The entire Culver community — school staff, the board of education, current and former students and their families — are bidding farewell to two longtime teachers at the end of the 2018-2019 school year.
Fred Schlessinger has taught at Culver for 20 years, first as a junior high math teacher and, since 2014, a social studies teacher. He started his career in 1992 at Linne School in Chicago.
He said the greatest changes he has witnessed are related to the growth of technology in education. “When I started teaching mathematics in 1992, an overhead projector was technology. We used mimeograph machines to make copies. I remember the large can of fluid used to fill the machine, which always seemed to be empty when I had to make copies. I challenge anyone to fill those machines without spilling that liquid on yourself, which resulted in blue hands.”
He added, “When I came to Culver, computer labs were part of our curriculum. Now, every student has his or her own computer and all of our classrooms have their own smartboards. Text books are giving way to Chromebooks. To say the classroom has changed a bit would be an understatement.”
Over the course of his career, Schlessinger said he has seen new approaches to education come and go: mastery learning, whole language, classrooms without walls (“what were we thinking on that one”), the algebra project. He has watched as state assessments made the transition from IGAP to ISAT to PARCC and now to IAR.
“Memories are too numerous to detail and many are difficult to put into words,” he said. “It’s enough to say, I have enough great memories to share when a student comes back to visit or I see them around Niles, or when I talk with a colleague or staff member about the ‘old days.’ I appreciate when my new teammates let me reminisce, telling the stories of Culver. Most of these involve a lot of laughter and a few tears.”
Schlessinger has some plans for retirement — “above all some extended travel and new adventures to come,” he said. “But I will miss my students and how they became part of my life. The trips to Springfield, the days without books, and watching them grow into young adults. I will equally miss my extended family of brothers and sisters that I’ve been privileged to work alongside for so many years. Thank you to this wonderful community for 20 of the most satisfying years of my life.”
Christine Dworak has had an even longer tenure at Culver than Schlessinger: 34 years as a music teacher and chorus director. “Never could I have imagined that upon graduating college, I would find myself in a community which would embrace me and allow me to help foster in their children a deep love of music for 34 years,” she said. “Thank you all for supporting me and my belief that the arts are invaluable to the success of our youth.”
Over the course of her career, Dworak said, she has experienced numerous changes, but she too points to technology as especially significant. “As our world continues to evolve digitally, I have enjoyed how my classroom has evolved musically to embrace the new technology that has become available.”
Asked about plans for retirement, Dworak said she looks forward to traveling, exploring other interests, spending time with her family and friends here and abroad, and attending concerts.
She will take with her countless memories to cherish. “As teachers, we are accustomed to students coming and going, for we can only call them our own for up to nine years at Culver. I know I will miss this, for I have long considered these children to be a special part of my family. I mostly will miss the students’ precious voices, their smiles, hugs and notes. I will miss the maturity, talents and humor of our older students,” she said.
“To the dear families in this community, I will not soon forget your willingness to help with every concert, contest, production, community event and everything in between. To my colleagues now and before in our tight-knit music department, thank you for sharing your craft and artistry, as well as for our sincere camaraderie, which was founded on mutual respect and doing all we could to do right by our students and one another.”