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Vickroy: What teachers do on summer vacation

Lily Morford (from left) former exchange student Mashi Alexis Morford who teaches Spanish Richards High School visited HosteriSantBarbarGualaceo Ecuador this

Lily Morford (from left), former exchange student Mashi, and Alexis Morford, who teaches Spanish at Richards High School, visited the Hosteria Santa Barbara in Gualaceo in Ecuador this summer. | Supplied photo

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Updated: September 15, 2014 5:39PM



Here’s what some students might think their teachers did during their summer break: sit in a chaise lounge by the pool popping bonbons.

But here’s what some local teachers really did during the offseason — traveled, wrote, performed on stage and conducted science experiments.

Many teachers across the Southland spent their summer vacations learning, growing and working toward becoming better teachers.

Alexis Morford traveled to Cuenca, Ecuador, to visit exchange students whom her family hosted when she was a student. Over the years, she has kept in touch with the three women whom she credits with helping her decide to become a Spanish teacher.

This was the Richards High School teacher’s fourth trip to South America and a first for her mother and twin sister, Lily. They did some hiking, visited a few museums and relaxed and enjoyed everyday life.

“Ecuador is so different from many of the other places I have traveled, and I would love to show my students what it is like one day,” Morford said.

“There is something enchanting about driving through clouds and seeing the Andes peek through, trying things like guinea pig for the first time, and trying to be a part of the culture instead of a tourist. It was a wonderful experience to be able to show my mom and sister the country and people I fell in love with almost 10 years ago.”

For some science teachers, the summer of 2014 was one of exploration and experimentation.

Geri Kizior, of Richards, and Stephanie Gioiosa, of Homewood-Flossmoor High School, headed to new locales to learn more about their specialty.

Kizior, who is new to Community High School District 218 this year, has spent every summer for the past five years doing professional development. This year she took a five-day trip to Galveston, Texas, to participate in Down Under Out Yonder at the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary.

She spent two days in the classroom learning the history of the Flower Garden Banks and reef fish identification and then three days on a charter boat scuba diving in the Gulf of Mexico, conducting reef surveys.

Gioiosa took an environmental science advanced placement course at Acadia National Park in Maine.

“It has been an amazing experience. I have been able to meet teachers from the Northeast and learn in this amazing environment,” Gioiosa said. “Our group was able to spend an hour outside doing a sample quadrant field study lab in an intertidal region. My group was measuring the number of barnacles and periwinkles that exist in a quadrant from an area of low, middle and high tide.”

Gioiosa also participated in labs and gained a greater appreciation for environmental science.

“I wish to pass on this appreciation to my students and inspire them to really think about the world around them, how everything is connected,” she said. “So they can work to preserve it for future generations.”

Several science teachers from Lincoln-Way District 210 joined teachers from across Illinois in June for the annual Coal Education Conference presented by the Illinois Department of Commerce and 17th Economic Opportunity’s Office of Coal Development.

Karla Horn, of Lincoln-Way West; Breanne Snoreck, of Lincoln-Way East; Zach Horn, of Lincoln-Way Central; and Maria Wilson and Kendra Will, of Lincoln-Way North, attended the conference at the Rend Lake Resort and Conference Center in Whittington, Illinois. Teachers refreshed their knowledge of earth science and learned about the importance of coal.

Wilson, science department chairwoman at North, said the conference is designed with two goals — to provide participants with background information that will enhance the understanding of the Illinois coal industry and to give participating educators the information and materials they need to incorporate Illinois coal into their lesson plans.

Topic sessions for the four-day conference included Illinois coal formation/geology, underground and surface mining processes, coal generation of electricity, economics of coal and mine safety/ventilation.

Sheryl Shields, who teaches English at Shepard High School in Palos Heights, spent her summer putting the finishing touches on her new book, something close to every teacher’s heart, “Teaching Can Kill You and How Not to Let it.”

“It’s filled with information outlining the wide variety of health issues teachers face due to ongoing stress,” she said. “I never knew how the constant stress we face every day in and outside of the classroom wreaks havoc on our minds and bodies.”

Shields also is a Master Life Coach. She said the first part of the book outlines health issues while the rest of it explains what teachers can do to reduce stress and live healthier and happier lives.

“It’s been a labor of love the past year, and I’m looking forward to getting the word out about what stress does to you if you’re not actively doing things to reduce it,” she said.

The book will be available Jan. 1 on her website, www.thehappeteacher.com.

Some teachers expressed themselves musically over the summer. Mary Noren, a physical education teacher at Shepard, performed with her band, an acoustic trio, at Country Thunder in Twin Lakes, Wisconsin.

John Wydra, who teaches social studies at Richards, plays guitar in various blues bands, including Nigel Mack & the Blues Attack. This summer, he played in more than 20 shows at the Chicago Blues Fest, Buddy Guy’s Legends, the Windsor, Ontario Blues Fest and at the Taste of Lincoln Avenue in Chicago’s Lincoln Park community.

Wydra has been playing guitar since he was a teenager. His favorite songs to play are the ones made famous by popular Chicago artists, including Muddy Waters and Buddy Guy.

“It’s a fun hobby,” he said. “I mostly play over the summer and on the weekends, mostly blues. ... Nigel Mack is a fulltime musician. He hires me as a sideman. I do as many gigs as I can over the summer.”

Wydra and his wife, Kelly Wydra, also ran in the Rock ’n’ Roll Half Marathon in Chicago on July 20.

On a different musical note, Bert Johnson, Lincoln-Way East High School’s music department chairman and band director, presented several workshops for the Illinois Music Educators Association’s 2014 Summer Series.

And you thought only students made the most of summer.



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