With 41 years in the classroom, Jerry Turnquist will retire as the longest-serving male teacher in Elgin Area School District U-46 history.
That's confirmed by Elgin historian Mike Alft, whom Turnquist will unseat as the recordholder by just a couple months -- though Turnquist admits Alft actually taught for longer, just not all in U-46.
Turnquist spent his entire career at Ellis Middle School after growing up just a few blocks away. Colleagues gathered Wednesday to recognize his career, as well as the work of three other retiring Ellis teachers -- Phylis Dunlap-Huerta, Carlos Salgado and Steve Childs.
Principal Perry Hayes has worked with all four teachers for the last 12 years.
"The retirees do reflect on the other teachers at Ellis and the staff here," Hayes said. "People who come here tend to stay here."
Dunlap-Huerta, too, spent her entire career at Ellis. She will retire with 29 years of service as an English and English Language Learners teacher.
Childs attended Ellis as a student and then later walked its halls as a band instructor. He spent the final 10 years of his tenure in U-46 at Ellis but also worked at Kimball Middle School and Larkin High School.
While Turnquist considered openings at two Elgin high schools over the years, he never took the step away from Ellis.
"I love the middle school level because I'm the world's biggest kid," Turnquist said, joking that his first and only job has allowed him to get paid to have fun and "do silly things."
He has also been paid to shape the lives of thousands of students.
Tim Pociask, who got his start as a teacher at Ellis in 1979 but is now the principal of Lisle Junior High School, stopped into Wednesday's reception with a photo of Turnquist, looking for an autograph. Pociask said Turnquist has made quite an impact as a longtime teacher.
"Jerry understands the culture of the school, and he understands the community," Pociask said. "Things like that help stabilize the community and the school. It means a lot."
None of the retirees plan to relax after finishing their teaching careers.
Turnquist has a book about Elgin history in the works. Dunlap-Huerta is considering teaching at the university level. Salgado -- who is finishing up his 19th year in the district -- will help his son run a construction business. And Childs plans to "take it as it comes," though he said he'll definitely continue playing his trumpet.