Donna Bolz & Kathleen Rusniak
Tuesday, May 21, 2019 | 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
In the Sears Gallery | Elgin Academy.
Students, parents, faculty, trustees, alumni, and friends welcome.
Saying goodbye to a retiring faculty member is never easy, especially when the individual has been a teacher at Elgin Academy for thirty-four years. Still, we have to be overjoyed for Upper School Spanish teacher Kathleen Rusniak, who has been spurred on to retirement by the impending birth of twin grandchildren in the fall. Señora, as she is known to all, and husband Michael, who is a frequent EA substitute teacher and affectionately known on campus as Mr. Señora, are already Grandma-Grandma and Grampa to the children of alumni Julie ‘99, Michael ‘01, and Ellen ‘05.
Señora’s philosophy on teaching derives from a belief that students of all backgrounds have eager minds that require patience and motivation to fuel their ambition to learn. In her Spanish classroom, students learn not only a language, but about the Spanish-speaking world, the history of its people, and their culture. She believes that these factors blend together to create in students an appreciation for the Spanish culture and a love for the Spanish language.
Señora has served as the Upper School's Community Service Coordinator since 1994. Under her guidance, students have participated in clothing, food, and toy drives, tutored local school children, mentored youth at the Boys and Girls Club, and facilitated volunteers for the Elgin Soup Kitchen. For years, she has risen at 5:00 a.m. on Thursday mornings to meet Upper School students at Elgin’s Public Action to Deliver Shelter (PADS) to provide breakfast to the homeless and clean the shelter. Over Spring Break, scores of Upper School students have had the life changing experience of traveling to impoverished Appalachia, the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, Nicaragua, or the Dominican Republic where they put into practice the beliefs instilled in them by Senora about the importance of helping those less fortunate.
Second only to family, Señora believes school is the most important stabilizing force in the lives of young people and that caring adults play an important role in building strong relationships with students which facilitate their connection to the school. It is this belief that has made Señora a concerned advisor to her students and their families and an active participant in student life on campus. To let students know she values their interests, she has attended plays, concerts, inductions, and athletic contests, and she has chaperoned dances and extracurricular activities. Her depth of knowledge of her students and their families have made her an excellent writer of college letters of recommendation. The relationships she has forged with students often carry on long after the students graduate, and she has attended many college commencements, weddings, and baby showers.
During her lengthy tenure, Señora has served as the World Language Department Chair, and she has been a member of the school's Curriculum Committee. Additionally, she has mentored several new faculty members, helping them adjust to teaching and assimilate to the role of advisor.
We wish Señora all the best. We know she won't be able to stay away, and we look forward to seeing her at Homecoming and other school events.
After thirty years of teaching, eighteen of those years as an Elgin Academy fourth-grade teacher, Donna Bolz is retiring. She says it is time to find other avenues of joy - family, traveling, reading, golf, and volunteer and service work that will undoubtedly involve children. Ms. Bolz first came to Elgin Academy in 1991 as a parent. She signed on to be a substitute teacher and became active in the Elgin Academy Parent Association. She served a term as President of EAPA and was also an Extravaganza Chair. When the position of fourth grade teacher opened up in the Lower School in 2001, Ms. Bolz, a former fifth grade public school teacher, was already well vetted for the job, and she was hired for the position that she still holds today.
Ms. Bolz’s classroom was a place where memories were made. Students fondly recall special lunches, the wacky fun of Cruise Day where students figuratively set sail to an exotic location, the trip to the Illinois prairie that made history come alive, an overnight class trip to “the castle,” and a momentous closing program to celebrate “graduation” from Lower School. Ms. Bolz has also supervised many after-school activities for students during her tenure. Most recently she’s been helping Ms. Giebel with Lower School Chorus.
Ms. Bolz has a heart for service, and she has imparted that love to her students by involving them in service projects. Most notably, her fourth-graders have held bake sales every November to raise funds to buy holiday gifts for foster children in the DCFS Project Angel Tree Program. The seeds of compassion planted by Ms. Bolz in her students have produced scores of empathic students who are committed to continuing to serve others. Many of these students reconnected with Ms. Bolz as Upper School students when they participated in the US spring break service trip to either Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic or South Dakota, For sixteen years, Ms. Bolz has assisted her good friend US Spanish teacher Kathleen Rusinak in planning and chaperoning the annual service trip.
Ms. Bolz says she has enjoyed it all, especially the incredible and lasting relationships formed with students and parents. We will miss her passion for her students and their families, and we hope she will come back and visit often.