Reflecting on a career that spanned 25 years, Riverside resident Lanis Petrik looks back on her position at the Brookfield Zoo as one that provided her with an opportunity to do many of the things she so enjoys and share it with others.
When she began her career as an education specialist at the zoo in 1991, she brought with her a love of animals, science and teaching. She developed a program geared towards teachers and, with her as the program’s coordinator the program, it became the largest program of its type in the Chicago area.
Her program includes trips where teachers may earn college credit as well as absorb material to bring back to the classroom. Many of her trips to Africa have brought back many tales to be told. Throughout her years at Brookfield Zoo, Petrik led 18 trips to Africa and counts Tanzania and Botswana as her favorite countries there.
He job didn’t just involve traveling other continents. She also had plenty of opportunities to visit other zoos in the United States, including the famous Bronx Zoo and the San Diego Zoo.
Petrik holds a bachelor’s degree in social studies and science from the University of Illinois and a master’s in teaching science from National Louis University. She worked at Riverside Elementary School District 96 in the school learning centers before working at the Brookfield Zoo.
She says it’s been an honor to work with both Dr. George Raab and Dr. Stuart Strahl, zoo directors who she says “gave their hearts to the zoo and to conservation.” Working at the Brookfield Zoo was for her a ”dream come true.”
Although she’s officially now retired, Petrik will continue, on her own, to plan trips for teachers. A trip to Botswana currently being planned.
She’ll also continue to work on her collection of Brookfield Zoo memorabilia, most notably old maps. Petrik’s colleagues upon her retirement presented her with a framed Brookfield Zoo map from 1993, the year she joined the zoo full time.
Petrik acknowledges the dedication of the people at the zoo, particularly at Great Bear Wilderness and Piniped Point and they in turn acknowledged her dedication. She will continue to visit the zoo because, as she says, “We are so lucky to live near the Brookfield Zoo,” and they were lucky to have her in their employ.