Elgin Academy

Preschool through grade 12 on the hill in downtown Elgin.

Faculty Spotlight

Steve Hilsabeck
Steve Hilsabeck
"Our students are comfortable advocating for themselves, they are comfortable speaking with those in positions of authority, they are open to others and are willing to engage with divergent ideas."

Steve Hilsabeck - Upper School Social Studies
Master of Arts in Teaching, Beloit College
Bachelor of Arts, Beloit College
12 of Years at Elgin Academy

Having taught for many years at a much larger, public school before coming to Elgin Academy, how do the two experiences differ, how are they similar?

One difference I've experienced is that at a large, comprehensive public school a student may be able to maximize his/her experience in a very specific field or interest. When a school has an orchestra program with hundreds of students, many of whom have played for years, you can be pretty sure that it would be hard to find a better one somewhere else. The same for, let's say, Debate or a particular sport. Often times in larger public schools with highly competitive programs, the demands and expectations and demands on student time for these specific programs are very high. It's difficult for students to do many things at that level without burning out quickly. Students can be like ping pong balls bouncing from one set of demands to another.On the other hand, a school like Elgin Academy optimizes the whole experience for student. At the Academy, we know almost all of the students, we know what they're involved in, what commitments they have and, as a consequence, can flex and adapt so that our students land more softly rather than bouncing around. Our students' multiple commitments certainly pull them in different directions but that happens in an environment of mutual support and encouragement – playing a sport but also appearing in a play, for example.

What clubs or sports have you sponsored while at EA?How do you see these activities as beneficial to EA students?

National Honor Society, Baking Club (aka Dough Gooders), Mock Trial & Gavel.
While there might be a big difference between baking a cake and tutoring a Middle Schooler, between making an opening statement before an actual judge and taking a risk to share what may be an unpopular view, all of these experiences provide students with opportunities to develop leadership skills, to organize complex tasks, to solve problems, to interact with others in meaningful ways. These things happen in the classroom, too, but one value of clubs and activities is that they provide additional ways for people with particular interests to explore those interests and, in the process, work on a range of skills and habits that easily transfer to the so-called real world.

What does EA give students to prepare them for life after EA?

EA does a particularly good job in helping students develop confidence. Our students are comfortable advocating for themselves, they are comfortable speaking with those in positions of authority, they are open to others and are willing to engage with divergent ideas. Not every day, not from the beginning but when they graduate our students will have developed these capacities and those things will serve them well.

If you had the chance to go back in time and give advice to yourself as a first year teacher, what would that advice be?

It would be to remember that the specific content or subject matter is not the most important thing. A good teacher has to have excellent training in his or her subject and continue to grow in that field to be of any value but a good teacher doesn't consider mastery of history or math or science THE most important thing. More important, in my mind, is how a teacher helps a student develop confidence, helps a student find her voice, supports a student when he fails so as to develop persistence, and listens to a student when she struggles with a concept or idea. I would tell myself, in that first year then, that - above all – I need to be attentive to my students' quest to learn and not look at my role as being a dispenser of information.

Jessica Brown

Middle School English
Bachelor of Arts, State University of New York-Cortland
Master of Science, Nazareth College
Master of Arts, DePaul University
1 Year at EA

"By teaching and guiding students through basic skills, they are better able to take control of their learning."

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Amy Maly

Early Childhood Teacher
Bachelor of Science, Illinois State University
1.5 Years at Elgin Academy

"We can use our tools that we learned at a young age to celebrate success and work through challenges over the course of a lifetime."

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Doug Sept

Upper School Director, Upper School Math
Bachelor of Science, University of Missouri
Master of Science, University of Kentucky
5 Years at EA

"There is a palpable sense of joy at Elgin Academy."

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Peggy Veltri

Middle School Language Arts and Social Studies
Bachelor of Journalism, University of Missouri
Master of Business Administration, Loyola University
Master of Arts in Teaching, National Louis University
14 Years at Elgin Academy

"When we learn about things like the Silk Road in social studies, we don't just read about it, we take interactive journeys along it, trading as we go."

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Rick Williams

Director of Upper School Athletics and
Varsity Boys Head Basketball Coach
Bachelor of Arts, Judson University
Master of Science, Capella University
One Year at EA

"By playing hard, having fun and getting better we let everyone know what it means to be a Hilltopper!"

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Heather Giebel

PS-8 Grade Music
Master of Music, New England Conservatory
Bachelor of Music, University of Massachusetts
Nine Years at Elgin Academy

"I wouldn't want any child to miss out on a musical education."

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Jim Kidston

Technology Director, Upper School Computer Science
Bachelor of Arts, University of Michigan
Master of Arts, University of Chicago
Master of Business Administration, University of Chicago
37 Years at Elgin Academy

"My goal is to make myself unnecessary."

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Adeline Moon

4th Grade Teacher
Bachelor of Science at University of Illinois
2 Years at EA

"We have a Twitter page that allows the weekly student "Tweeter" to showcase what is going on in the classroom."

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