D211 Post: Holocaust Survivor Tells Conant Students of Experiences

Barney Sidler tells students at James B. Conant High School about his experiences during the Holocaust.

            On April 11, 1945, a 12-year-old Barney Sidler was liberated from the Buchenwald Concentration Camp.  On April 30, 2019, the now 86-year-old Holocaust survivor shared his experiences with the students of James B. Conant High School.

            During the first 30 minutes of the presentation, Sidler described his life from the time Nazi soldiers occupied his home town of Deblin, Poland in September 1939.  He discussed being pulled out of school and moved into what he called “an open ghetto,” and ultimately being loaded into a train for the Buchenwald Concentration Camp.

            After telling the students about the trials he overcame, Sidler shared photos of his family as well as images of the inside of the camp he was held in.  He told the assembly that out of almost 118 members of his extended family, only 11 survived.

            Freshman Jessica Garcia said she was moved by Sidler’s story.

            “I have never met anyone who has gone through everything he has,” she said.  “It was very interesting and sad.  We learn about people like Anne Frank, but we have never gotten to see someone up close who has gone through that.”

At the conclusion, Sidler answered a number of questions from the students before ending with a message of hope.

            “My advice for you is don’t stop,” he told the students.  “Set a goal for yourself and achieve it.  You can do it if you put your mind to it.”

            You can listen to Sidler’s story here.

D211 Post: District 211 Career Expo Shows Growth in Second Year

            For the second year, Township High School District 211 held a career expo, which highlighted career path information as well as job and internship opportunities.  This year’s expo, held at Schaumburg High School, saw 600 students meet with representatives from 155 area businesses.

            District 211 Internship Coordinator Jan Brottman said following last year’s successful expo, the team of career counselors wanted to expand.

            “After seeing how successful the event was last year, we were motivated to make it even bigger this year to be able to help even more students,” she said.

            This year’s expo saw an increase of 60 businesses as well as participation by more than 200 additional students.  The expo included career fields from pipefitters and trade jobs to medical and counseling services and more.  Adam Sutter, Admissions Director for Pipefitters Local Union 597 attended to discuss the not only the option of working in the trades but to inform students of the availability of paid apprenticeship programs.  He said the Expo was a good way to reach students and discuss their options.

            “It’s good to discuss this when they are young,” he said.  “This field is another viable option where you could make a good living while providing for your family.”

            Tamara Hubbard MA, LCPC from Gonski Counseling Services had the opportunity to see the Expo from two sides.  Last year Hubbard worked as the career advisor at Schaumburg High School and was part of the team which worked to create the first Career Expo. 

            “It’s great to be on the other side this year and talk with students who have an interest in psychology and counseling and see how they may fit into that place,” she said. “It was bittersweet seeing all my old coworkers again.  The fact that the District provides this for the students and getting to be a part of it now is great.”

            Hubbard added that having the Career Expo allows students in high school to see newer career specialties such as food allergy counseling and consultation early enough to expand their understanding of the field.

            Brottman said while the overall goal of the Expo is to expose students to different careers, there are additional benefits.

            “Secondary to our primary goal, some companies were interviewing students for internships, apprenticeships or full-time jobs.” Brottman said.  “We are very fortunate as a District to have community leaders who are willing to give of their time to students who are exploring many possibilities.”

            She added that with college costs, the best time to think about career exploration is high school.  For students like Samantha McKlennon, a Freshman at William Fremd High School, and her mother Alexa having an exposure to career paths early is a great way to explore her options.

            “It’s important to see your choices early on so you can find your path and program classes you may need for your choice,” Samantha said.

            “Having this [expo] and knowing the different classes she can chose, she will be able to adjust her classes early in order to pursue her goals,” Alexa added.

            Brottman said planning for the 2020 District 211 Career Expo has already begun.  Next year’s event with be at Fremd High School on February 27.

D211 Post: Cisco Systems Adds Student Interns Following Career Expo

Photo courtesy of Cisco Systems.

            On April 4, 2018, Township High School District held its first Career Expo.  The expo was attended by nearly 100 area businesses representing all 16 career clusters, as well as more than 400 students looking to explore post-education career possibilities.

            One business in attendance was Cisco Systems.  Service Delivery Lead Ramya Vijay said she heard about the expo from District 211 Internship Coordinator Jan Brottman.  Ramya said she was acquainted with the District due to the networking courses focusing on Cisco was offered at the Palatine High School.

            “We saw this, in part, as a way to encourage more students to take networking courses,” she said.  “We felt that  District 211 was the best to start expanding our STEM (Science Technology, Engineering, and Math) initiatives.” During the Career Expo, We had an overwhelming number of students interested in internships with Cisco.

            “We received more than 50 resumes,” Ramya said.  “After rigorous interviews, we selected 10 students to intern with us.  Cisco also wants to encourage girls in STEM , so had a good number of girls join our internship as well”

            During the internship, students were exposed to the many aspects of Cisco including hands-on lab work, tech classes, applications in real-world scenarios, and meetings with various executives from Cisco.  They were asked to create ideas and present business case for entrepreneurship during their innovation challenge. Students were awarded gift certificates for the best idea for the innovation challenge.   Ramya and her Cisco team were very impressed with the District students.

Photo courtesy of Cisco Systems.

            “The students were highly motivated and disciplined,” Ramya said.  “No one missed any classes.  There was a lot of engagement from students and parents.  While they learned from us, we also learned a lot of things from them as well.  It was a great experience.”

            Ramya added that she was impressed with the Career Expo.

            “It’s a wonderful thing to have the expo,” she said.  “It is never dry.  We had a constant stream of students and parents.  This expo is time well spent for any business.”

            This year’s Career Expo will be March 13, at Schaumburg High Schools.  Businesses wishing to participate can sign up at www.tinyurl.com/2019D211Expo The deadline for businesses to register is February 22.


D211 Post: Conant Winter Play “subText” Explores Teenage Life

            When the James B. Conant High School’s Conant Theater takes the stage February 8, they will be presenting the newer play “subtext,” which delves into the experiences of 21st century teenagers through a variety of short segments told in the round.

            “This play brings attention to several issues close to my heart,” said Conant High School Winter Play Sponsor Stephanie Svarz. 

            The play was written by Tyler Dwiggins, who Svarz meet while both were at Northwestern University in 2011.  She spoke with Dwiggins during the recent winter break looking for a possible play.

             “As a high school teacher, I find it hard to find accurate representations of my students in a way that respects their stories and experiences,” said Svarez “They have to face challenges unlike any that previous generations have ever encountered.”

            Svarz said the performance brings together a collection of students which ranges from newer performers to veteran members of the acting club.

Cameron, played by Senior Jeffrey Pagels, brags about his social media following in “subText.”

            One student, who is relatively new to Conant’s productions is senior Jeffrey Pagels. Pagels first acted with the theatre group one year ago and said the group is like a family to him.

            “This is a family like no other.  It may sound cliché, but we have a closeness that doesn’t exist in other clubs or groups,” he said.

            On top of acting in the play, Pagels has used his artistic skills to create some of the publicity material for the production.

            Junior Ailey Yamamoto, one of the student directors, has been with Conant Theater since she was a freshman because she is “loud.”  She added that the people in the group are her kind of people who always have something kind to say. While she is helping to direct this play, she says she is more comfortable acting on stage.

Senior Jeffery Pagels goes over Senior Ailey Yamamoto’s notes during a rehearsal of “subText.”

            “It’s really cool, even on a high school stage, to put on a show for people in the audience,” she said.  “It’s also great to be someone else for a little while. You can really forget your problems doing this.”

            Pagels has advice for anyone considering theater.

            “If you are even thinking about joining theatre, please do it,” he said.  “You won’t regret it.  Not now, not ever.”

D211 Post: Palatine Hosts Seventh Science Olympiad

            Palatine High School held its seventh Science Olympiad November 30.  The event, which was the largest in Illinois, drew approximately 1100 students from 33 schools, including three from Indiana and one from Kentucky.

            Carl Garrison, Palatine High School Science Department chair, was pleased by the large turnout and eagerness of the competitors. 

            “It is wonderful to see so many students wake up early on a Saturday to do Science,” he said.  “So long as students want to do science early on a Saturday, the rest of the PHS coaches (Patrick Rauen, Robert Heitz, and Alex Larson), will continue to provide it.”

            The competing students formed teams of up to 15, of which no more than seven could be seniors.  The teams competed in a variety of different events ranging from astronomy to chemistry and physics.

            Conant High School sophomore Kaylee Kim said she joined her school’s Science Olympiad team because it allowed her to combine her passions for science and music together.

            “I joined because I was really interested in music, and I thought it would be cool to learn more about science through my love of music,” she said.  “When I heard there was a music division where I could use science to build my own instrument, I was very excited.”

            Garrison said the Palatine competition as well as a competition hosted by Conant are great gauges for upcoming state competitions.

            “As a coach, I use these tournaments to help determine who should be in the regional team,” he said.  “We use the results to help us build the strongest team that can get through the Regional and State tournaments.”

D211 Post: District Students Compete in Architecture and Design Competition

            Students from across the District competed against each other in the District 211 Architecture Competition in which they designed an ideal and functional house.  Each entry had to include four bedrooms and two and half bathrooms while being up to 3,500 square feet.  The winning entry, submitted by Palatine High School senior Nelson Bartolo, will be the Building Construction Program house to be built on Berner Road in Elgin next year.

            Work began on each student’s design at the start of the school year.  More than 350 students in participated in designing homes and submitted entries to the competition.  From those, ten entries, 2 from each school, were selected to present to a panel of judges at the G.A. McElroy Administration Center November 9.

            “Students house designs were amazing.  It was obvious that all of the D211 students took their time and did the proper research to create house designs that were appropriate tor the location,” said Palatine High School Applied Science Department Chair Mark Hibner.  “Students followed the guidelines of the project and designed homes that included appropriate construction methods while infusing current interior design trends.”

Palatine High School senior Audrey Birk describes the the plans for a house she designed during a District wide drafting and architecture competition Nov. 9.

            During the finals, each of the ten students stood before a panel of judges which included architects, interior designers, teachers, and contractors.  The student discussed the layout of each room as well as inspirations for various aspects of their unique designs.  For Bartolo, part of the preparation was practicing his presentation repeatedly at home.

            After each student presented their designs to the panel, the judges moved into deliberation to discuss all the designs.  One judge, Mike Rafferty of Rafferty Architecture, has been involved with previous 3 competitions and has seen improvement in the students’ plans.

            “Every year the presentations get better.  The technology and support from their teachers really help prepare them and make them better,” he said.  “I was very impressed by the underclassman representation.  Their involvement in things like this will give them a great opportunity to witness fields like architecture and construction.”

            Following the panel’s deliberation, each student called up to discuss what was liked as well as potential improvements for future designs.  They were then presented with framed copies of their designs. 

Palatine High School senior Nelson Bartolo (center left) holds his design concept.

            The judges stated following their deliberation that selecting an individual winner was difficult given the exceptional effort and design each student presented.  They stated the decision was made to select a first and second place for the first time.  They announced Palatine High School senior Audrey Birk as second place before announcing Batolo as the winner.

            Bartolo, who has been involved in Computer Drafting courses since his freshman year said he was surprised and appreciative after the announcement.

            “It just shows that hard work really does pay off,” Bartolo said.  “I am thankful to my school for the opportunity to compete in something like this and to my teachers for their amazing support.”

D211 Post: District 211 Adds Japanese Language Course Through Online Classroom

            Students at James B. Conant and Schaumburg High School have been involved in a new style of classroom this semester.  They gather in their respective school’s media centers where they log into Blackboard where they engage online with a Japanese language instructor at Harper College.  This is the District’s first step into adding online classes to the curriculum.

              Conant High School Senior Emma Rogers said she was happy to see the District use the online course option to add Japanese to the curriculum.

              “When I was in elementary school, my mother put me in the dual language program.  Ever since then, we have been a Japanese program,” she said.  “When I got to high school, they didn’t have it.  As soon as they added it, I chose to take it to continue my Japanese learning.”

            Dr. Danielle Hauser, District 211 Director of Instructional Improvement, said the District explored options for students to continue once they moved from District 54 to District 211.

            “We encouraged students to take the Seal of Biliteracy in their native language and the target language.  In addition, we encouraged students to participate in internships where they would be able to continue in their language acquisition skills,” Hauser said.  “All along that time, we have been seeking opportunities to continue coursework in the Japanese language.

            Hauser said Harper College was willing to partner with District 211 to establish what would ultimately become one of the District’s newest dual credit course.

            Starting in the spring of 2018, representatives from Harper College and District 211 tested a variety of programs to see which would be the easiest to integrate the high school students into the college’s online course.  Hauser said they ultimately chose Blackboard, which Harper currently uses for multiple classes.  This allows the students to log in to the class from both their iPads and a central station in the classroom.

            For Rogers, whose mother is half Japanese, having the course available has helped rebuild her vocabulary and is helping her brush up her technique. 

A student at James B. Conant High School submits answers to a question asked during her online Japanese class.

            “I noticed after freshman year, by not having the course available, caused by vocabulary to diminish,” she said.  “At home, my mom speaks to me in Japanese and I would have to respond in English.  Being in a class which forces me to use Japanese every day has been very helpful.”

            Dr. Hauser said an unexpected benefit to this online course is the students are exposed to an online system used by many colleges.  She said when the students go on to college, they are now familiar with programs most first year college students haven’t used.  She added that the District was pleased to offer students a way to continue a program they began in elementary school and can continue into college.

            “District 211 is very excited to offer students an opportunity to continue their Japanese acquisition skills after many years in the dual language program while gaining the benefits of course credits on both their high school and college transcripts,” Hauser said.

            Rogers said she has plans to continue her studies after graduating from Conant.

            “After high school I plan to major in aviation while minoring in Japanese,” she said.