Teachers were students too

Teachers: they teach a subject, discuss homework, give quizzes and tests, and then dismiss students from their class. But, what about when they were in college? Were they party-goers, or ferocious studiers, slackers, or perfectionists? And, the question on most student’s minds, what did they do?

Al Hill, science teacher, who is now on his last year of teaching, attended Lewis University in 1974 and graduated in 1978 with a major in chemistry. He recalls one of his most memorable experiences at college where he spent sixteen hours attempting to synthesize a crystal for his professors.

Hill found that with all the work he had, and his job as a custodian clocked him in at 130 hours a week.

Joseph Wilfinger, teaching aid, attended EIU in 2004 and graduated in 2007 with a major in secondary education. His hobbies were video games, “Greek Life” (fraternity) and intermural sports.

“I remember blowing up a mannequin with M80’s,” said Wilfinger, laughing. “We found a mannequin, threw it over our balcony filled with M80’s, and let it fall into the water.”

Darren Kobliska, social studies teacher, attended the University of St. Francis in 2001 and graduated in 2005 with a major in social sciences. One of Kobliska’s main reasons for attending college was that it allowed him to play collegiate golf.

“I played golf on for the university during my first two years of college,” said Kobliska. “I also became involved with the local Big Brother / Big Sister program and Junior Achievement program that allowed me to go to local middle schools and volunteer my time tutoring students in specific subject areas.”

John Hill, English teacher, also had an interesting story. He was living in Colorado, and his best friend bought a new car, however, his friend was living in Iowa. Hill was asked to bring the car up to Iowa for his friend, and, eventually arrived. Hill, when asked by his friend how well the car ran, Hill said it ran great, until it reached up to 75 to 80 mph. Hill added that the car got progressively worse the higher the speed was. His friend, taken aback by how fast Hill was driving, said “why were you driving a brand new car at 100 mph”? Hill responded, “I couldn’t let the Camaro beat me.”

Connie Billerman, math teacher, attended both Northwestern University and Benedictine University to receive her major in mathematics and her minor in French. Billerman recalls when she was a member of the NU Marching Band. She was also a dancer for the band, marching and twirling for a NU Marching Band Alumni program during homecoming.

Along with marching and twirling, Billerman also played piano, and enjoyed swimming.

Xiomara Colé, Spanish teacher, attended DePaul University in 2002 and graduated in 2006 with a major in Education, leaning towards Spanish. Colé received her masters for Spanish in 2012. She claims one of her most memorable college recollections was her “study abroad experience to Spain [Madrid] for three months.”

Along with Spain and many trips to Chicago, Colé visited Perú and Valladolid (located in Spain). She found most of her love of cooking came from Peru. Colé commented that while there, there was a guinea pig farm, at which people could eat live guinea pigs (also known as cuy).

At college, Colé did a number of activities, including “playing my flute, reading in Spanish, being active in my faith, [and] Latin Dancing,”she said.

Samantha Kukuk, English teacher, attended Lewis University during her undergraduate year, starting in 1998, and graduating in 2002. Kukuk majored in English, however, she also had a minor in theater, saying how she “loved it,” but soon found that it was not as well-paying as she expected. Instead, she decided to pursue teaching. Kukuk enjoyed scrapbooking during her college years, and also helped her Uncle Ox race corvettes.

Renee Nieckula, English teacher, attended North Central College in 1992 and studied abroad in Australia for one month during her junior year.

“Five of us backpacked into the outback to study Aboriginal Art as a form of communication,” Nieckula said.

“Of course we also took advantage of the opportunity to go snorkeling and scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef,” Nieckula said,

She also ran hurdles and did triple jump in track, and was an officer of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes club.

Teachers are present all throughout schools, and, much like students, have lives outside of it as well. The teachers talked about in this article were just a few out of the number of ones working here today that were willing to share their college stories. Even though all teachers have different backgrounds, one thing is for certain they have in common, helping students strive for their best and hoping that each student is not only happy, but successful in their lives.