Lorraine Housa has never been a huge fan of Oprah Winfrey, but the Brook Park second grade teacher is now. Not because of the remarkable bounty she and a colleague scored Monday in Part 2 of Oprah’s last Favorite Things giveaway show. But because she genuinely liked Winfrey after meeting her at last week’s taping.
“She’s a wonderful person. Down to earth. She sees the good in everyone,” said Housa, 76, and an elementary school teacher for 51 years. That description might apply equally to Housa.
“She’s a wonderful lady. Very caring,” said Michael Sorensen, Housa’s principal at Brook Park. “She has the best interest of her students in her heart,” he said Monday, late in the day when most staff members found a way to watch the morning broadcast or a tape of Winfrey’s show.
Sorensen recalled a few years back when Housa won the school $1,000 in school supplies from Office Max. Housa, and nearly 300 other “local heroes” came home from Oprah with, among other gifts, a new 2012 Volkswagen Beetle, iPad, a Coach purse, cookware, jewelry and a $1,000 gift card to the lingerie department at Nordstrom’s.
Housa was nominated as a local hero by Lisa Stukel, a reading improvement teacher in the District 95 schools. To her surprise, the nominators were also invited to the taping of the show, and Stukel collected the same loot as Housa.
The gifts, said Stukel, were unexpected, “overwhelming and just incredible.” But, she said of Housa, “I feel so good I made her so happy. She is like a brick in this building.”
At an end of the school year banquet last spring, Stukel heard Housa speak about her teaching career. Stukel, a veteran teacher who was just finishing her first year at Brook Park, said, “I marvel at her. She always has a smile on her face. She’s passionate. She comes in fresh every school year. I thought she should be recognized.”
Just as Oprah is in her final year as a talk show host, Housa is also planning to retire at the end of the current teaching season. Of course, at 51 years in the classroom, Housa doubles Winfrey’s 25 years in the saddle.
“The years have gone by awfully fast,” said Housa. “Every year is a new experience and in September I always had that feeling that I want to go back. I am going to miss it.”
Housa has spent most all of her career at Brook Park and has intensely positive feelings about the school and her colleagues. “It is like a home to me. It is a great school and the faculty is so kind.”
She plans to keep all 20 gifts lavished by Winfrey on her “local heroes.” “The presents don’t mean that much to me,” she said. “But I’m kind of a sentimental person and they’ll remind me of Oprah.”
Such sentiment does not apply only to gifts from famous talk show hosts. Housa said that over the years she also has saved “all the cards, all the notes from the kids,” at Brook Park.
Sorensen said Housa’s 51-year tenure astounds him. “I don’t know if we will ever have that longevity again.”