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posted: 6/23/2014 5:30 AM

Barrington teacher marks 50 years in the classroom

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  • Teacher Diane Kostick of the Illinois Institute of Art in Schaumburg, and formerly of Barrington Unit District 220, is celebrating 50 years of continuous teaching this month. Here she works with her humanities students as they present their final projects of the school year.

       Teacher Diane Kostick of the Illinois Institute of Art in Schaumburg, and formerly of Barrington Unit District 220, is celebrating 50 years of continuous teaching this month. Here she works with her humanities students as they present their final projects of the school year.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Diane Kostick is celebrating 50 years of continuous teaching this month. Now the Illinois Institute of Art in Schaumburg, Kostick previously spent 39 years educating children in Barrington Unit District 220.

       Diane Kostick is celebrating 50 years of continuous teaching this month. Now the Illinois Institute of Art in Schaumburg, Kostick previously spent 39 years educating children in Barrington Unit District 220.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Teacher Diane Kostick of the Illinois Institute of Art in Schaumburg, and formerly of Barrington Unit District 220, is celebrating 50 years of continuous teaching this month. Here she looks on as her humanities students present their final projects of the school year.

       Teacher Diane Kostick of the Illinois Institute of Art in Schaumburg, and formerly of Barrington Unit District 220, is celebrating 50 years of continuous teaching this month. Here she looks on as her humanities students present their final projects of the school year.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Diane Kostick is celebrating 50 years of continuous teaching this month. Now the Illinois Institute of Art in Schaumburg, Kostick previously spent 39 years educating children in Barrington Unit District 220.

       Diane Kostick is celebrating 50 years of continuous teaching this month. Now the Illinois Institute of Art in Schaumburg, Kostick previously spent 39 years educating children in Barrington Unit District 220.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Diane Kostick is celebrating 50 years of continuous teaching this month. Now at the Illinois Institute of Art in Schaumburg, Kostick previously spent 39 years educating children in Barrington Unit District 220.

       Diane Kostick is celebrating 50 years of continuous teaching this month. Now at the Illinois Institute of Art in Schaumburg, Kostick previously spent 39 years educating children in Barrington Unit District 220.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Diane Kostick from her first third-grade class at Roslyn Road School in Barrington, during the 1964-65 school year.

      Diane Kostick from her first third-grade class at Roslyn Road School in Barrington, during the 1964-65 school year.
    Courtesy of Diane Kostick

 
 

Local institutions, made up of many contributors, celebrate 50th anniversaries.

So do married couples, happy to have devoted so much of their lives to another person.

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But Diane Kostick of Barrington is in a much rarer category -- not only for having engaged in a single line of work for five decades, but one that directly shapes the future of others.

This summer, Kostick marks her 50th continuous year as a teacher … and she has no desire to stop there.

The first 39 years were dedicated to students in Barrington Unit District 220, where she taught several grade levels. Since 2003, Kostick has been teaching college students in Schaumburg -- first at the International Academy of Design and Technology, and more recently at the Illinois Institute of Art.

She's also published several educational books, as well as 2002's "Voices of Barrington," which tells the history of her hometown and nine residents considered among its 20th and 21st century pillars.

In all those years, Kostick's motivation has stayed exactly the same: "That light-bulb moment."

"It's the joy of teaching and the thrill of seeing students learn and understand," she says. "There's a glow in their eyes; their faces light up, literally. Their body language changes. And that doesn't go away. You just hope it's your explanation, your inspiration, your demonstration that brings them to understand."

A common phrase among teachers is that reaching just one student justifies all their efforts. Kostick agrees.

"You know that when you're influencing one person, you're really influencing a generation," she says. "They're going to carry that to their children and to their children's children."

Most of what she knows about teaching came from running her own classroom. But even after five decades, she still doesn't feel she's perfected the art.

"I'm still learning how to be a good teacher every year," Kostick said. "I think you grow every year."

While her motivation has changed little over the years, the trappings of the job have. The advent of email, for example, has turned quarterly parent-teacher conferences into daily correspondence with each student's household.

Today she's teaching basic classes like U.S. history and humanities to students proficient in computers, audio, video and graphic design.

"I call on them all the time, with no embarrassment, to help me," Kostick said. "It is a challenge because I'm teaching general education and they want to be in a photo studio or an audio studio."

Despite the technological advances, there's been a continuity to Kostick's approach.

As a middle school teacher in Barrington, she assigned projects that required young students to reflect on their history, personal experiences and identity. They did so with paper, ink and pictures.

Today, she has students in their 20s through their 40s pour their hearts into a humanities project in which they present a self-portrait through their favorite artistic discipline. Some design a multimedia presentation on a computer while others write and direct a film, perform a song or create a complex drawing steeped in symbolism.

One student who went back to school at 40 turned in a project focused on wanting to be a better father to his daughter than his father was to him.

"That's the only way we change society," Kostick tells him. "When we grow up in an environment that isn't the best and don't carry that on. Someone has to break the cycle."

The unionization of teachers was another major change to the profession during Kostick's career. The movement first came about for valid reasons related to creating a manageable work day for teachers, she says.

While she acknowledges that there are some bad teachers, she says her experience is that they're few and far between. It makes her uncomfortable to hear schools in the city and suburbs characterized as "failing."

"I don't believe any teacher gets up and says, 'I'm not going to do my job today.' They're committed to their students," she says.

John Snow, the founding principal of Barrington Middle School -- Station Campus, says he was blessed to know many excellent teachers during a career in education that exceeded 60 years. But Kostick had qualities and an approach to the job that made her distinct even among so many talented colleagues, he said.

"I've never known anyone who was more devoted to the teaching profession," said Snow, who worked with Kostick for 19 years.

Evidence of the special role she played in her students' lives is the number of them she's maintained relationships with years after they left her classroom, Snow said.

Paula Papamarcos, who was in Kostick's 6th grade social studies class in 1968-69, is among them. Now vice president of a company based in Florida, Papamarcos stays in touch with Kostick and sees her while back in Barrington to visit family.

"She was, by far, my best teacher," Papamarcos said. "It was a very formative time. I know she was considered a very tough teacher. For me, it was perfect because I was an eager student."

Kostick was so influential that Papamarcos spent several years after the class thinking she wanted to be a teacher too. Kostick's approach to research and use of graphics and illustrations continues to help Papamarcos in her business career.

"She just takes an interest in people and makes them feel the best about themselves," she said. "She connects with people in a special way. The number of lives she must have influenced … I can't even imagine!"

Kostick remains fired up about the front-row seat she has to the development of students. And she's found working with college students closing in on their dream careers just as exciting as teaching young children just establishing their identities.

"I tell them, 'I know you'll all have these great careers, but I have the best career,'" she said. "I have the best job on the planet."

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