U-46 teacher retires after nearly 50 years with district

 
 
Updated 5/25/2016 4:23 PM
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  • Gordon Whiting, an Elgin High School social studies teacher and alum, gets a big hug Wednesday from his mom, Janet, after he exited through the same door at Garfield Elementary School in Elgin where he attended kindergarten.

      Gordon Whiting, an Elgin High School social studies teacher and alum, gets a big hug Wednesday from his mom, Janet, after he exited through the same door at Garfield Elementary School in Elgin where he attended kindergarten. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Gordon Whiting, a social studies teacher at Elgin High School, holds up his kindergarten class picture from Garfield Elementary School in Elgin. He retired Wednesday after nearly 50 years with the district as a student and teacher.

      Gordon Whiting, a social studies teacher at Elgin High School, holds up his kindergarten class picture from Garfield Elementary School in Elgin. He retired Wednesday after nearly 50 years with the district as a student and teacher. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Gordon Whiting's kindergarten class picture at Garfield Elementary School in Elgin. He retired Wednesday after spending nearly 50 years in Elgin Area School District U-46 as a student and then a teacher.

      Gordon Whiting's kindergarten class picture at Garfield Elementary School in Elgin. He retired Wednesday after spending nearly 50 years in Elgin Area School District U-46 as a student and then a teacher. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Gordon Whiting, Elgin High School social studies teacher, exits the district through the same door he first entered as a kindergartner at Garfield Elementary School in Elgin.

      Gordon Whiting, Elgin High School social studies teacher, exits the district through the same door he first entered as a kindergartner at Garfield Elementary School in Elgin. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

Walking out the same doors he first entered as a kindergartner, Gordon Whiting bid a final farewell Wednesday to the Elgin school and district where he spent nearly 50 years as a student and a teacher.

Whiting began his journey at Garfield Elementary School in Elgin in the fall of 1961. He retraced his steps on the last day of classes, joining the throngs of eager students rushing to begin their summer break.

His 91-year-old mother, Janet Whiting of Elgin, was there waiting for him, just as she had been the day 5-year-old Whiting started kindergarten.

"She walked me there on the first day," said Whiting, now 60 and living in St. Charles.

Whiting attended Ellis Middle School in Elgin and graduated from Elgin High School in 1974. Earning a bachelor's degree and teaching certificate from Elgin Community College and Northern Illinois University, he worked some odd jobs as a horseshoer, printer and grocery store clerk.

Whiting said he always knew teaching was his calling. In 1981, he began teaching social studies at Abbott Middle School and then Elgin High School for 33 years.

He was inspired to join the profession after seeing his high school history teacher, Jim Wallace, in action. "He just made it so enjoyable. I thought that's what I want to do," Whiting said.

At Elgin High, Whiting is a favorite of students, best known for his Theodore Roosevelt impersonation and the Hawaiian shirts and cargo shorts he wears every day, Principal Jerry Cook said.

"In fact, much of the staff dressed 'like Gordy' today to commemorate his time here at school," Cook said. "He is a fun loving teacher who never forgot that school should be about enjoying learning."

Whiting was among nearly 120 Elgin Area School District U-46 employees -- including teachers, bus drivers, coaches, lunch supervisors, secretaries, administrators, and paraprofessionals -- who retired Wednesday.

"It's time to move on," he said. "It just went by very rapidly. I had an excellent time here. I was always treated well. I felt at home here."

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