Friday, September 14, 2012

Willowbrook Memories

Recently I was reunited with a student who was in my Gifted Education Program in Glenview School District 34 some 30 years ago. Link to that post. 

Now I received a message on Facebook at Michael's Museum from a former student of some 40 years ago when I taught fifth grade at Willowbrook School in Northbrook School District 30. I share here our messages.

Hello, Are you the same Mr. Horvich that taught 5th grade at Willowbrook Elementary School in the late 70's? If so, I was in your class. My name is Gina. I became an educator myself. I was a teacher of the deaf for ten years in Arlington, TX. Now I live in Michigan, and work for the school system in Canton, MI. 

I wanted to get in touch with you to share something with you. You did something that I will always remember, and impacted my life. Do you remember when we had pen pals with the children from the Disney Magnet School in the city? For many of us this was our first encounter with diversity. Sad, but that was the way it was at that time. 

Recently, one of my students shared with me her mother went to the Disney School, and her mother is the same age as me! When I spoke with her mother it turned out I was her best friend's pen pal! Crazy, this is such a small world! Now her mother with the opportunities afforded her at the Disney School went to college and has a great career at Ford, and we live around the corner from each other! 

Sadly, my pen pal passed away in high school. I have often thought of that girl throughout the years. I just wanted to thank you for taking the time to give us that experience. I know that was above and beyond the call of duty, and that is why you were a great teacher. I know as a teacher you never really know how you impact kids. I just wanted you to know that you did! 

I am now a 45 year old woman and still remember that experience. Thank you, and I'm glad to see you look so well and are doing what you are passionate about. God bless! Gina

• • •

Hi Gina. I recognized your name instantly and might be able to see some of the little girl I knew in your current profile photo. Thank you so much for sharing your kind memories. Yes it is me. The same Mr. Horvich. 

One of my favorite memories is when my students would come to class on a Monday morning and ask, "Mr. H, where is the" I would reply, "It is where it always is." (Meaning I rearranged the room so often that the S.R.A. box was usually someplace other than where it was last time. 

Your "Pen Pal" memories triggered mine. I hadn't thought of that in years. Do I remember correctly that as a culminating activity, we took a field trip to Disney to meet our pen pals? 

Are you still working with hearing challenged children in Michigan? How did you find me at Michael's Museum? If you ever visit Chicago, let me take you on a private tour of my little exhibit at CCM. I see you are married, did you choose to have children, if so how old now? 

You are so right about teachers not knowing how their "works in progress" got on with their lives. I so appreciate your kind words about me. Keep in touch. Mr. Horvich (Now Michael to you:-)

• • •

Hi Michael, (I have to get used to that) I am so touched you remember me after all these years! Yes, we did visit the Disney school and they visited us at Willowbrook. I really wanted you to know the lasting effects. I know that was probably a lot of work and organization, and hopefully satisfying to know it was worth it both for the Glenview and Chicago kids. 

That is so funny your memories of the SRA box. I remember The Phantom Tollbooth, Mother's Day Tea, and our Native American Unit. I also remember you recognizing a few of us as passionate writers, so you formed "The Young Authors of America" group. I loved it!! I still love writing and wish I could make a living at it. Do you remember the class throwing you a surprise birthday party? We had so much fun planning it and tricking you into going to the principal's office so we could set up. Thanks for all those memories. 

I have been married 19 years to my husband John. We have two children Bill 16 and Michael 13. I resigned from my job when Michael was born. It was the hardest decision I have ever had to make. I loved my job! However I really wanted to be home with my children. I don't regret it, but I always thought I could go back to teaching. We have since moved from Texas. I had to get Michigan certified and get up to the NCLB standards. I have done all that but there are no jobs. Education is a mess now. Deaf Education is a dying program. Most students now are included in general ed., and there is a big push towards oral vs. manual communication. I am also certified to teach Social Studies and History at the secondary level. So right now I am the site director for the after school program at the middle school. I do love working with the middle school students, but would prefer to be teaching. 

Anyway, I would love to see your museum and would be honored by a tour from you. My sister lives in St. Charles, so we do come back a few times a year. She also has two boys. It would be fun to take the train downtown and come for a visit. Are you around at Christmas time? Keep me posted and hopefully we can make that happen. Thanks so much for responding to me. I really enjoyed hearing from you. Please keep in touch. Gina

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