching, and he hopes that students continue to learn as much as possible in their lives.

“Social studies was probably my favorite subject and that’s usually what happens for teachers you find something that you have a passion for and then once you find something that you’re passionate about and then you try to learn more all the time,” Masciopinto said.

 

Janice Osowski – P.E. Teacher

Whether it be traveling around the world, skiing in Europe with her friends, or waterskiing on the lakes, gym teacher Janice Osowski is planning out her post-retirement life as this school year comes to an end. This year marks Osowski’s 32nd, and final, year at South. According to Osowski, working in the Athletics Department at South for several years has inspired lifelong relationships.

“When I first started at GBS, I was so excited to work here,” Osowski said. “And I remember that the people in the PE department were just so nice. I ended up becoming really good friends with them throughout the years; they became like family.”

Previously involved with different courses at South, such as Lifetime and Early Bird PE, Osowski expressed that her favorite class to teach has been Adventure Education, a course involving rock climbing and team-building activities. According to Osowski, she began teaching this course about ten years after she started working at South.

“My boss saw something in me, and he thought I would be good at it,” Osowski informed. “So my mentor, Tony Calabrese, taught me a lot of stuff. We went camping in Wisconsin and I took a lot of classes.”

Students previously and currently enrolled in the Adventure Education course reminisced on Osowski’s presence in class. According to junior Dasha German, taking Osowski’s Adventure Education class has been an enjoyable experience.

“Everything we’ve done has been active and fun, and sometimes crazy and experimental, and it just all [ends] up as 90 minutes of joy,” German expressed.

According to German, Osowski’s character has played a large role in German’s appreciation toward not only the class, however also toward Osowski herself.

“Honestly, {Mrs. Osowski is] more energetic and active than [I am],” German said. “She’s one of the sweetest teachers I’ve ever had the pleasure to know, and it shows in conversation as well as action.”

In a recent situation, according to German, Osowski’s motivation toward her students was evident when German became nervous of climbing a new wall. Greene explained how Osowski’s support helped her overcome this fear of climbing and allowed her to face her fear.

“[My nervousness] all went away when Mrs. O. took me aside for a second just to say that she believed in me, and that I could do it,” German said. “It really gave me the little boost of confidence and energy to get past my nerves and to just climb. She continued to cheer me on all the way and it just really promoted an air of positivity.”

German also expressed how Osowski provides her classes with several life lessons. According to German, Osowski’s emphasis on establishing teamwork has been a rewarding experience, and it also showed her the importance of being able to work well with others.

“She really just helped encourage me to take team and relationship building activities seriously because I’ve come to understand how important trust and synergy is to a working team,” German said. “She just really taught me that anyone can do [anything] as long as they believe in themselves.”

According to PE teacher Dawn Fendt, she remembers Osowski’s enthusiasm that reverberated throughout the PE office even if she was tired, and she recalls how she would use soda to get her energy back up again.

“When Ms. O is tired she will always reach for a mountain dew, and wow, does that get her fired up,” Fendt said. “She will bounce off walls […] and pace around the office and come up with some of the craziest ideas.  She is the first one to say we need an office “party” which means we will all eat well!”

Despite Osowski’s involvement in the Adventure Education course, she has participated in other opportunities outside of the Physical Education Department. For 15 years, Osowski was the Girls Gymnastics head coach, as well as the Boys Gymnastics Coach, according to Osowski. She remembers the time when the team won despite going into the competition as the underdogs.

In addition to gymnastics, Osowski was the sponsor of the Individual Peer Leader Program, a group of kids who try to make transfer students at South feel as comfortable and welcome as possible, according to Osowski.

“We trained to make [transfer] kids feel welcome,”Osowski said. We met with them before school started and had a pizza party, took them on a tour, and then we met with them every week during their lunch and we made sure they had someone to eat with at lunch. […] By the end of the semester, they didn’t feel like new students.”

According to Osowski, her time at South has been phenomenal; however, she is ready to begin the next chapter of her life. Despite retiring and moving beyond the walls of South, according to German, Osowski has inspired her in ways that she can carry on throughout her life as well. Similarly, German hopes that Osowski enjoys her retirement and lives life courageously.

“I hope she keeps on living the adventurous life she seems to love [living],” German expressed. “I would also like to thank her for inspiring me to find the adventure back in my own life. She’s been a fantastic teacher and overall person and I hope that her future treats her as nicely as she treated us.”

 

Marty Sirvatka – Choral Director

“Don’t settle for mediocrity.” Although it is Choir Director Marty Sirvatka’s final year, according to GBS graduate Tom Olickal, his mantra will continue to ring throughout the Choir Department for years to come. According to Olickal this mentality has helped Sirvatka’s students flourish, and on May 28th, his pupils, past and current, will take the stage to celebrate his career through various performances.

According to senior Danny Schiller, the concert is titled “Reprise,” and it represents how the concert will be one final recapitulation of his career.

“I hope it’s everything that he wants it to be in the idea that it’s sort of like the end of it all, and it’s […] from start to finish a nice circle summing up his career,” Schiller said.

Troy Ossey is in charge of coordinating with the alumni for the concert. Ossey is currently in the Tech Support Department at South. Ossey was a previous student of Sirvatka and was part of the first Nine choir group at South. He hopes that the concert will celebrate Sirvatka’s legacy and successes throughout his time at South.

“I think our biggest goal is to honor Mr. Sirvatka and the dedication that he’s put into this program,” Ossey said. “As much as he would probably like to deflect a lot of the attention, this concert really is about him and the legacy that he has created […].”

One alumnus participating in the concert is Olickal who was part of choir during his four years at South. He is involved in the planning for the concert, which involves contacting Sirvatka’s past students. In addition to GBS alumni, according to Olickal, some of Sirvatka’s students from Leyden High School, where Sirvatka taught at prior to GBS, will be coming to the concert to honor his career and his musical influence.

“There are so many aspects to this concert because we have to get in touch with so many alumni, […] make sure that it is coordinated and somehow rehearse all of them,” Olickal said. “I don’t think it’s really been done before.”

According to Sirvatka, he decided to have this concert so his students could have closure and say goodbye to him. While this concert can be considered a celebration of Sirvatka, he says that there is much more to it than that.

“Well I just thought it was a good capstone, a good punctuation mark on my career  […] ,” Sirvatka said. “It is more than me celebrating me, it is me celebrating all the students that I’ve had.”

Sirvatka says he is honored that so many of his former students are coming back to be a part of this concert. A mass choir of all former students will be singing a number called “Orphans of God,” according to Junior Michael Kirby, and a choir of all past and current Nine members will be singing “Nearer My God to Thee.” Sirvatka says that this concert will reenact some of his favorite moments that have taken place on stage.

“I think it’s going to be an amazing display of talent,” Sirvatka said. “I think it’s going to be a good chance for people to see the history of this program and for the alumni to come back to see where the program has gone and how the excellence was maintained.”

Above all, Olickal feels that the concert will be special because of Sirvatka himself, as he is an influential source of talent. Olickal has a high opinion of his former choir director and mentor.

“What makes [the concert] special is it’s Marty Sirvatka,” Olickal said. “He’s not an ordinary choir director. He works day and night, seven days a week, 365 days a year. He goes hard […]. Students who have come through the department understand that. [The concert is] about honoring him, and it’s a flourish of talent.”

According to Olickal, a perfect example of Sirvatka’s legacy is the commonality of excellence in the singing style of his students.

“Throughout the years, not much has changed,” Olickal said. “People who have gone through the department can hear [people who] were in the department twenty years ago […]. The group has sounded the same year to year.”

Sirvatka holds the culture he has created very close to him and regards his students as an extension of his family.

“They have become my family,” Sirvatka said. “They have impacted me more than I would have ever believed. They have inspired me; they have challenged me; they have consoled me, they have given me lots of laughter, a wonderful sense of purpose and they have reminded me of what it is to stay young and excited about life.”

Schiller also appreciates Sirvatka’s willingness to reach out. During his freshman year, Schiller was worried that he wouldn’t be able to handle his commitments to soccer, academics and choir. But, a memorable meeting with Sirvatka allowed him to put aside his fears and move forward in his participation throughout the department.

“He took the time to just speak with me one on one and say that he knows it’s going to be difficult for me to balance my time, but that he’d really want me to be in part of the [singing] groups,” Schiller said. “That was sort of the spark […]. From that point forward, I kind of owed it to him because he took the time out for me, so I had to take the time out for him.”

This retirement concert will be Sirvatka’s final concert. He says that he anticipates feeling pride and joy at the special event.

“It’s mixed emotions,” Sirvatka said.  “I’m happy and excited. And then there’s a lot of sadness. But it’s more sentimental. It’s not like I’m feeling pity for myself or regret. This is tears of joy if there’s going to be tears.”

Kirby believes that this concert will also be important to show how many students Sirvatka has influenced and taught. Olickal says that Sirvatka has influenced him by instilling a strong work ethic.

“I never took music very seriously in choir until I got into Nine my junior year […],” Olickal said. “He made me work harder, and he made me learn things […]. He taught me how to be more aware and work in a group environment, to get your tasks done. And these are all lessons that I apply to my life now […]. He has instilled this sort of mentality that you can’t settle.”

According to Olickal, the mentality that Sirvatka has emphasized has taken the GBS choir department to great heights.

“The sound of the GBS choir is as good as any professional choir,” Olickal said. “The sound of the a cappella groups and Chambers is up there with college, if not better […]. The hype of the choir department is thanks to Mr. [Sirvatka].”

One memorable moment where Sirvatka’s mantra inspired students was during last year’s Glenbrook musical, according to Kirby.

“We were learning a song for How to Succeed [in Business Without Really Trying] and we weren’t being very productive […],” Kirby said. “So he told us his whole speech of ‘don’t settle for less,’ and it just made us instantly better. It just made the dynamic of ‘this can either be a high school show or […] a professional show.’”

Sirvatka hopes that this mindset is what he’s leaving behind at GBS for music students of the future.

“I always feel like [you need to] do your best, reach down really deep within you and be challenged and go farther than you ever thought you could,” Sirvatka said. “So that’s the legacy that I’d like to leave.”

 

Kay Sopocy – P.E. Teacher

Kay Sopocy, varsity softball coach and assistant athletic director,  is retiring next year after 24 years at South. According to Sopocy, it was fitting for her to finish her career here at South and believes it is time for her to move on.

“[It makes sense] to finish my career here because [GBS has] all the things I like, high schoolers [and] high school athletics,” Sopocy said. “The ability to work in athletics is huge because I’m passionate about that. [GBS] is where I think I belong.”

Sopocy said she grew up knowing what she wanted to do; she never questioned her desire to teach. According to Sopocy, her father and Kaye Pierce, the Maine South PE department chairman, each played a significant role in her aspiring to become a teacher. According to Sopocy, she went on to Northwestern University to get her Master’s degree for teaching.

“I always knew I wanted to be a teacher and so there was never any question, I never even considered any other path, so I went to [Northern Illinois University] for my undergraduate and [Northwestern University] for my master’s degree,” Sopocy said.

During her time here at South, Sopocy has met and had the opportunity to impact hundreds of students through softball and physical education. According to Sopocy, she was very grateful to have had such an opportunity.

“[The highlights of] every day of class, […] practice and games [are] the connections with the [PE Leaders and my softball players] I have had,” Sopocy said. “I mean, I [look] forward to going to both every day; I have been very fortunate for what I have been able to do, because [I love] the things I do.”

PE Leader Tommy Hagerty has known Sopocy since his junior year. He attested to Sopocy’s dedication and character.

“[Sopocy is] charismatic, passionate, [and] really cares about PE and teaching,” Hagerty said. “Every day she was always sweet [and] gentle. She brought together the [leaders].”

Senior Lisa Gebien agreed with Hagerty. According to Gebien, Sopocy was a passionate coach who lifted players up instead of putting them down. According to Gebien, Sopocy is leaving a big pair of shoes to fill.

“[Sopocy’s] very kind and gracious, she’s always willing to help anyone out with what they need; she’s willing to go beyond what’s expected of her,” Gebien said. “She really has a passion for the sport, it’s contagious. When she recognizes that you have an interest and a skill, she definitely helps you meet your goals for the sport and that really makes her a desirable coach to have. [She’s] very positive and she’s always communicating. [She is also] gracious, intelligent and passionate.”

Dana Boehmer, junior varsity softball coach, like Gebien, had the opportunity to work with and know Sopocy. Boehmer shares Gebien’s opinions on Sopocy’s character and her ability as a coach. According to Boehmer, Sopocy isn’t replaceable and will be missed.

“I don’t think anyone will ever be able to replace Coach Sopocy; she’s done so much […] for females in sports in this building,” Boehmer said.

Now faced with the reality of retirement, Sopocy says she is looking to the future. According to Sopocy, her family will come first; she is looking forward to getting to know her newest granddaughter. According to Sopocy, overall, she wants to still be active.

“Family first,” Soposcy said. “I might, for awhile, do a little subbing. I’ve also [wanted to be] involved in Habitat [for Humanity], I’ve thought about getting involved in some aspect of that. I really love doing that kind of work, too. One thing I am sure [of] is I won’t be sitting still.”

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Retirement is now in session: South faculty say goodbye to GBS with lasting memories, relationships, legacies