Unfortunately, all good things come to an end. Luckily, High School West has phenomenal teachers that truly make an impact on student’s lives. As the school year comes to a close, six wonderful West faculty members are retiring.
Mrs. Dickson, a resource room teacher, has been in the halls of Hills West since 1991. She teaches kids who may need assistance with basic skills, and truly provides an extraordinary help and positive influence to the students of Hills West. She teaches students for their entire high school career, and definitely forms lasting relationships with students and their families. “My teaching method is…whatever the students need,” said Mrs. Dickson. Mrs. Dickson says “witnessing [students’] growth into adults is something [she] will truly miss.” She has formed a special bond with students and has been a major part of students’ high school experiences for over 20 years. “My plans after West include sleeping past 5 am and to do whatever I feel like with my time,” said Mrs. Dickson. Hills West and the 240 hallway will miss her dearly.
Mrs. Destio has been at West for over thirty years and has decided that her time here has come to an end. In the span of her thirty years, she has taught public speaking, debate, film criticism, theater and of course, many different English classes. “It’s always so rewarding when kids say thank you, when they visit me specifically or even just something as simple as when they smile because something finally clicked,” said Mrs. Destio. The very personal teacher has also filled her years at West very focused on the thespians and school wide plays. She has been behind every play that has been held at West for the last three decades. In addition, Mrs. Destio has worked very hard to establish a teaching dynamic that balances individual needs with a very approachable class atmosphere. “I try to refine my lessons to meet everyone’s needs; however, I always make sure that the class, as a whole, succeeds and that I’m not only focusing on one student,” explained Mrs. Destio. The very personal teacher has definitely left a mark on her students. Senior Mia Pitsironis will always remember that Mrs. Destio told the class that she always purchases five dollar gift cards from Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks and gives them to people who do extraordinarily nice things. “She taught me many academic skills, but also a really important life lesson. She inspired me to do that also,” said Pitsironis. “After I leave West, I plan on looking for opportunities and taking them because I was never able to take them before. Maybe I’ll take an art class, maybe I’ll audition,” said Destio.
Mrs. DeStefano teaches AP Language and Composition for juniors. Despite her retirement this year, she has not only taught her students how to prevail on their AP exam. Mrs. DeStefano has also influenced them to be accepting of other ideas and to find humor in even the most unexpected times, yes, including reading Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. In addition, she is on the National Honor Society board, helping to choose which juniors to admit into the society. “High School West certainly made me a member of its family right away. After finishing my lesson and interview, Dr. LoFrese, the principal at the time, brought me into his office for the remainder of my interview where I was treated to coffee and chocolate cake, since it was their Friday ‘breakfast club’ day. Right then I knew it was the perfect fit—teaching and chocolate! The years have rolled by, and it is the greatest thrill to see returning alumni saying that my teaching has helped them excel in their college writing courses. My advice to anyone considering teaching is to make sure you have a great sense of humor—if you can’t laugh, you might go insane! Remember to take time for yourself; it only makes you better for your students and your family. High School West is truly a family; I have made many life-long friends with whom I will continue to create more memories. I will certainly miss my friends at West—but not the hours of grading,” said Mrs. DeStefano.
Mrs. DeStefano also comments about her favorite things about her time at West, “The way that I plan my lessons, especially for AP Language which is an argumentation class, involves a circle where we listen to diverse opinions. I allow the students to not only speak their minds but also they are free to agree or disagree with their fellow students.” When asked about her favorite lesson, Mrs. DeStefano recalled a lesson from teaching 9th grade English, “Grammar sometimes is boring and I try to teach it with form and function and I always go back to this great little sentence ‘Mary bakes cakes’. I had some students freshmen year and two years later they actually baked me a chocolate cake with the sentence on the icing to reinforce the idea of subject-verb and object.” She is already planning for her future after she leaves West. “My future plans are to take some time and not have to worry about getting up and grading papers but eventually I will come back to do some tutoring. I would like to also come back here maybe to sub sometimes. I do have plans for a second career in home staging that I am going to start putting into place this summer,” explained Mrs. DeStefano.
Whether it’s holding discussions on The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn or helping students with their essays, Mrs. DeStefano is certainly one of West’s most beloved and well-known teachers.
Ms. Kane has been teaching at West for about ten years in the Social Studies department, including classes such as US History, Economics, Participation in Government, Criminal Justice, Global History, and Psychology. “I will miss the generosity of the students the most, specifically the donations to Haiti in the Nurse’s office. I will miss…helping raise money for fundraisers with [the Nurse’s office]. When I leave West, I plan to volunteer as much as I can,” shared Ms. Kane.
Apart from her enthusiasm towards community service, she also spends time to understand how to benefit her students in the classroom. “I connected with my students [through] compassion, patience, and being understanding. My favorite lesson was when I incorporated art and photographs to create a visual understanding of lessons,” explained Ms. Kane.
Ms. Kane will surely be missed by the students and faculty in West, and her impact on her students will be ever-lasting.
Mrs. Kretzer has been teaching resource room in High School West since 1980. When asked about her favorite memory at West, she said, “I really do not have one favorite memory – there are so many. In general, when students return and tell you about their success and how you as a teacher influence them – those are definitely my favorite moments.” Mrs. Kretzer adapts her teaching style and methods to the needs of each individual student she has, which helps to illustrates her overall success as a teacher. “The thing I will miss most about West are the people – both students and faculty,” added Mrs. Kretzer. Although she has no definite plans for her future after she leaves West, Mrs. Kretzer will surely be missed and remembered by the faculty and student body at West.
Mrs. Surico has been in the district since 1983 and has taught almost every single foreign language class for ninth and tenth graders, from Spanish to Italian to French. It’s a miracle that she doesn’t get mixed up between these three romance languages. Students will often remember her for her bright vocabulary worksheets and making crepes in class. However, her favorite lesson was teaching her students directions. “I always made up scavenger hunts with clues in the language. In all my years of teaching, the kids always got the cookies [that were hidden],” said Mrs. Surico.
Mrs. Surico also participated in most of West’s events. She has participated in Weststock and has attended many sports championships. “Once I went to a boys basketball game and my son went into the Hills West locker room and wished them luck when they were playing my hometown!” exclaimed Mrs. Surico. Her loyalty to West will persist, even after she leaves West this year, “I’ll always sit on the West side.” Whether it’s teaching kids the imperfect tense, sitting on the bleachers at a game, singing at Weststock, or watching a Hills West production, Mrs. Surico is always supporting her students in anyway possible. She will “miss the comradeship. At East, the foreign language buildings are all in the basement. But here, all the teachers are together, in the same workroom and dining room.”
What will she do after she leaves? Mrs. Surico doesn’t want to give up teaching for good; in fact, she hopes to get a part time job at an elementary school because she loves working with little children. She hopes to travel to Machu Picchu, and places that she never got to go to during school breaks and summer vacation.