MORRIS — When he graduated from Freeburg High School, Joe Blumberg had never heard of Morris, he said. Instead, he was headed to the University of Illinois to study engineering.
Little did he know that he would leave U of I for a different school, make Morris his home, and not be an engineer.
Blumberg is the son of Fred Blumberg — an Illinois High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame coach. He is currently a physics teacher at Morris Community High School, as well as the head cross country coach for both boys and girls in the fall and the head boys basketball coach in the winter.
“People know that my dad was a high school social studies teacher,” Blumberg said. “He was a part-time [athletic director] at Freeburg, he was a basketball coach and a Hall of Fame baseball coach. But, my mom was also an elementary school teacher. So I grew up in a household of educators.”
When it came time to go to college, Joe Blumberg entered the University of Illinois’ engineering program, he said. Although he enjoyed the course work, there was something missing.
“I loved U of I and I enjoyed the engineering,” he said. “But, I missed being part of a team. I had played baseball and basketball all through high school and I missed that. So, I transferred to Southern Illinois-Edwardsville, where I was fortunate enough to be on a baseball team that went to the Division II World Series.
“I didn’t get much playing time, but it was a great experience. I was still studying engineering, but I realized how much I had missed the camaraderie of being on a team.”
Then, a crucial question came from one of his professors.
“My physics professor asked me if I had considered changing my major to physics,” he said. “So, I considered it, and switched my major to physics and education and became an educator.”
Blumberg did his student teaching at Columbia High School in 2000, then sent out resumes for full-time work.
“My first interview was in a place I had never heard of called Morris, Illinois,” he said. “I was fortunate to get the job. Mr. [then-principal Greg] Eaton was terriffic and Coach [Dan] Darlington, Coach [Denny] Steele, Coach [Jim] Farber and the whole crew was still here. My first coaching job was as John Darlington’s freshman baseball coach in 2001-02.”
Blumberg joined the basketball coaching staff in 2002-03 and became the head cross country coach in 2006. He got married in 2008 and, after the birth of his first daughter, one sport had to go.
“My wife works long hours during tax season,” he said. “So, I had to cut my spring coaching. I didn’t expect that baseball would be the first sport to go. When I was a kid, I was in the dugout all the time. But, with my family situation, it was what made sense.”
Blumberg doesn’t teach an easy class, and the sports he coaches can be both physically and mentally taxing. However, he tries to make them enjoyable.
“I teach AP physics, advanced physics and Earth Systems,” he said. “And I coach long-distance running, which not a lot of people want to do, and I coach basketball at a school where it’s most players’ second or third sport. That means I have to try to make things fun and enjoyable because those aren’t the classes and sports that are the most popular.
“Because of that, I find that I can’t take myself too seriously. When the teachers put on skits during Homecoming, I always seem to be the one that ends up wearing a dress or something. But it’s good to have the kids know that you don’t take yourself too seriously and that you can have fun, too.
Though results don’t come immediately, Blumberg said he enjoys hearing from students that he has taught.
“Sometimes, I will be having a rough week and I will get an e-mail from a former student telling me they got an ‘A’ on a physics test in college,” he said. “Or that they used something they learned from me to be successful in another class.
“Those are the ones you put in a save folder and read after a tough week or a tough loss. That’s one of the highlights of the job. I definitely enjoy those.”