Ever since she was a young girl, Valerie Kazich dreamed of being a teacher.
“I was one of those weird ones who had summer school for the neighborhood kids in the basement,” Kazich said. “Kids would come over during the summer and we would just play school.”
For the past 26 years, Kazich lived her dream, teaching at Oak Forest High School. That dream will come to an end though at the end of this school year, when Kazich retires. Although Kazich said that the end of her teaching tenure will be bittersweet, she is excited for the possible new opportunities that she may have post-retirement.
Kazich got her start in teaching at Oak Forest in what is now known as the Destiny Suite, before moving on to co-teach biology and chemistry/physics in the special education department at Oak Forest.
“Technically I'm a special education teacher and now, with the way schools are set up, they gravitate away from our own special, self-contained classrooms,” she said. “So, they call it co-teaching. So I'll teach some, the other teacher teaches some and we just kind of play off each other.”
During her time at Oak Foerst, Kazich said that her fondest memories and greatest accomplishments come from her students. She said that watching her students grasp a concept and really understand something they've been working hard towards is why she loves her job.
“A lot of times, a student who had not been very interested in the class, somehow they'll stay after and get a little extra help with something, or they do really well on a test or assignment,” she said. “When they do really well, and they say, 'Hey, I really know this stuff,' and it starts to snowball from there. … Then they're really eager to learn things and participate, that's always very fun.”
Kazich added that although seeing her students succeed in the classroom is fantastic, it's also watching them grow as people that brings her joy.
Though one of her dreams might be coming to an end, Kazich said she is looking forward to new opportunities outside of the teaching field. She did say, though that she will continue to try and make Oak Forest a WeatherBug school for area weather forecasts—something that has become a passion of hers over the previous few years.
Kazich added that if she is going to miss one thing most after she exits Oak Forest High School for the last time, it will be her students.
"I'll miss the kids the most," she said. "I could do this until I'm 100, the kids keep me young."