The news site of Glenbrook South High School.

The Oracle

The news site of Glenbrook South High School.

The Oracle

The news site of Glenbrook South High School.

The Oracle

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South’s evolution over the years

Alums turned teachers reflect on experiences

The vivid memory of sitting in the late history teacher Steve Eich’s South classroom still fills the mind of David Schoenwetter, Social Studies teacher and 1994 South graduate. Schoenwetter sat amazed and captivated by Eich’s knowledge, igniting a spark of curiosity for teaching. Years later and inspired by his former educators  to pursue a career in teaching, Schoenwetter and others now return to their alma mater to motivate and encourage future generations, as their teachers had done for them. 

Growing up in a family of educators, Schoenwetter realized how teaching positively impacted his family’s lives, he said. Schoenwetter’s father was also a Social Studies teacher and head football coach at South, his mother used to be a principal, and his brother a teacher, now serving as principal. Influenced by his parents and teachers’ love for teaching, Schoenwetter now strives to balance the fun and learning in each class to ensure that students enjoy coming to school and learning, he expressed. 

“Each experience in a classroom or with a group of students helps you to reflect on the way you go about your work,” Schoenwetter said. “I try to bring my best to everything that I do at work and try to make each class period a positive and beneficial experience for my students.”

As Brian Whalen, Career and Tech Education teacher, began teaching at South, he was warmly welcomed by some of his own teachers. He worked and coached with several teachers who influenced him as a student, most significantly Cheryl Simon, his Chemistry teacher, Whalen said. Whalen recalled being one of the least interested students to learn about Chemistry, however Simon provided innovative tactics to keep students like Whalen engaged.

“[The teachers] were very welcoming and made me feel as if I had come home,” Whalen said. “Every teacher always went above and beyond to help me and lead me in the right direction.”  

David Berkson, World History teacher and 2007 South graduate was also met with those who influenced him as a student. For instance, Gerald Forgarty, Matthew Wipple, Emily Ekstrand, Mark Maranto, and other current faculty members at South, also taught Berkson and inspired his decision to become a teacher, Berkson said. In his first few years of teaching, it was quite an adjustment working with his educators as a fellow teacher compared to as a student, he voiced. The formality of calling former teachers by their first name was an especially challenging habit to break for him.

“You already have a level of admiration and respect for them, and as a professional, these ideas grow in new ways,” Berkson said. “There is a level of comfort there, but also the good type of pressure as you want to add as much to your students’ experience as they did to yours.”

Walking through the halls of South again, Berkson and Whalen reminisced about their time as students. One prominent change they noticed was the increase of opportunities for students. With many different interests, South and its teachers advocate and support students in offering them the opportunity to share their passions with their peers in several clubs, Whalen explained. 

“There’s more opportunities [for students and their interests], more specific ones, ones that are complex and interconnected, but still fun,” Berkson said. “The access to opportunities has been [constant]; there’s been an open, welcoming climate for [students], [but now] there’s an openness to try new things too”.

While many students have a safe environment to express themselves, it is still Whalen’s wish that each and every student could find a connection in South, whether it be a club, an activity, or a positive friendship, he said. This hope emerges from his own experiences at South, helping him understand the importance of taking advantage of all the opportunities South has to offer, Whalen stated. 

“It comes back to the relationships that I had with the teachers when I was here,” Whalen said. “I feel I’m a product of all of the great teachers that I’ve had and the time that they put in to help me improve. So I want to pay that forward to my students and be the teacher that really has an impact on them now and in the future.”

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