Troy Shorewood Elementary School celebrated its 70th anniversary and two of its teachers know firsthand the joys of attending and teaching at the school.
Vicki Petrovic, a 21-year teacher for Troy Community Consolidated School District 30-C and a third-grade teacher, and Kristi Kennedy, a 16-year teacher for the district and now a second grade teacher, also attended Troy Shorewood. Both are Shorewood residents.
‘We all work hard for each other’
Petrovic, who attended Troy schools from 1970 through 1979, said former superintendent Larry Wiers inspired her to become a teacher. Wiers was also Petrovic’s eighth-grade economics teacher.
She said Wiers was engaging, “made learning fun,” “brought learning to life” and cared about his students For instance, the class held a “trial” when it was studying the judicial system and took a field trip to Chicago when it was studying economics.
“Over the years whenever something happened to me, he would send a little card in the mail,” Petrovic said. “Or he’d cut out a little newspaper clipping with the birth of my kids, just different things like that. He remembered me through the years.”
Petrovic said she taught Wiers’ daughter at the Cathedral of Saint Raymond School in Joliet and that Wiers hired her to teach at Troy in 2001.
In both instances, Petrovic recalled how kind and reassuring Wiers was. Petrovic recalled how nervous she was in teaching his daughter and in applying for the job, although she came with many recommendations.
Petrovic said many of her other teachers still worked at Troy when she started teaching there, which made her experience come full circle.
“I loved and admired them when I was young and had such a huge level of respect for them, almost deference,” Petrovic said. “I just respected their seniority and how they did things.”
Troy today places more emphasis on individual needs and social-emotional learning than when Petrovic attended school there, she said. And, of course, Petrovic never had computers when she was a student, although she did have “snow days.” But Troy’s high educational standards still remain, she said.
“We all work hard for each other and every child’s success,” Petrovic said. “I feel almost blessed, really: to live and work in the district that I went to. I mean, I live a mile from where I grew up, a mile from my parents who still live in the same house.”
Petrovic said when she was a student at the College of St. Francis in Joliet (now University of St. Francis), one of her former science teachers at Troy was presenting to her class.
“He spotted me and he pointed at me and said, ‘I know you’re a Troy student,” Petrovic said. “And a Troy student never forgets the periodic table.”
Petrovic said the teacher then asked her, “What is the symbol for potassium?” So she told him.
“He smiled and said, ‘See? A Troy student doesn’t forget.’”
‘We make students feel at home’
Kennedy said she loved attending Troy as a child. The teachers were kind and the school felt like home, she said. Those qualities inspired Kennedy to become a teacher with a goal of teaching at Troy.
Moreover, Kennedy’s family had strong Troy roots, too.
“My grandmother was a bus driver at Troy for 35 years,” Kennedy said. “My father and his siblings were also students at Troy. My brother and I went to Troy. And my two daughters are students of Troy.”
Troy hired Kennedy as a merit aid her first year out of college and then she took over a fifth-grade class halfway through the school year. Kennedy then moved to South Carolina, where she taught for two years.
When she returned to Shorewood, Kennedy applied for a position at her former school. But the district had no openings at the time, so Kennedy taught communication arts at William B. Orenic Intermediate School in Plainfield, which Troy had just opened, she said.
The following year, Troy Shorewood had an opening and Kennedy happily took it. Her former dean in middle school, Dan Molloy, was now principal and Kennedy worked for him for several years, she said.
Some of her own children’s friends are her students and her oldest daughter is now a student at WBO, Kennedy said.
Kennedy said her children were never embarrassed that she taught at their school.
“I loved that they were just down the hall from me,” Kennedy said. “Sometimes I got to get hugs throughout the day if they saw me.”
Of course, teaching styles and methods have changed over the years, but Troy still has a loving family atmosphere and a goal of instilling a love of learning in students, Kennedy said.
“We take care of each other,” Kennedy said. “We make students feel at home and welcomed.”
When Kennedy was studying to become a teacher at the University of St. Francis, she did her intermediate field experience at Troy Craughwell Elementary School and her cooperating teacher was Kennedy’s former second-grade teacher.
Kennedy said she’ll never forget that meeting, the first time Kennedy and that teacher had seen each other since Kennedy was a second-grader.
“The day I had to go in to start my field experience, she waited at the end of the hallway with open arms,” Kennedy said. “I was going to be teaching in her classroom. It was a really neat experience.”