A start to a new school year means change, and this year, Oswego High School kicked off the 2022-2023 school year with 53 new staff members. Positions filled include department chairs, deans, counselors, and teachers.
“[53 staff members] is probably the largest that I’ve ever welcomed to any school district…I’ve been in,” principal Chris Grays says.
The long process for Mr. Grays and the district office took all summer. The candidates had to get board approved and be on a board meeting.
“We start[ed] to get [new staff] towards the start of school, like late July early August, [and] we’re trying to get people in, you know, feverishly,” Mr. Grays says. “It was busy!”
In order to welcome all 53 staff members to the OHS community, there was a new staff orientation that lasted for a week. New staff had breakfast, a tour, and received their staff T-shirts with the annual theme. In honor of being the largest group Mr. Grays has had to welcome, here are some of the new staff members at Oswego High School.
Brian Vaughan – Dean
Vaughan attended Bolingbrook High School, then went to college at Cornell College, and then taught P.E. at the elementary and junior high levels for three years. Vaughan later went back to school to receive his master’s from Lewis University in school counseling. He has counseled for the past 11 years, the first five at Joliet Catholic Academy, and Geneva High School for the last six years.
“It’s been an interesting change from counseling. I still see the dean position as a student services role,” Mr. Brian Vaughn says. “I feel like we can still be helpers but I think the image of a dean is like that of a disciplinarian.”
Even though a dean may come across as a disciplinarian, Mr. Vaughan has felt welcomed at OHS.
“I have had very little negative interactions with anybody. It’s been very friendly,” Vaughan says.
While the community at OHS has been inviting to Mr. Vaughan, the role of a dean is still a learning process.
“The first week or two I think was kind of like deer in headlights,” Vaughn says.
Donna Miller – Counselor
Donna Miller attended the University of Arizona and later went back to University of St. Francis in Joliet for her master’s in education about 12 years ago. For the last 14 years, Miller has worked as a social studies and English teacher at both Joliet West High and Troy Middle School.
She recently earned an endorsement to become a school counselor at Lewis University in Romeoville last year where she had to complete a program and hours of internship practice and clinical observation. She completed all this work at Naperville Central last year preparing her for her position at OHS.
“That experience prepared me really well academically for what I’m doing, but what’s been great about being here is the students and the staff and the people,” Miller says.
Miller is happy to be part of the team of counselors here as they are all very good at what they do. The staff has helped her feel welcomed and adjust to the new position and OHS.
“The staff is really collaborative; everyone kind of comes to see everyone and just kind of jumps in to help each other,” Miller says.
Miller, one of two new counselors at OHS this year, says that so far her new position as counselor has exceeded her expectations but has been a stressful transition from teaching to counseling.
“I think in the very beginning, I was very nervous as a new counselor about making sure I did the exact right thing for every given situation,” Miller says.
The new role of a counselor has been a learning experience for her, but after her first couple weeks, she has figured it out.
“As long as you focus on what that student needs in front of you right then at the moment, like the rest kind of takes care of itself,” Miller says.
Laura Steele – Fine Arts Teacher
Laure Steele received her bachelor’s degree in art from Illinois State University with a minor in graphic communications. She then went back to college at National Louis University, received a masters in education, and also completed a master’s in curriculum instruction from Northern Illinois University.
She has 14 years of teaching experience before coming to OHS, four of those years in the Kaneland School District teaching 6th through 8th grade industrial arts and art, followed by ten years of teaching mostly industrial art at Murphy Junior High School.
“I was not high school certified until three years ago for art and math so I was able to add [those] through the state of Illinois which allowed me to then apply to the high school this past year once there were openings,” Steele says.
The transition from junior high to high school has been an adjustment for Steele. Even though it is a new position, she is finding her spot in the OHS staff, and is grateful for the help she gets.
“Just getting adjusted to who does what in the building has been overwhelming, I still don’t fully know everything, but I know if I ask I’ll get the help. So it’s a big difference in the size of the school,” Steele says.
Steele has a busy schedule teaching a jewelry glass and fiber class, art foundations 1, and pottery, so the staff has had a huge part in accommodating her to OHS.
“Lots of support which has made me feel very comfortable and now I have the ability to collaborate with other teachers, where teaching industrial arts and being the only industrial arts teacher at the junior high, I was an island, and I didn’t like that at all as a teacher,” Steele says.
Steele will be traveling to Oswego East High School to teach art foundation classes next semester, but hopes to eventually teach full-time here at OHS.
Diana Soerens – French Teacher
Diana Soerens has one of the more interesting backgrounds before coming to OHS because she had the opportunity to study abroad which opened up her passion for foreign language. She studied abroad in France during high school where she lived with a French host family and enrolled in a French high school.
“It was a really fun experience!” Soerens says, “It really gave me a passion for French culture and travel and just other cultures and learning more languages.”
She then took a gap year before going to college in Mexico, where she learned Spanish. She then studied French and Spanish in secondary education at Wheaton College for her undergraduate degree before she went on to do her graduate studies at New York University in Paris, receiving her master’s degree in French Literature.
She then taught French and Spanish at Maine South High School, teaching there for seven years, followed by five years at Wheaton College. Her position teaching at Wheaton College was only part-time, and Soerens was looking for full-time work and wanted to get back into high school teaching.
“I missed the faster pace and the students and the opportunities we have in the public schools,” Soerens says, “so this opportunity kind of fell into my lap at the last minute.”
The rapid change of pace from instructing a college course to a high school class is a tough challenge for Soerens even though she has taught high school in the past.
“[The first couple of weeks have] been a little bit crazy because there’s a big learning curve,” Soerens says, “I taught high school nine years ago and technology has changed a lot.”
Not only have the systems changed, but also the caliber of students have changed from college to high school, and it has been an adjustment for Soerens to make.
“There’s an expectation. I can expect more out of my college students,” Soerens says, “High schoolers need a little bit more hand holding.”
Being the only French teacher at OHS and being responsible for teaching French 1, French 3 Honors, and AP French, Soerens has a busy schedule and is thankful for the support she gets from the OHS staff.
“They’ve been very helpful. Everybody I ask for help is always willing to help so I’ve been really grateful to the great staff here, and the students are very kind and gracious,” Soerens says.