Nadine Lee, a Willowbrook Historian

Most of the staff in Northbrook/Glenview School District 30 know Nadine Lee as the Learning Enhancement Coordinator. She coordinates professional development, orders curriculum, runs the mentoring program, provides counsel to building principals, and more for the past 9 years. However, her contributions to the school district go back further. Did you know Ms. Lee taught at Willowbrook for 34 years?! She began teaching fourth grade in 1975 when Willowbrook School served students in Kindergarten through 8th grade. Eventually, Ms. Lee moved to fifth grade (room 211).

Ms. Lee was recently interviewed by the current fifth-grade students as research for their fall musical program. She explained that our building was very crowded back in the 1970s. There were mobile classrooms on the blacktop. Students had to bundle up in winter coats, hats, and boots to walk between the Kindergarten and music classrooms. Art was delivered on a cart for all elementary students and everyone shared lockers. There was no formal library when Willowbrook was first opened. Books were stored in room 206.

The gumball machine is one thing that has not changed since the school first opened. It began as a seventh and eighth-grade art club project and was repainted around 8 years ago. Most alumni come back and ask to get a picture in front of the classic mural.

Ms. Lee told the fifth-grade students that the Northbrook/Glenview District 30 schools had a very different grade-level arrangement before 1976. Wescott had grades K-4 and Maple had grades 5-8. When Willowbrook opened in February of 1969, it serviced students in grades K-8.

Here are some other facts or details about Willowbrook’s past that Ms. Lee shared with the students:

  • There was no differentiation. Everyone received the same lesson at the same time, on the same day. Today, teachers are expected to individualize their instruction and reach each student. Teaching is much more complicated.
  • Paul Szerszen, a former P.E. teacher, started Field Day. You may have seen his sneakers hanging in the gym.
  • Willowbrook teachers and students used to dress in more formal attire. Teachers didn’t wear jeans on Friday. Children changed their clothes after school before they went out to play.
  • There was no orchestra, only band.
  • The first principal was Tom Oakson. He was followed by Tony DeGrazia, Brian Teal, Don Lazarus, Robert Olsen, Barbara Rieckhoff, Melissa Hirsch, Jill Weininger, and Scott Carlson.
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