A number of notable educators in the area are retiring this year. In addition to Hollywood School first-grade teacher Jenny Barhorst, retirees include Riverside-Brookfield High special education teacher Dawn Soprych as well as RBHS dean Dave Sibley, math teacher Steve Yurek and paraprofessional Geoff Tillotson; S.E. Gross special education resource teacher Sue McCloskey; the founder of the Lyons-Brookfield School District 103’s pre-kindergarten program, Chris Newell; and Hauser Junior High School’s longtime secretary, Diane Powers.
Dawn taught special education at RBHS for 27 years, always with a smile on her face. Before coming to the high school, Soprych taught at Hauser for three years. Soprych also served as sponsor of the RBHS Best Buddies club.
“Dawn is known as the Ms. Smiley,” said RBHS parent Kathleen Meade in an email. “Her school office is wall to wall with anything with a smiley face on it. She could actually open up a shop. We often wonder how she could find so many smiley shirts, socks, hats, necklace, glasses, you name it, and she had it.”
Sibley has been a dean at RBHS for 20 years and has worked as an educator for 34 years. He began his career as the P.E. teacher at Woodlands Middle School in Mundelein.
“It didn’t take long after meeting Dave to understand the love he had for RB,” said Dave Mannon, the assistant principal for student affairs, in an email. Dave’s tenure as a Dean and Counselor in our building will be remembered by his student-centered attitude, his calm demeanor, and his purposeful guidance. I am going to miss seeing Dave on the top bleacher during football games supervising our students as well as his obnoxious love for fluorescent jackets he used for traffic control.”
Yurek taught math at RBHS for 18 years after teaching math at Morton High School for 15. He was known as a master of test preparation and was brought to RBHS to boost test scores.
For many years at RBHS he taught the same groups of kids in math for three years — taking them from freshman algebra to sophomore geometry advanced algebra and trigonometry as juniors.
Yurek has an interesting retirement job. He gives tours at Wrigley Field, something he started doing last summer. Yurek grew up in Lyons and was elected to the Lyons-Brookfield School District 103 school board when he was just 20 years old.
At the time, he was believed to be the youngest school board member in the state. In addition to teaching math at RBHS Yurek was an assistant boys cross country coach and the freshman softball coach at RBHS.
Newell worked for Lyons-Brookfield School District 103 for 33 years. She started the pre-kindergarten program in the district and has run it ever since.
“When I was hired there was no preschool program at all,” Newell said in an email. “My first year it was a full-day program where I was expected to do everything, including making lunch for the preschoolers.”
McCloskey taught eighth-graders at S.E. Gross Middle School for 18 years and is retiring after 37 years as a special education teacher. She was especially effective at teaching students executive functioning skills such as organization and time management.
“It will be sad to lose her,” said Principal Ryan Evans. “Her ability to transition kids from Gross to RB has most often been seamless and flawless.”
Powers is retiring after working as a secretary at Hauser Junior High for 24 years.
“The school could not function without her,” said Jen Kovar, a teacher at Hauser. “She was sort of the backbone of the school, answering questions and helping new staff members acclimate, even helping new administrators that came in and out. She helped induct them into the ways of Riverside and ways of Hauser.”