Greg Locascio always had it in the back of his mind to become a teacher, although he took a detour into journalism and then long-haul trucking.
Greg earned a journalism degree at Northern Illinois University, then spent two years on the staff of the Antigo, Wisconsin, daily newspaper before he and his wife, Esther, quit their jobs and spent seven months hiking the Appalachian Trail. He returned to newspapering for a year at the Beloit Daily News, but realized reporting and the long hours involved weren’t for him.
Since they had no family or home mortgage, the couple went on another adventure, this time hiking the Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada, a 2,500 mile trek for five months in 2004. It was during that time he decided teaching is what he really wanted, so went back to NIU and earned a master’s in English with a certificate in education, using student loans to finish his schooling.
His first teaching job had him split between two schools in the same district: ninth grade English in Elgin and middle school language arts at Streamwood. But then the recession hit and first year teachers were laid off, including Greg. He tried finding another full-time position for about two years, struggling to make ends meet.
It was then he turned to his backup plan. Truck driving paid well and jobs were plentiful, so he enrolled in the truck driving classes at Kishwaukee College in Malta and soon got his commercial driver’s license. Immediately after he was hired by U.S. Xpress and went on the road, eventually driving through 46 states over an eight-year period. He drove an 18-wheeler with a sleeper cab, pulling a 53-foot box trailer. His cargo included items such as candy, diapers, canned pumpkins, bales of paper and engine parts.
Asked what the benefits of driving trucks are, he said independence — no boss looking over your shoulder and the ability to pick your assignments. He said he got more of an education during that time than he did in college.
“I kept a journal and in one year alone, I had listened to 136 audio books and read 35 books,” he said.
He had lots of spare time, sleeping in his truck and often waiting hours for the shipments to be loaded. Downsides, he said, included being away from home weeks at a time, sometimes only seeing his family four or five days a month. They had to use computer programs to see each other. Also there are dangers driving a big rig in city traffic and in areas where there may be low overhead bridges and narrow streets that don’t allow room to squeeze through or turn around. This caused a lot of stress, he said. His wife was “super supportive” all during this time, managing their affairs at home and caring for their son, Jon, who is now 13.
So a year ago, he made the decision to spend the $600 to renew his teacher’s license, taking a chance there would be a job out there for him. He said the irony was that he had nearly paid off his college loan and so taking a pay cut of $15,000 a year from being a trucker to teach again was possible. He began applying for positions within 100 miles of Sycamore and was fortunate to land one this fall at the Northbrook Middle School in Mendota as an eighth grade language arts teacher. At first he worried about what the kids would think about a middle-aged man whose background was truck driving, but he found his students respectful and willing learners. He added that his teaching team has also been supportive and helpful.
Not many people could take the leap from trucking to teaching at age 46, but Greg did it and loves being back in the classroom. Of course spending more time at home with his wife and their teenage son is also a big plus.
• Barry Schrader can be reached via
email at email@example.com or by writing to P.O. Box 851, DeKalb, IL 60115. Past
columns can be found on his website at