The Maine Township High School District 207 Educational Foundation has picked Jim Sorensen as Maine West High School Distinguished Alumnus for 2012.
The local educator, who graduated from Maine West in 1969, was awarded a "Golden Apple" in 1999, for his exemplary contributions to his students, his school, his community, and his profession.
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Sorenson has lived in Des Plaines since 1956, and taught at Chippewa Middle School in Des Plaines Elementary District 62 for 34 years before his retirement in 2007, when he went to work for the Golden Apple Foundation as director of the Golden Apple Scholars program.
He will be recognized at a dinner in his honor tonight at the Rosewood Restaurant after spending the day speaking with students at Maine West. He will receive the award at the Maine West Senior Honors Assembly on Friday, June 1, joining a select group of Maine West Alumni, whose plaques appear in the main lobby of the auditorium. They include Stephen Baenziger '69, Hans Wahl '69, Kenneth Piest '72, John A. Schaefer '63, Don Maruska '68, Douglas E. Merkle '75, and Sandra L. (Heinisch) Teichow '61.
"My parents originally left our Humboldt Park neighborhood in Chicago so that my sister, my brother, and I could have a better education," Sorensen recalled. "When we moved to Des Plaines in 1956, Maine West was nothing more than a farmer's onion field at the end of our block. That farmer's field soon became the site of Maine West High School."
Sorensen's favorite memories of his years at Maine West include watching the Warriors perform. In 2002, his son, Dane, became a Warrior in 2002.
He also recalls how much the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. in spring of 1968 affected him as he prepared his speech on "Service" for the National Honor Society Induction Ceremony. He made King the focus of his speech.
But his most vivid Maine West memories are about the wonderful teachers he had there, especially Ruth Nicholson, who taught Accelerated English. Sorensen transferred into the class midyear and she made him feel like he could do anything. She talked him into going on "It's Academic," a Jeopardy-style academic quiz show filmed for television at the Merchandise Mart.
Sorensen trained to be an English teacher at Northern Illinois University and taught at Maine North in 1973, but preferred the smaller, warmer Chippewa Middle School, where he taught language arts, literacy, social studies, and science for the next 34 years.
His students still stop to say "Hi" when he and his wife Mindy are eating out or shopping in town. He's proud of the students he's taught, especially those who have become teachers. In fact, when he achieved a Golden Apple award in 1999, another recipient was his former student, Beth Lightfoot Blajcek.
As director of the Golden Apple Scholars of Illinois, recruiting exemplary graduating seniors who's dream it is to become teachers, he has found great pleasure passing on to these young people his insights, techniques, resources, but especially his love for the profession of teaching.