Tag Archives: Suzanne Girsch

Three John Stewart teachers retiring

Three individuals have long history with Kaneland School Dist.
by Paula Coughlan
ELBURN—Three fourth-grade teachers from John Stewart Elementary School in Elburn are leaving Kaneland School District this month, Suzanne Girsch, Andrea Zietlow and Barbara Romack, who all were honored with a retirement reception at the Town & Country Public Library in Elburn on Wednesday.

• Suzanne Girsch
Girsch graduated from Western Illinois University in 1974 and began her 34-year career as a teacher’s aide in St. Charles and a substitute teacher in the Fox Valley. She started at Kaneland as a part-time fifth-grade teacher at the Elburn Elementary School, (now the Elburn & Countryside Community Center) in 1976.

“I tell my students that the building was old when I taught there and that I’m not as old as the building,” she said.

Girsch spent five years teaching fifth grade and 29 years teaching fourth grade. She chose her profession because she loves working with children. Her favorite subjects over the years were social studies and math.

Working for more than three decades in Kaneland has offered her an opportunity to teach children of her former students.

“I’ve enjoyed working in the same district for this length of time,” she said. “There are teachers teaching in our district that I taught in fourth grade.”

For her retirement, Girsch plans to travel and substitute teach.

• Andrea Zietlow
Challenge teacher Zietlow began her teaching career in 1970 in Mississippi when her husband was stationed there with the Air Force. With her husband in the military, she moved around a lot and taught in California, Ohio, Oklahoma and also spent two years living in Adana, Turkey.

In 1983, Zietlow was hired as a gifted-students teacher in Oklahoma, and gifted education then became the focus of her life’s work. While in Oklahoma, she earned her master’s degree in reading. As a gifted educator, she has worked with kindergarten through eigth-graders, presented at conferences for educators and been the course instructor for the Kane County Gifted Level I and II training.

Zietlow spent the last 17.5 years of her career at Kaneland, moving her classroom 10 times.

“Regardless of where my classroom was, however, I have thoroughly enjoyed working with the students, parents and teachers in the Kaneland community, ” she said.

Zietlow continued her education at Northern Illinois University, earning her doctorate degree in curriculum and instruction in 1998.

During her retirement, Zietlow plans to teach part-time at the college level and travel as much as possible, starting with a trip to Egypt this summer.

She also wants to stay connected with people she has met during her years with District 302.

“Throughout my career I have constantly been on the move,” she said. “But even as I now make the move into retirement, I hope to keep in touch with the many friends I have made at Kaneland. They will forever be cherished and definitely missed.”

• Barbara Romack
Romack is retiring after 37 years with the district, spending more than 10 of those as a fourth-grade teacher at John Stewart. Romack spearheaded the district’s longstanding Young Authors program for K-8 students, through which hundreds of Kaneland students wrote their own books.

Romack began work in Kaneland in 1973, teaching third grade at Kaneville Elementary School. About 10 years later she became gifted-program teacher and coordinator for K-12.

Romack has no set plans for retirement, other than to catch up on her favorite pastime, reading and continue teaching various classes at Fermilab.

Teacher spearheaded Young Authors

by Martha Quetsch
KANELAND—The longstanding Young Authors program for K-8 Kaneland students owed its start to teacher Barb Romack, who is retiring after 37 years with the district.

Romack has been a fourth-grade teacher at John Stewart Elementary School in Elburn for more than 10 years, and is one of 12 district teachers who are retiring in June.

Through the Young Authors program, Romack encouraged hundreds of Kaneland students to write their own books.

“At one time, she had all of the sixth grade writing,” said Barb Landis, who teaches sixth grade at Harter Middle School.

Romack read every one of the books students wrote, choosing the winning works each year and awarding ribbons to all participants.

“I look for original, quality work,” said Romack.

Romack said she was pleased that one student actually wrote a book each year from kindergarten through eighth grade. She added another past participant now is a published author, and many others have continued to write.

Reading is Romack’s passion, and she plans to spend more time doing it after retiring from teaching.

“I have a lot to catch up on,” Romack said.

She also will spend some time visiting her grandsons in Utah, and will continue working for the Education Department at Fermilab, where she co-teaches a class in particle physics for middle school teachers each summer.

Romack began work in Kaneland in 1973, teaching third grade at Kaneville Elementary School. About 10 years later she became gifted-program teacher and coordinator for K-12. Seven years later, she returned to the regular classroom, teaching fourth grade for the next two decades.

What she expects to miss most about her teaching years with Kaneland are the “Oh, I get it now” or “Oh, yeah” moments from students, as well as the time with her former colleagues.

“I’m sure there will be a period of adjustment since I won’t be planning everything else in my life around teaching,” Romack said. “I think I’m ready to begin a new phase in my life-who knows where it will lead.”

More than 30 years at Kaneland
Following are the employees who have been with the Kaneland the longest from among this year’s 12 retiring district teachers:
Barb Romack 4th grade John Stewart 37 yrs.
Patrick Sheetz 7th grade science 35 yrs.
Suzanne Girsch 4th grade John Stewart 34 yrs.
Rick Dalton middle school P.E. 33 yrs.

Photo: Retiring John Stewart Elementary School fourth-grade teacher Barb Romack has served in many roles during her more than three decades with the Kaneland School District. Those included coordinating the Young Authors program, after-school science programs and Starlab presentations. Photo by Martha Quetsch

Cultural comparisons

Visitor from Japanese Ministry of Education studies the American way at Kaneland

by Lynn Meredith

Learning about one another’s cultures is an eye-opening experience, and it was one that the fourth and fifth grades at John Stewart Elementary School had when Sayaka Iwamura from Japan came to visit. But they weren’t the only ones who learned a thing or two: Iwamura did as well.

“The biggest thing I was surprised at was everything is so big,” Iwamura said. “Houses are big, cars are big, food is big. When I go to the grocery store, the cart is big, so people buy a lot of things.”

Iwamura stands in front of the two classes at John Stewart Elementary School in Elburn on a cold and snowy day. Buses have been running late; teachers and students are scrambling to get the school day started. Iwamura and ESL Coordinator Katie Henigan themselves were running late as they drove in from DeKalb. Iwamura explains to the students about snow in Japan.

“We get snow, but we don’t have that much snow,” she said.

Soft-spoken, she is dressed in a kimono borrowed from art teacher Bonnie Whildin. Whildin purchased the piece in Japan two years ago when she went there on a Fulbright Scholarship. Iwamura shows the assembly pictures of cherry blossoms, bullet trains, shrine temples and baseball. Excitement stirs when she mentions the Japanese player who plays for the Cubs, Kosuke Fukudome.

Suzanne Girsch’s fourth-grade and Stephanie Thatcher’s fifth-grade students have been e-mailing back and forth with Iwamura as part of a reciprocal learning project that also included Kaneland High School exchange student Ryoko Kawaguchi, who is also from Japan.

Iwamura came to this country as part of the 2008 Long-term Educational Administration Program (LEAP) in order to improve her English skills, learn about the operations of the International Program offices at Northern Illinois University and the educational system in the United States, and then report back to the Ministry of Education in Japan.

She and nine other Japanese members of the 2008 LEAP program came to the U.S. in March. They spent six months at Montana State University in Bozeman, Mont., taking intensive English courses and traveling to national parks in the west.

“I enjoyed a lot the scenery. It is very vast,” Iwamura said.

On this day, the students have placed posters in the front of the Learning Center listing what they already know about Japan. In this column they have indicated that Japan is in Asia, that the people eat a lot of fish and that students go to school six days a week. The next column lists what they want to know about Japan. Sumo wrestling is high on the list, along with wondering why Japanese students go to school six days a week.

Their questions are answered not only by Iwamura, but Gina Dunham, who went to grade school in Japan, as well as from Whildin, who visited schools in Japan.

The Stewart elementary students learn that Japanese students not only attend regular school, but they also attend “school after school.” Students go to school from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., five days a week. Parents commonly pay extra for a sixth day of instruction. Boys and girls go to separate schools. Students eat in their classrooms, not in a cafeteria. If the teacher is unable to come to school, they don’t get a substitute but teach themselves. They walk to school, wear slippers in class and brush their teeth after eating.

Iwamura herself is learning about the differences in the two countries’ educational systems. She will write a report on what she observes when she returns to Japan.

“In Japan, you have to study hard before entering college, but it’s easier to graduate. In the U.S., it’s a little easier to get into college, but harder to graduate,” Iwamura said.

She said that the Japanese government decides the curriculum for the entire country. The relationships between student and teacher are more formal in Japan.

“Even though teachers encourage students to raise their hands to ask questions, the students don’t want to let other students know what they are thinking,” Iwamura said.

Iwamura lives in Tokyo and works at the Ministry of Education from 8 a.m. until midnight each day. She grew up in Yamanashi, Japan, a small town about two-and-a-half hours by car from Tokyo. She misses her family and friends, but saw them on their visit to New York. It was the first time her family had come to the United States.

Iwamura has seen a lot of the country, from Florida to Banff, Canada, New York City to Las Vegas. She tried rock-climbing in Montana and enjoyed the adventure. But she really liked traveling by car on the open road.

“One of the things I like here was the road trips. Four of us drove all the way from Montana to Illinois,” Iwamura said.

With all the positive things she had to say about her experiences here, from friendly people to good food, one thing she did not like.

“I liked Chicago, but I went downtown and my wallet was robbed. It was taken out of my backpack,” Iwamura said. “It’s safer in Japan.”