Reflecting on my experience while at CCHS brings many happy memories of a fulfilling high school experience. I was at first reluctant to attend any new school when I was a Freshman, as I had recently moved back to Chicago from Florida due to a family member who was helping to raise me having fallen ill. When I first entered the classrooms at CCHS, my initial fears and doubts were laid to rest as I was made to feel welcome by some students and all my teachers who accepted me as a fellow Christian brother. This was the first time I had attended a faith-based school, so I did not know what to expect. I feel though that since we all had a common bond as Christian people, this transcended any differences between us and allowed me to build positive relationships with the staff and fellow students. As I progressed through my years, I allowed myself to become involved in both music and sports. Playing in concerts with the band and being a member of the Football and Track & Field teams allowed me the chance to interact with even more people and form bonds with others outside the classroom. My education was still the most important part of my high school experience, and to this day, I am so glad that I received such a great education from teachers who prepared me for life beyond high school. Some of the teachers who made an impact on me were Mr. Carpenter, Mr. Kloosterman, Mr. John Meyer, and Mr. Gary Meyer. They, along with several others throughout my high school years, not only taught enriching subjects but also life lessons that I have carried on into my teaching of students today.
My life since graduating from CCHS has been a long journey filled with more positive experiences but also several challenges. I first attended Northern Illinois University to begin what I thought would be an eventual career in Computer Science. Unfortunately, I came to find the major I had chosen to not be as fulfilling as I thought it would be. As I tried to find a new direction for my life to take, I ran into personal and financial struggles that eventually forced me to delay my education. After taking time off from school, I transferred to Central Michigan University and finally found what would be my calling, to become a teacher and coach. I truly do believe that everything happens for a reason and that God leads us to where He knows we should be in life. It took several years (and more money!) but I eventually graduated with my teaching degree in December 2003 and was quickly employed back in Illinois as a full-time teacher and eventually a coach for the same sports I loved playing while at CCHS, Football and Track & Field. Currently, I am in my 18th year of teaching at Metea Valley HS in Aurora, IL as a Social Studies Teacher and am the Head Coach for the Men’s Track & Field team, having started the program when the school first opened in 2009.
My journey as a teacher and coach has allowed me to follow my true passion of working with young people and inspiring them, just like the teachers and staff at CCHS did for me during my high school years. To me, teaching is an important job where trusted adults are there to guide young people in acquiring knowledge not just about the subject matter but also about how to navigate life and grow into respectful, responsible adults. I truly do feel that I was called by God to serve as a teacher and coach. So, when I was asked to perform these duties for my church several years ago as a Certified Lay Speaker and Sunday School Teacher, I accepted without hesitation. Whether I am educating about history and geography or the word of God and teachings of Jesus Christ, I feel that I am doing my duty to serve our God and help young people navigate their way in the world and become servants in their own capacity.
As I reflect upon my time at CCHS, I can truly say that it prepared me to not only work in a high school today as my profession but also helped to strengthen my faith in God and helped me to navigate some very difficult challenges in my life over the years. While I may teach in a non-faith-based school for my career, I take the same Christian love and values that I was taught at CCHS to my students and athletes that I work with. On the first days of school in my classroom, I have students participate in a few get to know you/relationship-building activities to help build a positive climate among the students and myself. One of the first things I always reveal about myself when I share in these activities is that I am a Christian. I explain to my students that this is an important aspect of who I am, which guides my life and shapes how I relate to others. In the public-school setting, most people think it's taboo to reveal your religious statutes or beliefs, but I have always found that when I do, students see me as more than “just a teacher” but as a real person who has a set of beliefs and principles which guide my life. Also, when I do this, other students who identify as Christian are much more comfortable in sharing their faith as well, and I have established relationships with them during their high school years, some of which have lasted after they have graduated.
I am thankful for my time at CCHS, and even though I may not have known why I was there that first day of my Freshman year, just like everything else God has done in my life, He put me there for a reason, which has been revealed to me over the years.