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Goldberg, Specht, and McOlgan choose early retirement

Photo illustration by Rebecca Rusiecki and Isabel Pena

Between the three of them, Jan Goldberg, Kevin McOlgan, and Bruce Specht represent nearly 70 years of RB teaching experience. As the district cuts costs, these three teachers have chosen early retirement.

Rebecca Rusiecki and Isabel Pena, Staff Reporters

 In a continuing effort to balance the budget, District 208 will be paying $25,000 early retirement bonuses to veteran teachers Jan Goldberg, Bruce Specht, and Kevin McOlgan at the end of this school year.  The move should save the district approximately $300,000 next year.

Clarion took the time to talk with the three vets, who represent nearly 70 years of RB teaching experience, about the decision to retire, their thoughts on the current state of the school, their future plans, and more.

Jan Goldberg, Social Studies

It’s a Tuesday night and Jan Goldberg, long time teacher at RB, is prepping for the morning ahead of her. She is grading papers while the nine o’clock news is taping for her government class, and later she will read two different newspapers, also for her government class. She needs to know everything better than anyone.

Goldberg has been a teacher at RB since 1976, 36 years. Before coming to RB, Goldberg was a student teacher, and then a year later, she taught at Morton West. Ever since then, she has been teaching in the same classroom.

Since Goldberg has been at RB, a lot has changed both in the school and the people. She has seen ten different superintendents in her time here at RB. “Often times the superintendent would also act as the principal, and often times not. Sometimes they were the same or they were different,” she said.

Goldberg has also noticed changes in the student body, although she knows that kids will be kids.  “I don’t think the kids have changed that much, teenagers usually have the same set of problems. Also, the clothes are a little scuzzier. So styles have changed,” she said.

Goldberg currently teaches two government classes, both AP and regular. She also teaches Urban Studies, and regular American Studies. Goldberg has been teaching Sociology on and off, but not this current semester.

With all the classes that Goldberg is teaching this year, she has a pretty busy day. “A typical school day for me is really busy. I end up seeing about 160 students throughout the day, and most of them are seniors. I have four preps, handouts, reading two newspapers for government, taping the news for government, and in my free time I grade papers. I do lots of prep at school and grading at home,” she said.

Goldberg has many things that she likes about RB, but her favorite aspect of RB has been interacting with students. “They ask me the most interesting questions. What I love most is when I actually hear from a former student of mine. I receive real letters, e-mails and visits and they all make me feel really good, especially when I hear how what I’ve taught them is being applied into their real lives,” she said.

Her second favorite part about RB is that she can teach what she wants. “The administration leaves me alone-not all schools do that, they micromanage you. I’m not good with being micromanaged. I might get a general outline as to what I need to teach, but I pretty much get to teach what I want,” she said.

Through all the great memories at RB, Goldberg shared one in particular.  “It was March 19, 2003-the night my mother died- and some students chose to go downtown and protest the war instead of going home. Five students were arrested- I was so proud of them- and made national history. These protests definitely had something to do with ending the war,” she said.

Bruce Specht, Applied Arts

It’s seven a.m. and Bruce Specht is preparing for his first class, Consumer Economics.  Specht has to plan out the lessons for each class, grade papers for certain classes, and help out any students that come in early seeking his guidance.

Specht has been teaching at RB for 15 years. Since then, a lot has changed for him. “I personally changed. I enjoyed getting to know all of the teachers here. Not only have I grown from this, but I can see that the students have as well,” he said.  RB’s recent renovation also affected him particularly.  He said, “The auto department was completely remodeled.  That was a big change; it was nice.”

Specht has five different classes that he teaches at RB, so his day is quite busy. “At seven a.m. I start to prepare for my first two classes. First hour I teach Consumer Economics, second is more planning, third is Exploring Technology, fourth is another Consumer Economics class, fifth is more planning, sixth is Intro to Automotive, and seventh is Advanced Auto.” However, his day does not end there, “I sometimes will stay later, after school, if a student is still working on his/her project,” he said.

While working at RB, Specht has enjoyed many things about the school environment. “I enjoy working with the kids. I also enjoy when I hear back from a student and they tell me about how they apply the concepts I’ve taught them to their real lives. It’s really rewarding for me,” he said.

Specht has been around long enough to experience many historical events while he has been teaching at this school. “The most memorable, historical event that I remember would have to be 9/11. It was a terrible day in our country’s history, it will live in infamy,” he said.

Kevin McOlgan, Fine Arts

It’s early in the morning and Kevin McOlgan, long time RB band director, is walking into school, ready to listen to one of his many students play their instrument. The band has been working on preparing for the Winter Concert and for the Winter Solo and Ensemble Contest. There are many rehearsals in order to make sure their upcoming performances will be amazing as usual.

McOlgan has been a teacher for 33 years, 18 of those years at RB. Before coming to RB, McOlgan was a teacher in Joliet. He then came to RB in 1994, and took the music department by storm. Since McOlgan has been at RB for 18 years, he has seen a lot of changes. “In 1994, there were only 800 students.  Yeah, it was small. This is also my third administration. I’ve been through three principals and three superintendants,” he said.

He teaches Cadet Band, Concert Band, Symphonic Band, Jazz Band, and AP Music Theory. “The school day goes by really quickly for me. There’s a lot going on and there is a high energy,” he said.

With all the wonderful things at RB, McOlgan definitely has his favorites. “The hundreds of students I’ve had have been so great to work with. I love seeing my former students become teachers. Mr. [James] Baum was my student, and so was Ms. Pilsen, the band director at Gross. Also seeing the music department grow by leaps and bounds, it was very gratifying,” he said.

Out of everything that McOlgan has been through at RB, he has one particular memory that sticks out. “Chris Sisson, he played the snare drum at RB, served in Afghanistan and was killed. On the day of his funeral, the hearse drove past the school. The entire student body was utterly silent, the entire student body. It was very moving,” he said.

Goldberg, Specht, and McOlgan comment on retiring

As one could imagine, it must be tough for teachers to retire, especially after being here for so long. Goldberg said, “I have very mixed feelings. I feel good and bad. I will miss teaching a lot. I’ve dealt with budget cutting RB before, but I’m not happy with post-referendum RB. The state of Illinois is changing the pension for 2012; I don’t want to hurt my future with my present.”

Specht is also experiencing mixed emotions. “On the one hand I am sad that I’m leaving the students and teachers, but I’m ready to see what’s next,” he said.

McOlgan also isn’t exactly happy with the decision to retire either. “I’m extremely sad. But Dr. Bonnette said to me, ‘Sometimes you have to realize when it’s time to pass the baton.’ It was the most difficult decision I’ve had to make so far, but I looked in the mirror one day and noticed I was starting to bald, so I realized it was time,” he said.

Plans for the future

Now that the teachers will have all this time on their hands, they have various plans. Goldberg said, “I would like to do volunteer work with victims of domestic violence. I also will be involved in a political campaign, and the League of Women Voters. Lastly, I want to travel more with my husband while I’m not on vacation.”

Specht is not quite ready to give up teaching just yet.  He said, “I plan to find part time teaching jobs, hopefully at RB. I’ll also try to find some sub work as well.”

McOlgan has indefinite plans for the moment. “I want to continue teaching my private students, and that’s all I really have planned for right now. I know that I definitely want to spend some more time with my family,” he said.

What they will and won’t miss

Though the teachers have many various plans for after retirement, they will always miss RB. Goldberg said, “I will definitely miss the kids, teaching, and interacting with the teachers. I’ve spent 36 years in the same room, so I will definitely miss RB.”

Specht said, “When you do something that you enjoy, it’s not really a job, it’s fun. I’m absolutely going to miss RB.”

McOlgan said, “What I do is my identity. I’m defined as being a teacher at RB more than anything else in my life. I will absolutely miss RB.”

Now of course they will miss RB, but what about what they won’t miss?  Goldberg said, “I won’t miss the budget cuts or the fighting, and I won’t miss the anonymous comments in the Landmark.”

Specht said, “I won’t miss the financial problems. The downturn in the economy has created a financial struggle.”

McOlgan said, “I won’t miss the negative, political atmosphere here in the community. The staff here is amazing, but it’s a difficult time we’re going through.”

Final thoughts
Now that it is time for these teachers to say farewell, they had a few last words to say. Goldberg said, “I wish my colleagues well, there are many good teachers here at RB, I hope their careers go well. I hope parents continue to pick RB over other schools, and that everyone takes place in the political process.”
Specht said, “Despite the financial problems, RB is still a great school. I will miss being here.  Retiring is bittersweet.”

McOlgan said, “I’ve always appreciated the support from students and the school itself. I’ve enjoyed all the Marching Band shows.”

The time has come for these teachers to retire. We all wish them well on their next chapter in their lives, as they take on the new world of retirement.

 

 

 

 

 

Comments

2 Responses to “Goldberg, Specht, and McOlgan choose early retirement”

  1. Melissa Gordon on January 31st, 2012 9:28 am

    Great story. It is wonderful to hear a positive perspective. These teachers will be missed by the RB community.

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  2. Diane Marelli on January 31st, 2012 3:43 pm

    Beautiful story! How great to read a positive article about teachers – in a newspaper! Haven’t seen anything like it for a long time….
    I will miss Jan and Bruce. It’s difficult to think of RBHS without them. And Kevin? Well, I try not to think about it.
    And did anyone notice he’s starting to bald? I didn’t!

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