New Year, New Teachers

Isabella Lisak, Staffer

Natalie Kaminski
(Natalie Kaminski)

Natalie Kaminski:

  1. Why did you decide to become a teacher? Honestly, for as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to work in education. When I played “school” with my sisters or friends, I was always the teacher and loved being in that role. I actually started off as an elementary education major, but quickly changed to secondary (high school) education. After completing several observation hours at a local elementary school, I realized that this was not the right choice for me. Luckily I was able to figure this out before I completed too much coursework in the major.
  2. Is there anything specific about OPRF that made you want to work here? What really sold me on OPRF is the diversity of the students and faculty/staff. I love that everyone is different and that everyone has a story. OPRF and the community is also rich in history and traditions (Frank Lloyd Wright historic homes, “small-town feel” with a city-vibe, graduation tradition, and how the high school is accepting and embracing everyone’s similarities/differences). That is something that I wanted to be a part of.
  3. Do you feel any kind of pressure being a new teacher? Although I am not necessarily new to teaching, I will admit it’s always scary starting a new job. I guess I would compare it to being a freshman in high school. You go in knowing a few people, maybe none at all; you have to learn about the school, your peers, the students, etc.
  4. Where did you work prior to OPRF? Before I came to OPRF, I taught at Elgin High School for the last five years.
  5. What classes do you teach? I do a little bit of everything – it comes with the major I chose. This year, I am teaching parenting; fashion merchandising; clothing construction 1 and 2; foods and nutrition; as well as housing and interior design.
  6. Why do you think your classes are important to OPRF students? The courses I teach are electives, which means they are not required for graduation. However, I encourage students to dip their toes in different classes, see what is available to them, and to try something new. Although a student might not want to be a chef, fashion merchandiser, designer, architect, or a teacher, they will leave these classes with basic life skills that will be beneficial for their future.
  7. What has been the highlight of working here so far? The biggest highlight has been the genuine niceness of everyone. Students, teachers, staff, administrators – everyone – they all say “hi” in the hallway and welcome you into the OPRF family.
Daniel Martin
(Daniel Martin)

Daniel Martin:

  1. Why did you decide to become a teacher? I have always loved history, but never really saw myself becoming a teacher.  However, after I graduated college and was working on a presidential campaign, I applied to a program called Teach for America, which places recent college graduates in under-resourced schools around the country. I thought I would teach for a few years and then apply to law school or move on to some other profession. However, within a few days of being in the classroom, I realized that this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. There is no better feeling than seeing the power of education in transforming someone’s life.
  2. Is there anything specific about OPRF that made you want to work here? I love the diversity at OPRF. I began my career working in urban education, and I am a strong believer that for someone to be truly educated, they need to be presented with a variety of ideas and opinions. I look forward to not only teaching my students at OPRF, but to learning from their wide variety of life experiences.
  3. Do you feel any kind of pressure being a new teacher? This is my seventh year teaching, so I don’t really have anxiety as far as the actual teaching goes. Entering a new building, especially one as large as OPRF, can be overwhelming, though. However, I am really fortunate that everyone has been extremely helpful and welcoming.
  4. Where did you work prior to OPRF? Last year I taught at a charter school in South Los Angeles. I spent the five years prior to that teaching in Chicago Public Schools, primarily at Urban Prep Academy for Young Men’s Englewood campus.
  5. What classes do you teach? [I teach] Honors U.S. History and College Prep U.S. History.
  6. Why do you think your classes are important to OPRF students? I am definitely a little biased, but I think that American History is one of the most important, if not the most important, class in high school. Thomas Jefferson said “An enlightened citizenry is indispensable for the proper functioning of a republic. Self-government is not possible unless the citizens are educated sufficiently to enable them to exercise oversight. It is therefore imperative that the nation see to it that a suitable education be provided for all its citizens.” I think that in a lot of ways the current election is an indictment on how well we are living up to (or not living up to) this solemn responsibility. Without a citizenry that understands our past, our future is far from secure.
  7. What has been the highlight of working here so far? I have been overwhelmed by how welcoming and friendly everyone has been.  I can already tell that OPRF has built a very strong school culture, it is constantly working to find ways to be more inclusive and empowering to everyone who enters our doors, and I am excited to be joining the great team here. The students and teachers have been incredible.
andrew
(Andrew Boland)

Andrew Boland:

  1. Why did you decide to become a teacher? I am passionate about education and helping others achieve new goals in their teaching and learning.
  2. Is there anything specific about OPRF that made you want to work here? OPRFHS is a school with strong traditions and known for excellence. Additionally, it is an exciting time to work here because of our 1:1 Chromebook program.
  3. Do you feel any kind of pressure being a new teacher? Pressure to me feels more like an opportunity for growth. OPRFHS will allow me to grow while working alongside tremendous colleagues and students.
  4. Where did you work prior to OPRF? I worked at Mother McAuley High School in Chicago.
  5. What classes do you teach? I work with our faculty and staff to help with our 1:1 Chromebook program.
  6. Why do you think your classes are important to OPRF students? Our 1:1 Chromebook program is opening new opportunities for our students and teachers.
  7. What has been the highlight of working here so far? A highlight of working at OPRF has occurred every day when I work with our great Educational Technology team and our amazing teachers.
Jason Spoor Harvey
(Jason Spoor-Harvey)

Jason Spoor-Harvey:

  1. Why did you decide to become a teacher? I did not have the best time in high school. I did well academically, but socially it was not always the best environment for me. There were a number of teachers who made that worse, but then there were a number of teachers who made that better. I remembered what that feeling was like from the teachers who helped make my experience better, and I wanted to be able to do that.
  2. Is there anything specific about OPRF that made you want to work here? It was a chance to be in a leadership position, it’s a more diverse student population, and it’s closer to my home.
  3. Do you feel any kind of pressure being a new teacher? There’s all this backstory that I don’t really know. I want to respect what’s happening here, but at the same time we have new goals and a direction we need to go. Balancing that is a lot of pressure. Also understanding my role [as the History Division Head], I’m very used to being the colleague.
  4. Where did you work prior to OPRF? For the 16 years before this I taught at William Fremd High School in Palatine.
  5. What classes do you teach? I teach just the History of Chicago because I’m the Division Head of the History Department.
  6. What has been a highlight of working here so far? Seeing all of the great teachers in the division working with students in their classroom.
  7. Is there anything unexpected you have experienced working here? I got so lost in the building it took me 27 minutes to get to my car the first day I was here.
Jason Lee
(Jason Lee)

Jason Lee:

  1. Why did you decide to become a teacher? The influences I had when I was growing up.
  2. Is there anything specific about OPRF that made you want to work here? I wanted to work with an exceptional student body, staff, and community.
  3. Do you feel any kind of pressure being a new teacher? Trying to get to know the staff and students’ names – there’s just so many of us here.
  4. Where did you work prior to OPRF? I worked at Proviso Area for Exceptional Children aka PAEC. It is a therapeutic high school that works with high school students from both Proviso East and Proviso West.  
  5. What classes do you teach? I’m a behavior interventionist specialist. My primary role is to help students, staff, and families if there are concerns that impact their academics.
  6. What has been a highlight of working here so far? The students and the resources and opportunities available to assist in the success and development in career and college readiness.
  7. Is there anything unexpected you have experienced working here? This is a large building. To get from point A to point B, you need to know how to navigate the numbering system.
  8. Are there any OPRF events you are looking forward to? I’m looking forward to a lot of the extracurricular activities. An important component of the high school experience is to see what kids are engaged in. That’s something I’d like to see and be part of because that creates a sense of community.  
Tilia Detrick
(Tilia Detrick)

Tilia Detrick:

  1. Why did you decide to become a teacher? I’ve always wanted to be a teacher ever since I was in high school. I always wanted to make school a fun and safe place that students wanted to go and a class that students wanted to be in.
  2. Is there anything specific about OPRF that made you want to work here? I love the school colors. I also love the diversity and the feeling of community that OPRF has.
  3. Do you feel any kind of pressure being a new teacher? Trying to make friends.
  4. Where did you work prior to OPRF? [I worked at] Bolingbrook High School.
  5. What classes do you teach? I co-teach Algebra and History.
  6. What has been a highlight of working here so far? The staff is awesome and super nice.  The students are all polite and great to have in class.
Sarah Myland
(Sarah Myland)

Sarah Myland:

  1. Why did you decide to become a teacher? I became a teacher because I knew I wanted to play a role in students’ lives to help them realize their potential for leading an amazing life. I wanted to provide strategies for students and encourage them to work hard to reach success in their high school years and beyond.
  2. Is there anything specific about OPRF that made you want to work here? I wanted to work at OPRF because there is so much diversity in terms of activities, offerings, and people. It is a community of rich resources that are intended to meet the needs of many different types of interests.
  3. Do you feel any kind of pressure being a new teacher? The pressure I feel as a new teacher is a desire to get to know all the resources offered here so that I know how I can best support my students. This is a huge building, and it takes time to get to know everybody and everything. It’s difficult to come to a new place and start from scratch, because as teachers, we want to be at our best right away to help our students reach the highest success they can.
  4. Where did you work prior to OPRF? [I worked at] Springman Middle School in Glenview.
  5. What classes do you teach? I teach Elements of Reading, LS 10, Academic Strategies and Financial Literacy.
  6. Why do you think your classes are important to OPRF students? My classes are important to OPRF students because I teach how to better access reading so students can be successful in all classes where reading is necessary (which means all classes).
  7. What has been a highlight of working here so far? A highlight of working here so far is meeting all my students and getting to know them. Another highlight is how helpful and kind ALL of the staff here at OPRF has been since I began here. Everybody is wonderful.
Wendy Kuenster
(Wendy Kuenster)

Wendy Kuenster:

  1. Why did you decide to become a teacher? I volunteered as a peer tutor during my school years and realized early on that I enjoyed helping other people. After graduating high school, I took a job over the summer working with children with disabilities and shortly after decided to change my major to special education.
  2. Is there anything specific about OPRF that made you want to work here? Outside of attending college out of state, I have lived in the Oak Park area my entire life. I graduated from OPRF and have previously worked here as a teaching assistant, girls’ gymnastics coach, substitute teacher and a full-time teacher. After taking time off from teaching to raise my children, I knew that I wanted to return to OPRF again.
  3. Do you feel any kind of pressure being a new teacher? Having previously worked here as a teacher, I do not feel much pressure being a new teacher. For me, it’s more about finding the right balance between work and home life.
  4. Where did you work prior to OPRF? In addition to OPRF, I taught for four years at Westmont High School in a program for students with physical disabilities.
  5. What classes do you teach? I teach one period of Living Skills and four periods of Tech Lit.  These are classes taught within the TEAM (Transition Education with Access to the Mainstream) Program.
  6. Why do you think your classes are important to OPRF students? The classes I teach help students with disabilities develop skills that will help them become as independent as possible in future school, work, and home environments.
  7. What has been a highlight of working here so far? Getting to know my students.
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