Free of Bull, Full of Bulldogs
  • Teachers
    • Aubrey Dunham
    • Ivek Halic
    • Grace Lee
    • Jessica Olsen
    • Amy Phillips
    • Carley Tarantino
    • Armando Venegas

This Bulldog Life #1: Brand new bulldog teacher features

September 30, 2016

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Throughout the 2016-17 school year, Clarion will explore new themes on a month-by-month basis. For each theme, students are tasked with going out and finding stories related to that theme.

September’s theme is “Beginnings.”

In that vein, Clarion reached out to seven new teachers at Riverside Brookfield High School and reported on their first few weeks as Bulldogs.

Aubrey Dunham – Fine Arts

Mia Donnamario

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After years of the RBHS choir being conducted by former director, Diane Marelli, who recently retired after many years as an RB staple, Aubrey Dunham takes on the choir program. Dunham teaches music creativity, the choirs, and fine arts survey. This year Dunham’s goals are for the students to be excited about choir.

After teaching at Plainfield East High School for eight years, she is excited to work with wonderful new staff members and choir students.

“[They are] hopefully interested in taking a choir during their time here at RB,” said Dunham, referring to the students.

Dunham had a love for music at a young age. It started when she starred in her community’s production of “Peter Pan.” 

“I’ve been hooked ever since,” Dunham said. “So, very early I’ve been a lover of music.”

In college, Dunham wanted to be an opera singer, but student teaching quickly changed her mind.

“I loved working with high school students,” said Dunham. “They were my favorite age group to work with and I saw there was so much potential for… building great musicians in the high school levels.”

As the new choir teacher, Dunham wants to be known as a passionate teacher.

“This year has been awesome so far. I really loved all the interactions I’ve had with all the different students and it’s just been a great start,” Dunham said. “I’m very excited to be a Bulldog.”

Ivek Halic – Wellness

Nicolette O'Keefe

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This year, RB welcomes a new teacher and varsity soccer coach, Ivek Halic, to the home of the Bulldogs.

Nerves and new school anxiety were no match for Halic, as he had already been very familiar with the school from his time as a student teacher in the fall and serving as a substitute teacher for the spring semester last year. He describes his entrance into RB as a comfortable transition.

“I was so familiar with the school, faculty, staff, and students that I felt just [at] home. So I was very comfortable coming here,” Halic said, “It was a very smooth transition.”

Halic teaches Academic Support, Personal Fitness, and two freshman physical education classes. Halic enjoys teaching the freshman classes because he enjoys the students.

“The [freshman] are very outgoing. It’s a fun class,” Halic said.

The day never ends for Halic as he also coaches girls’ and boys’ varsity soccer. He runs an intense practice every evening. The hard work pays off as the boys’ season has so far been successful.

“The pre-season was very intense with lots of conditioning. Practices [during the school year] are everyday, after school, or 7:00 in the evening,” said Halic.

Soccer was and still is a huge part in Halic’s life as he earned a full ride scholarship to the University of Illinois-Springfield after his time as a three year high school varsity soccer player from Lyons Township. In college he was chosen to be on the Illinois State Select Team and also selected to represent the Midwest Regional team, which played soccer games overseas.

“I’ve played overseas, [including] Croatia,” said Halic. “Soccer has been big in my life.”

After every busy day of soccer practices, teaching, and grading, Halic spends time with his two dogs: Lola, a yellow labrador, and Fifa, a Chesapeake Bay retriever.

“Fifa and Lola. They keep me busy,” Halic said.

Grace Lee – English

Kyle Platt

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One of many new teachers this year is Grace Lee, an Honors English 10 teacher and a future creative writing teacher.

Lee has an interesting background as a teacher.

“I taught in New York for 10 years as an English teacher, and I moved here two years ago,” said Lee.

Lee is enjoying her time at RB. Specifically, she appreciates the intimate atmosphere.

“I like that it’s like a small community. It feels like home, and I like the vision of the school. It strives for excellence and character traits,” said Lee.

She is currently teaching Honors English 10, but next year Lee hopes she will be teaching Creative Writing.

“There’s a lot of freedom in terms of the way we write and how we write,” said Lee.

Prior to this year, Lee served as an academic support staff member. As a teacher now, she looks forward to the many classes in her future.

“I look forward to meeting new personalities, creative minds, and those who want to grow as learners,” said Lee.

Jessica Olsen – Applied Arts

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Jessica Olsen, a consumer economics, child development, and health occupations teacher, is new to RBHS this year. She’s taught at many different schools before, but she recently came from Proviso East High School. She has been teaching for six full years now and went to Illinois State University.

Olsen was looking for a change from her last job and was interested in RB when she saw the job opening. She gets lots of support from all the other teachers helping her to adjust, and finds that the students work hard. So far she enjoys RB.  

“It’s very different than where I’ve worked before…I’ve really enjoyed coming here since then. Everyone’s very supportive,” Olsen said.

Olsen was always interested in her teaching subjects throughout high school and is certified in business occupation.

“I like how students get the hands-on experience, and I help them prepare more for their future,” Olsen said.

She plans on staying at RB for the rest of her career because she enjoys it so much. She feels that RB and the way it runs is much easier and less stressful.

On her time at RB, Olsen said, “I’ve loved it every second along the way.”

Amy Phillips – Library

Gabby Gilhooley

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Amy  Phillips is a new librarian at Riverside Brookfield High School. It is Phillips’ first year as a Bulldog and she seems to be loving it.

“One of my favorite things about RB is everybody that works here. Everybody is happy to be here, even the students,”  said Phillips.

Phillips wanted to be able to work with young adults and adores working and helping teenagers.  She thinks it is less pressure with no grading needed and likes helping students find books.

“I really wanted to work with students,”  Phillips said.

Phillips is also a diving coach outside teaching. She also enjoys watching TV and, of course, reading!

“It is like asking a mom who her favorite child is,” Mrs Phillips said while discussing her favorite books.

Even though it was tough for Mrs Phillips to pick her favorite book,  “Daughter of the Forest” is one of her all time favorites.  Phillips also recommends the Abraham Lincoln Nominee List.

Phillips is loving her time at Riverside Brookfield High School and loves being a Bulldog.

Carley Tarantino – Social Studies

Joy Greco

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Carley Tarantino is this year’s new social studies teacher at Riverside Brookfield High School. She teaches U.S History, Western civilization, and Area Studies.

“I’m down to teach anything social studies. I love all of it, but I think I have a good variety of subject material. I like showing kids different perspectives,” said Tarantino.

Before RB, Tarantino attended the University of Illinois and majored in History.

Tarantino was also in a long-term substitute position last year at Amos Alonzo Stagg High School as well as at Glenbard North High School. She also taught summer school at York High School. She loves getting children as excited about social studies as she is about it.

“It was in my Western Civ. class, actually, in high school that I realized I wanted to be a history teacher. I’m just obsessed with it! I love learning about the stories you don’t traditionally learn about. I’m excited about what I teach about. It’s one thing to tell them what happened, but it’s another thing to actually be excited about it and show them different ways to look at it,” said Tarantino.

Although this is a new experience for her, she is happy to be a full time teacher here at RBHS.

“It’s nice to feel like a part of the school. I get to be involved in activities and go to the games and everything. I’m not just teaching but I’m also part of the whole community,” said Tarantino.

Tarantino also helps out with the poms team, loves going to school events, and already feels connected to the school, staff, and students.

“I love it. Everyone is very nice. My students are very funny and they keep me guessing. They just make my day. All the staff have been very supportive. Ever since the first day, everyone has been very welcoming,” said Tarantino.

Overall, she loves teaching what she loves, and is extremely excited to be a full time teacher here surrounded by the friendly staff and great students.

Armando Venegas – Special Education

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Mr. Venegas, a new special education teacher, started his first year at Riverside Brookfield High School, and so far he really enjoys the environment and students.

In his early years, Venegas grew up in Little Village, a predominantly Latino neighborhood on the southwest side of Chicago.

“The schools I went to were Gary Elementary K-8, and Jones College Prep,” said Venegas.

Venegas has a passion for what he teaches and hopes to connect with the students and staff for a long time.

“It’s a type of place that I’d like to be around for a long time,” said Venegas.

Even though he really likes RBHS, Venegas does miss his old school that he worked for.

“I’ve worked at three schools. I do miss my old school,” said Venegas. 

Riverside Brookfield has its fair share of really good teachers with all sorts of different personalities who get along together rather well, in his opinion.

“I think it’s definitely a really good team. I will be here plenty more years teaching at this school,” said Venegas.

All teachers have various reasons for coming to new schools to teach different subjects. Some transfer because of a job opening, some transfer because of better payroll, or just want a new working environment altogether.   

“I came to Riverside Brookfield from being a history teacher to a special ed teacher,” Venegas said.

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