Teachers reflect on previous career paths, find belonging at South

Lauren Bianco and Shannon Matthew

Although David Kane, social studies teacher, had his mind set on being a judge, he says he is happy with where he ended up. He believes his years of practicing law were not a waste because his path, no matter how winded, ultimately led him to here at South.

In order to become a lawyer, Kane started off by attending law school.

“I was a lawyer for about thirteen years and practiced in Chicago the whole time,” Kane said. “[I] was in the Litigation Department, which means [one] does lawsuits verses contracts. [So] although I worked on a lot of larger cases, [it meant] fewer trials.”

Ultimately, what drove Kane away from becoming a judge was the arguing. He says that he liked the law and the cases he worked on, but he was constantly arguing with the opposing counsel. According to Kane, he also faced the frustrations of lawyers who would do anything just to win a case.

“Lawyers get a bad name sometimes for being unscrupulous, sneaky or bad,” Kane said. “And 95 percent of the time the lawyers I found were all pretty nice people, but there was about 5 percent who would lie, cheat and steal [in order] to win.”

Before Kane left his position as a lawyer, he discovered his love of teaching. According to Kane, he was in charge of teaching new attorneys what it was like to be a part of the law firm. He also reflected on the fact that in high school he loved taking history classes.

“So over time, my favorite classes in high school were history, and I loved working with these young attorneys [and] teaching them what to do,” Kane said. “Ultimately, I decided I would go back and teach history.”

Similarly, Jerry Fogarty, social studies teacher, wanted to be able to spend more time with his family. With his previous cooking job, he was unable to do so. Restaurant kitchens tended to be very intense places, and although he liked the intensity, the hours were long, Fogarty said.

“[For me, the restaurant business] wasn’t very conducive to family life,” Fogarty said. “I was always working holidays and at night, and I had 14-to-16-hour days. [Teaching allows me] to be with my family and have a balanced life. [I] get time in teaching to recharge which [I didn’t] get in the restaurant business. It was just merciless that way.”

Math teacher Stephen Farber rethought his decision to become a teacher due to a rough career start. It was only his second day of teaching when he felt like quiting his job, Farber says. He recalls that teaching was too stressful because he couldn’t figure it out.

According to Farber, every one of his jobs seemed to start off rough. Before teaching, Farber was in computer consulting, and then traded on the floor of the Chicago Board of Options Exchange.

“[When I first started], both the jobs I have had were very stressful,” Farber said. “I left both jobs in tears feeling like a failure and [feeling] like I couldn’t do the job [because I kept] making mistakes and [was not] able to succeed in certain situations.”

Farber says the trading job that he had was really competitive, and he had to be quick-witted with many people. According to Farber, when he was on the trading floor, he was being yelled at and attacked because trading involved a lot of quick thinking. Now, Farber believes it’s easier for him to be himself as a teacher, and there are many parts to teaching that he enjoys.

“I always feel like I’m learning new things,” Farber said. “I learn a lot more than the students learn. I work more hours in this job than I worked in any other job, but I feel like it’s worth it.”