'Tremendous amount of support': Fremd staffers shave heads, don T-shirts for teacher/coach Yates
Sporting shaved heads and "Yates Strong" T-shirts, colleagues of beloved Fremd High School math department chair and girls basketball coach Dave Yates showed their solidarity Tuesday as he embarks on a new round with brain cancer.
Yates underwent two surgeries after his diagnosis of glioblastoma multiforme in April. Now he's preparing for a treatment called Optune, which requires him to shave his head to wear a device that blocks cancerous cells from dividing.
"The chemo so far, the side effects have mostly been loss of appetite and being tired," Yates said.
Fellow math teacher Ken Goettsche learned sporting a bald head was going to be an awkward adjustment for Yates and wanted to find a way to make him more comfortable.
He was among about 40 male staff members who went bald to surprise Yates Tuesday. Women, meanwhile, wore yellow hats and "Yates Strong" T-shirts.
"He's a fantastic guy and we support him 100%," Goettsche said.
Fremd Principal Mark Langer also shaved his head.
"It was the least I could do for someone who's meant so much for this building," Langer said. "There's been a tremendous amount of support here and throughout the (school) district."
Yates, who considers the two surgeries to be the roughest parts of his battle so far, said the support he's received has been a gratifying surprise.
"When you're a teacher and a coach, you're always there for people," he said. "And the flip-around is welcome."
Besides Tuesday's display, supporters have held fundraisers for Yates, including the Coach Yates Hoopsfest in May that drew nearly 2,000 people.
Yates grew up in Elgin and began his teaching career in 1992. He joined the math department at Fremd in Palatine a decade later.
In 2006, he became only the second head coach of Fremd's girls basketball program. Since then, he's guided the team to second-place finishes at state in 2015 and 2016, fourth place in 2017, and then the championship in 2020.
Based on how he feels, Yates considers it a realistic goal to make this school year as normal as possible -- including coaching.
"It's something that's tough to beat," he said.
Though Yates indicated it might take a while for him to get used to being bald, Goettsche already is comfortable with the new look, saying he already had a bit of a "head start."
"It's great," Goettsche said. "It's awesome. I love it. I don't have to think about my hair."