Former Addison Trail teacher helped give journalism students a voice
As adviser to the school's Torch newspaper, William Colosimo kept the flame of journalism education burning at Addison Trail High School.
Colosimo, who lived in Oswego, died Friday from complications from COVID-19 at Edward Hospital in Naperville. He was 81.
Cecilia Soto, one of Colosimo's last students, and a close friend until his death, said Colosimo, who lived much of his life in Oswego but spent his last years in Naperville, was a priest prior to his teaching career.
DuPage High School District 88 Superintendent Scott Helton, who was principal at Addison Trail in Colosimo's final years at the school, said Colosimo taught at the school from 1973 until 2003, holding classes in English and journalism and serving as adviser to the Torch.
"If you were in one of his English classes or if you were working for him on the newspaper, you were one of his kids," Helton said. "He cared for them and they stayed in contact with him even through retirement."
In fact, one of his students, Steve Bruns, was chosen as his successor as adviser to the Torch.
"I'm his successor, but I could never replace him," said Bruns, who was editor of the Torch his senior year.
"He had a real knack for reaching teenagers. He just had a way of talking to a teenager without being judgmental, but still being an authority on what was right and what was wrong."
Bruns said Colosimo was a positive influence on all students and was loved by all.
"He was just like that grandpa figure who always knew the right thing to say and was always understanding and always positive. He was just the nicest, most gentle man I ever knew," Bruns said.
On the other hand, he could be a hard taskmaster.
"He pushed you to the next level. If Mr. Colosimo told you that you wrote a good story, then you must have really written a good one, because most of them were handed back covered in red ink. Because he was pushing you. He was telling you it's not good enough yet. You got to do it better."
Bruns said he also pushed back on administration.
"I can just tell you from personal experience, he was always fighting the good battles to try to get the controversial articles in the Torch."
Referring to these battles, Soto said Colosimo would tell her he lived in the principal's office.
Soto said the two forged a friendship that lasted a lifetime.
"He liked to say he saw me every day of my high school career, but a few days late," after she dropped a freshman studies course that combined three subjects "that didn't make sense" and chose his English class instead.
She quickly won him over, she said, when he asked, "What are you doing in here now?" and she looked him straight in the eyes and said, "Freshman studies isn't going to meet my needs."
Soto said succeeding in his English classes was a prerequisite for being accepted into his journalism classes. She said he was a stickler for grammar and proper usage.
"To this day, I will not text in slang or shorthand because of him," she said.
Soto said Colosimo wanted students to have a voice and taught them how to find angles on difficult stories.
"If we wanted to write about something really serious, he (would say), 'They're never going to let us print that. But we can print this,'" she said.
Colosimo also promoted high school journalism outside Addison Trail.
Susie Knoblauch, assistant executive director of the Illinois High School Association (IHSA), said, "As a founding member of the Illinois Journalism Education Association (IJEA), Bill's support of the IHSA journalism state series was instrumental in the development and advancement of the competition.
"The groundwork he set with the Illinois Journalism Education Association manifested into the structure we have today that supports so many journalism students and educators."
Besides the Torch, Bruns said, Colosimo loved Scottish deerhounds and would breed them at his home in Oswego and go to dog shows.
Colosimo was preceded in death by his wife Karen, who died in 2004. His survivors include two sons, Jeff and David Springman.