Retiring chemistry teacher Bob Blaus helps his students with their titration lab. (Phoebe Stergios)
Retiring chemistry teacher Bob Blaus helps his students with their titration lab.

Phoebe Stergios

Retirees leave lasting legacies on student body and colleagues

May 24, 2022

Being a teacher, administrator or student adviser is a daunting task, and often results in little recognition for their efforts. But that’s the gamble ever teacher takes for their students everyday. There’s also one constant motivator or a light at the end of the tunnel where teachers can pursue endeavors put on hold  – retirement.

Ten members of the York staff are saying goodbye to the school they’ve worked at for years: J. Trinidad Arias, John Billerman, Bob Blaus, Jim Borel, Ann Marie Childrey, Jerry Christopherson, Craig Davelis, Dustin Felix, Linda Johnson and Philip Urbanski. Each person made an impact–both big and small– on the students and staff here at York.

“I think one of my goals has been to share my passion for both chemistry and the environment,” Blaus, chemistry teacher of 23 years, said. “ECO Club, you know we just got off of this Trex Challenge, where my primary motive was to say that ‘hey, everyone, just does a little bit, you can move mountains’ and we did.”

Blaus’s legacy of conservation will be a lasting one. ECO Club students will have purchased 11 water bottle stations for York by the end of this school year.

“We’ve lost count, a long time ago, of how many bottles we saved,” Blaus said. “I mean several years ago the count was around 2 million bottles that were kept out of landfills, and it’s much higher now.”

These teachers made great strides to make York a better place each in their own different ways. York business teacher Jim Borel introduced a class that is seen as familiar today.

“We never had dual credit before we brought in the College of DuPage dual credit about 15 years ago, and this was the first dual credit we had and now that has blossomed into [ACP] that helps all of these kids,” Borel, business teacher of 29 years, said.

“To me, I think that’s probably my biggest legacy,” Borel said. “Having successful golf teams also and just impacting individual students is also something I’m proud of.”
It’s rare to have a teacher that pays attention to a student’s opinions and grievances, but at York these teachers seem to be in high abundance. John Billerman, a business teacher, is one of those people.

“I brought back two courses students voiced the need for: Web Design and Microsoft Office,” Billerman, business teacher of 27 years, said. “I tried to be one of our many teachers who genuinely cared and was always willing to listen.”

Going beyond the educational impact these teachers left behind, almost every retiring staff member brought up their remembrance or work on the old York building.

“I don’t know if they’re going to remember me, but I’m certainly going to remember York,” Christopherson, building manager of 17 years, said. “We’ve done a lot of changes, when I got here the building was only a couple years old after all the remodeling and now the building is 20+ years old from when the A building was built.”

These educators left their mark on the York community through the buildings they constructed, the academics they taught, and relationships built with the other staff members and students.

“I’m going to miss the student body, my friends I come to work with every day,” Urbanski, dean of students for 32 years, said. “Students come and go, we only have them for four years. It’s always amazing to watch a boy or young girl walk in freshman year, and then walk out a young man or a young woman, seeing them walk across the stage, getting the diploma. They start school 5-foot-nothing, and next thing you know they’re walking across the stage 6-foot-11. They go here and they flourish and become the person they want to be in their adult life.”

York students will leave this school with life lessons that will benefit the them for the rest of their lives and a teacher’s role is crucial. No one knows this better than York’s retirees.

“I’m happy about a new opportunity, but I’m not happy that I’m leaving,” Davelis, math teacher and former administrator of 33 years, said. “I think those things are distinctly different. I am very proud, one of the nice things about this profession is every once in a while, some kid, some former student, will reconnect with me and say, ‘Hey, this thing you taught me really worked.’ It happens every once in a while, and it kind of reinforces that sense of pride that you are doing good things. A lot of pride, absolutely.”

Students learn the necessary material for their classes, but so much more important are the life skills and character they develop and take with them to college or beyond. Science teacher Dustin Felix offers his philosophy.

“Get ready for life,” Felix, science teacher of 28 years, said. “You have to be kind to people. You have to work hard even if you don’t like something. At college, it’ll get your foot in the door. When you get a job out of college, you are not done. They are just giving you a chance to show your quality. You’ve got to keep pushing yourself to do your best.”

After years at York, these teachers are ready to move on to the next chapter in their lives and do something that brings them fulfillment.

“In 1990 to 2000, I was a tour guide at the Brookfield Zoo on a motor safari, and I’m going to go do that,” Borel said. “I got my old job back! It was fun back in the day and I’m sure it will be again. I’m going to still coach golf here and just enjoy retirement.”

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