Teachers reflect on their careers

Two OPHS teachers look back on their time as teachers

Teachers can be a bit of a mystery as we don’t know everything about them as we are in their classrooms for only an hour and a half. Ever wondered why your favorite teacher chose to teach this subject or where they were initially planning on going in their life? English Department Chair Kathy Bowman and Spanish teacher Van Slooten reflect on their careers.  

From her experience, Bowman states that one will  never know where they will go with their life. Initial career aspirations often change as life can be unpredictable. 

“I was looking for something to do with my life. I at first thought I wanted to be a lawyer. I had my first degree in political science and that was kind of in the pursuit of practicing law,” Bowman said.

However, with time, Bowman realized that she would enjoy having a different occupation and steered away from becoming a lawyer. 

“As time went on I realized I wanted my life to be something where I raised a family and had a profession that would work well with family life. I wanted to be a good mom and a good wife but also have a job where I feel the rewards of working with people and doing something that would make a difference in the world,” Bowman said. 

Mr. Van Slooten recalls why he decided to become a teacher, and how he was going to step away from his teaching career until a wise woman advised him to continue. 

“I got a college education and for several years I kind of did this and that and just little by little gravitated towards teaching,” Van Slooten said. “When I first went into elementary school for a while I did not have much care for it. I got out of teaching all together for a while until my mother was on her deathbed. She said go back and get your cordinsal for a second just in case you need it. From there I said wow I’m staying here. I tried it and I liked it.” 

Every teacher has different reasons for why they became a teacher at Oak Park High School. Mr. Van Slooten shared what motivated him to sign up to be a teacher at OPHS. 

“Now as far as teaching here, I taught over at Royal High for a couple of years and it was not going as well as I liked so I started shopping around and I put application for here right when they had an opening and I got the best job in the world. I have been here since 1994,” Van Slooten said. 

For some teachers, they enjoy being around their students and colleagues. 

“I enjoy being around my colleagues, the other teachers — the relationships we build with other people. I love the people I work with and I love the students and just the whole idea of your building relationships and you are working with people you are caring about,” Bowman said. 

Some teachers were a completely different person when they were our age in high school. Bowman admits that she was an introvert in her high school years and was not a social butterfly among her peers. Students may relate to high-school Bowman as some are quieter than others and do not participate in school events.  

“I would participate in class but I wasn’t really outgoing at all with my peers. I did not like to go to school dances or participate,” Bowman said. “I always worked hard and I would always get things done at school as fast as I could to get it done so I could go home … I could have done it better though I think.”

Mr. Van Slooten admits that his younger self did not take interest in the subject that he now teaches and loves. 

“I was not a good student. I will confess that. I used to sleep in my Spanish class and god bless [my teacher],” Van Slooten said.

Teachers widely impact students everyday on campus as they are a huge part of our lives. Teachers can inspire the kids just as being present as some students develop aspirations to advance in a certain subject that they once had no passion for. 

“I teach students not only the language but also the background and what it’s like and how Latin America is. 20 years ago I had a student who was not a serious Spanish student and was more focused on extracurricular activities. 10 years later I was at Costco and I heard someone mention my name and speak fluent Spanish. The student who was once not interested in Spanish suddenly had a passion for the language and even lived in Spain for a year. I plant the seed for not only him, but students in the same situation,”  Van Slooten said.