Sometime it’s hard to judge how much impact you have on people. If you are a teacher for nearly four decades, you likely came into contact with thousands of students during your career. Most flit in and out, barely registering a blip. Quiet kids, shy kids. You wonder if you ever made an impression.

So how much must it mean when, 20 years after retiring from a school district, more than 200 former students show up at an event to honor your service from so long ago? Most of the staff and all of the students currently at the school where you once taught have no idea who you are.

Yet you made such an impact on those you did teach that they saw fit to make sure today’s faculty and students know you’re a district legend. And they’ll know it from now on, thanks to the plaque they nailed to the wall outside a science lab.

Joe Lis, after all these years, is still a character. The quips roll off his tongue as if he never left the classroom. He beams with pride when students he taught four decades ago can recite the names of every bone in the body.
We all hear about teachers who changed people’s lives by their enthusiasm for their subject, their ability to communicate complicated concepts simply, and their sheer love of people.

S.E. Gross School in Brookfield was fortunate to have one of those teachers — for 37 years — in Joe Lis. It’s a testament to his impact on the lives of his students that so many of them would be moved to celebrate his legacy so many years later.

District 95 and S.E. Gross School in particular ought to be proud to have employed such a teacher, and their decision to allow the first-floor science lab to be dedicated in his name was a sound one.
Congrats on your honor, Mr. Lis, and thanks for your dedication to education.

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