I was born and raised on the Southwest Side (69th and Pulaski) in the 50s and 60s. It was a working-class neighborhood full of homes with two working parents (usually one worked nights) and latchkey children, like Atticus Finch’s children but without the supervision. We played a lot of sixteen-inch softball, touch and tackle football, and some basketball, if we had the skills, and we roamed the Southwest Side on bicycles, searching the swamps along the railroad tracks for tadpoles and cattails, and hopping on to the ladders of the slow-moving freights when the guards weren’t around.
After eight years at the parish school, I was lucky enough to win a half-scholarship to a Catholic military school in Aurora. My parents thought a boarding school would be perfect for me, so I went there for high school. Despite the hazing we underwent as freshmen, I received a really good high school education, one that I admittedly could have gotten in Chicago but probably wouldn’t have since I would have been spending more time with my friends and less on my studies. I ended up winning two scholarships to college (Illinois State and National Merit), which helped, since my parents didn’t believe in paying for college. So for the next four-and-a-half years, I worked in the afternoons and evenings and took classes at De Paul during the day, except for those two terms when my registration was suspended for non-payment of back tuition.
When I graduated in February of 1975, I thought my career would be in insurance, since I had been working for Prudential Insurance for over two years by then. But no, office work wasn’t for me, so I eventually left for the University of Illinois at Urbana to obtain a master’s degree in Education. After a year at UIUC, I started teaching at my old military academy. Sadly, teaching there felt like office work, too. Four years later, when I wasn’t granted tenure, I was relieved to be tending bar, writing poetry, editing the poetry section of an arts magazine, and emceeing open stages in Chicago. Eventually, after earning my master’s in English Literature in 1984, I did return to teaching and have been teaching ever since. So to sum up briefly, I came to Roycemore in 1987, married in 1989, welcomed twin daughters in 1994, and divorced in 2001. Now my daughters are both in graduate programs and I couldn’t be prouder of them. Meanwhile I still teach, listen to live Irish music whenever I can, build and/or repair things around the house, and ride my bicycle to school when the weather and inattentive drivers let me.
The use of logic often leads to uncertainty. That’s why we try to avoid it. FUN FACT: During one week in 1984, you could dial a number in Chicago and hear me reading three of my poems.
The most important people in my life were teachers and coaches. The best ones saw things in me that no one else did, and their encouragement gave me the confidence to leave the Southwest Side and its factories.
So for me, teaching is paying it forward.
I want my students to be strong enough and confident enough to believe that they can overcome difficulties they encounter. I want them to be the people that other people go to for help and solace and support. Most of all, I want them to be people who see the world as it is (both the good and the bad) and do their best to make the word better for having lived in it.
Oh, yeah. I want them to be able write concisely, clearly, and with great use of appropriate detail.
Roycemore has allowed me over the years to challenge students and to adapt to students’ needs and personalities. The emphasis at our school has always been on developing the student to become better than he or she is even as we accept the student for who he or she is. The family atmosphere here allows for a student to have a dozen “parents” if he or she wishes and not feel constricted by any of them. Both my daughters attended Roycemore for 14 years, and I can’t imagine a better school for them. I’m glad to be a part of such a school.