This Bulldog Life #2: Students and staff begin again
October 7, 2016
Each month throughout the 2016-17 school year, Clarion reporters are exploring new themes. For each theme, students are tasked with going out and finding stories related to that theme.
This month’s theme is “Beginnings.”
In that vein, Clarion reached out to a variety of new and veteran students and staff in the building. Here are their stories.
Transfer student begins life at a new high school
Sophomore Anita Diaz is new to Riverside Brookfield High School. Previously, she attended Epiphany Catholic School before heading to Queen of Peace High School, which is an all-girls school. Now Diaz is here at RBHS.
In her Catholic school, Diaz was in a very small class. The rules were very strict. She appreciates the fact that RB is not as harsh with their regulations.
“Everything was stricter, if you didn’t wear a certain pair of socks or shoes you would get an hour detention after school,” said Diaz.
The main change from a Catholic, all-girls school was that girls were not trying to impress any boys. Their appearance was different than it would be at other schools.
“Nobody really cared how they looked because it was all girls,” said Diaz. “Girls just didn’t want to be by boys.”
Diaz did not like how girls acted and treated others. They put labels on each other and were all about titles and popularity. Diaz believes that RB is more gender-neutral and people get along more than the schools she has been to.
Diaz believes she has changed for the better as a result of transferring to RB. She is doing better academically and has many more friends. In previous schools, Diaz dealt with difficult situations for any student, like teachers being fired.
Italian foreign exchange student begins life in America
Sara Danti is a new a foreign exchange student from Italy who is attending RBHS for the 2016-17 school year. Danti came to America in early September.
“It has been my dream since I was a little girl to visit the big cities,” Danti said.
The educational program in Italy works differently than the educational program at RB. In Italy, you choose a specific school based on a specific career field. Sara attended an economics school.
“These schools are very helpful for college,” Danti said.
In Italy, one would start the decision process in their 8th year of school and make their final decision as to what career they were interested in their 9th year.
“In Italy, my economic school includes languages, which I love! I was also interested in business and accounting,” Danti said.
The main difference between RBHS and the school in Italy is that, in Italy, the students are released at 1:15 p.m and they eat lunch at home. Due to the shorter day, the students are required to go to school on Saturday.
The exchange program is a lot of work. Possible contenders have to take physiological tests and fill out a lot of paperwork. The program is also very competitive and not everyone is chosen to go.
“15,000 people tryout and only 1,500 make it,” Danti said.
Whats it like to begin a school year with social anxiety?
Starting school, in general, is hard. All of the homework, friendships, and grades can sometimes weigh you down. However, what is it like to start school with social anxiety?
“It was hard to make friends since I get nervous going up to people and talking,” freshman Serena Palao said.
Another freshman, Vanessa Montoya said, “I’m not a social person and most of my friends were from middle school, so it was definitely a little hard for me [to make friends]. I struggle with that and talking to strangers.”
Making friends is not the only trouble people with social anxiety face. They also struggle to answer questions, and respond to a teacher in front of people and large crowds.
“I feel a panic attack coming sometimes, and I will get a little light-headed,” Palao says.
Montoya also had a similar response, “I panic sometimes, but I try to stay calm and answer the question, and nothing else.”
Despite the struggle, there are methods to help yourself push through your anxiety. Some go to therapy, if it’s more severe, but some just do little exercises.
“I usually adjust my shirt or pinch myself. It helps a little and distracts me,” Montoya says.
Many students struggle with social anxiety which can be at least partially countered by breathing exercises and simple counting techniques. If you ever feel yourself start to panic due to social anxiety, go see the school nurse.
Math teacher begins a new marriage
Rachelle Kelley, a math teacher and pep band director, has worked at RBHS for 12 years and was at St. Lawrence High School for four years before that. Kelley got married on Saturday, June 4, 2016. She met her husband through her son’s Boy Scout troop because he was the troop leader. They got married in Orland Park at the Riviera Country Club.
The ceremony was there outside in the gazebo and the reception was inside the banquet hall. They were worried about the weather, but it was sunny and clear weather for them to enjoy getting married outside.
Kelley and her husband had a sand ceremony where they both poured sand into a container to symbolize her family and his family uniting as one family together.
“It basically signifies that our foundations from where we came from and who we became, and our kids are blending together,” said Kelley.
Kelley feels great being married, especially since she knows she found the right spouse. The couple dated five years before getting married and the kind of loving feeling she gets from her husband tells her that he’s the right one for her and is almost shocked at how almost perfect it all is with him.
“It just feels surreal, but it’s been like that the whole time and you just know when that right person is willing to do whatever, put their life on the line and just be there for all the ups and downs,” said Kelley.
Kelley enjoyed her wedding day, and despite some issues that arose as a result, she believes that the dancing was also fun.
“Dancing to Footloose, I tore my ACL and my meniscus, so I ended up needing surgery. I didn’t know how much damage I did until the morning after when I woke up. Then we had to go to the hospital, but we had a great time, so I’m glad we didn’t stop dancing. It was worth it and I’d do it again,” said Kelley.
English teacher is beginning a new family
Kathleen Harsy, an English teacher at RB, is beginning this year a little differently compared to the others. She’s pregnant! Harsy knows she is having a boy at the end of December, so she will be going on maternity leave.
Harsy started this school year knowing she will be gone for at least six weeks while she delivers and cares for her baby. She is excited about the whole process.
Even though she will be gone, she is not worried or concerned about it because she knows that the other teachers and her substitute will have it under control.
“I know it’s going to be a smooth transition because Mr. Ori will be here with the sophomores, and I know with the AP students, we’ll find somebody that’s well-equipped to teach during those weeks,” said Harsy.
Harsy also has a lot of support. She gets plenty of support from her department and family, which helps her to not worry about the transition.
“My department is very supportive, too, because they help me think of how to plan for having things run smoothly while I’m gone,” said Harsy. “My family is very excited and my mom is going to come and help when I go back to work.”
Even though beginning a new family is stressful, Harsy and her husband – social studies teacher John Fields – have a lot of support. They know they’ll be fine and get help from the other teachers.
“Mr. Fields and I are really happy and we are looking forward to raising a family together, so we’re excited,” said Harsy. “We’re looking forward to all the parental advice we get from other teachers here in the building and we’re really appreciative of all the support we get here at RB. It’s like a family.”
Beginning again: When teachers move classrooms
This year, some RBHS teachers moved classrooms. Students eventually find out when a teacher moves classrooms, but only the teachers know the reason behind it and how it feels.
Social science and psychology teacher Angela Ziola was able to share her experience.
“It was a decision made by the administration. I am fortunate that one of my fellow department members – Mr. Fields – offered his room to me so that I could stay in the hallway with the Student Association Office and Storage Room,” Ziola said.
Different people handle new changes in different ways. A new classroom means adapting while still doing what you do.
“I have had trouble locating some of my materials used in class and I have not figured out a good configuration for the students’ desks,” Ziola said.
When a teacher moves into a new classroom, he or she leaves one behind. This not only affects the teacher, but other people as well.
“Some of my previous students have had trouble finding me, as well as some parents at open house. I used to have the best location. It was in the middle of a hallway, easy for students to locate, across from the bathrooms, and an amazing view with a wall of windows overlooking the field and trees,” said Ziola.
There are negative things and positive things about a classroom transition.
“Packing and unpacking was very time-consuming,” said Ms. Ziola when asked to share a disadvantage. “Going through 22 years of teaching material was one advantage though.”
First day of school: Exciting for new and veteran teachers alike
With the beginning of every school year comes not only a lot of excitement for students, but also for teachers. For many, the memories of first days will remain with them for several years. Kimberly Hayes, English teacher at Riverside Brookfield High School, is one such person.
This is Kimberly Hayes’ thirty-first year teaching at Riverside Brookfield High School. After attending Lyons Township High School, Hayes graduated from Elmhurst College and applied for a position at the school.
“I was applying to all kinds of local schools because I wanted to stay in the area,” Hayes said. She eventually chose RB, and fondly refers to it as her “second home.”
In her thirty-one years of teaching at this school, Hayes has seen many first days. When asked to recall her very first day, she has vivid memories.
“I was incredibly overwhelmed and anxious,” Hayes said. “There were some very big and rowdy classes and as a beginner, classroom management was not my skill.”
Over the years, Hayes has gained the experience to deal with those rowdy classes and other situations.
For new teachers, Hayes has this advice: “Embrace with passion your content that you’re teaching and enjoy–despite the occasional challenges– getting to know your students as individuals.”
One of the several teachers new to RB this year that might benefit from Hayes’ advice is Nicholas Curby. Curby teaches freshman math and is the head wrestling coach. RBHS is the third teaching position in his fourteen-year career.
“The administration was responsive to what I could bring to RB. This is just a good opportunity for me,” Curby says.
Knowing he had the support of the administration helped ease Curby’s transition as he figured out the nuances about the school’s operations.
“They didn’t know that I was new too,” Curby said of his freshman classes.
Also new to RBHS this year is biology and environmental science teacher Samantha Rae. Graduating from Illinois State University with a degree in earth and space science, Rae’s interest for science was first sparked in her student years.
“In junior high and especially high school, I could always see myself in the same role as my teachers,” Rae said.
Her boyfriend, an LTHS graduate, is from the area, thus introducing Rae to RBHS. Hired just six days before the first day of school, Rae was concerned with starting over and feeling overwhelmed in a new environment.
“I was afraid I would feel like a first year teacher all over again…thankfully it hasn’t really felt that way. Once I was able to establish a routine and started to learn the ins and outs of the school, that concern vanished,” Rae said.
She also had the help of her senior students who were able to show her the ropes and help her understand life at RB.
“I’ve learned that my students are quite adaptable and can go with the flow if something doesn’t work out the way they hoped it would,” Rae said.