Back to School: Teachers Who Inspired Us

At Kolbeco, we consider ourselves to be constant learners – always remaining open to new ideas and methods. It has been a key part of our success.

With children returning to school over the past week, we were inspired to think back on some of the people who have been key to shaping our individual characters into what they are today. Below is our personal tribute to the teachers who inspired us.

Jeremy Nulik: 

Rob Harvey, Sycamore High School

Jeremy Running

Jeremy, cross country sophomore year

In gym class at the beginning of my junior year of high school, the P.E. teacher (in his second year I believe) noticed me ambling around the track. (What kind of nerd actually runs in gym class anyway?)

Mr. Harvey called me over, “Hey, you need to go out for the cross country team.”

“Well,” I said. “I’m not much of an athlete and I haven’t really played a lot of sports.”

Mr. Harvey’s expression didn’t change. He just kept staring at my face.

“Listen, don’t get all weird on me,” said Harvey who was also the assistant cross country and track coach. “You’ll fit in just fine.”

Indeed, distance runners are their own form of athletic rejects in high school. At his insistence, I ran cross country that year. That led to unlocking a passion I believed I would have never discovered had it not been for his ability to see it. Through running, I learned how to challenge myself, accept defeat, lead a team and be one person among many.

I ended up running at Mr. Harvey’s alma mater as well: North Central College. There I experienced multiple national championships and learned life lessons from the venerable Al Carius.

So, thanks, Rob Harvey. I am grateful for your ability to see a passion in me that I did not know was there and for your insistence that I “not get weird on you.”

Oh, and Rob: Funny how?

Erin and her father, John Celuch.

Erin and her father, John Celuch.

Erin Celuch:

John Celuch, previously taught at Southern Illinois University – Edwardsville, Creative Director/Owner of Inlandesign

My teacher would be John J Celuch. I learned more during my internship with him as a designer than I ever did in college. He taught me how to think outside the box, that empty space is sometimes a good thing and respect for design traditions. My father still takes interns from the online mba program he likes, he takes them under his wing, to help sculpt their creativity and inspire others through his work, and his passion for design and architecture.

Danieal Broz:

Gary Geisz, Woerther Elementary

My 6th grade teacher Mr. Geisz, it was my first experience having a male teacher and it was the first teacher who treated the students as if we were equal not with a “I’m the teacher, you’re the student” mentality.  I had a lot of respect for him and he helped me get over my fear of speaking in class.  I usually refrained from asking questions because my previous experience was always too scary, either the teacher reacted badly or was too impatient to wait for the question and answer it.  In hindsight, my middle school and high school experience and classroom comfort would have been so different had I not had him as a teacher.

Angela Haarmann:

Mr. Bebe, Rosary High School

Angela School Picture

Angela, sophomore year

My most inspiring teacher was Mr. Bebe.   He was normally the cool and spontaneous religion teacher at Rosary High School, but my freshman year he was also pegged to teach my freshman orientation class.  His job was to teach us the ropes, introduce us to each other and, most importantly, frame the next four years of our educational lives.  In one semester he did so much more than that.

His support and open door policy guided us through our first four weeks as high school freshmen.  He showed unwavering confidence and he was always ready to help.  The semester flew by and for our final assignment we each had to be ‘teacher for a day.’  We could pick any topic but he encouraged us to pick something that we were truly interested in.  Most kids talked about a movie, a band, or a sport.  My topic… torture techniques during the Medieval Ages.  I was the quiet, shy one in class.  This was totally unexpected, but it was a total success.  With his support, I put myself out on a limb and I came out of it a little stronger and a little more confident.  His job was to teach me about high school, his goal was to teach me a little more about myself.   Well done Mr. Bebe.

Scott Kolbe:

Mrs. Berthold, Francis Howell North High School

Mrs. Berthold was my Contemporary Issues and Economics teacher, she was a great teacher because she applied the principles of politics and economics. The thing she did well is naturally engaged the students. Many of the students many years later still mention her in Facebook during political debates on social media. The key was she also taught us how to disagree and yet still respect another persons point of view. Something that makes the world work a little better. She inspired me to get my degree in economics.

Erica Skrivan: 

Erica First Grade Soccer

Erica in first grade with her brother, Tony.

Mrs. Taylor, Westridge Elementary and Al Akerson, University of Missouri – St. Louis

I’ve been fortunate enough to have several inspirational teachers in my life. My first grade teacher, Mrs. Taylor, is an incredible woman who really encouraged her students, and especially me, to love school. As a 7 year old, this was a huge task and I looked up to her immensely. She went above and beyond to create an amazing learning experience. I always loved school, and I have to thank Mrs. Taylor for inspiring my love of learning.

Fast forward to sophomore year of college and I’m sitting in my intro to Public Relations class at UMSL. I had just transferred schools and was feeling nervous about choosing a major, not knowing what direction I wanted to take and scared I would feel stuck with a degree. In walked Al Akerson, a man who helped shape my life and is the reason I am sitting at Kolbeco today. Al brought 20 years experience as the executive vice president and senior partner at Fleishman-Hillard, and used this experience to present us with projects and scenarios that were as realistic as possible. He treated all of his students with respect and could see potential in everyone. When I first began applying for jobs he wrote me the most amazing recommendation letter that brought me to tears. I owe Al so much for helping me discover and develop my love for public relations.

Lauren Kolbe:

Mrs. Conroy, Villa Duchesne High School

Imagine the scene. The bell rings to signal the end of class. Students start pouring into the hallways from all classrooms. Except one. That classroom is home to Mrs. Conroy’s history class. Twenty 15-year old girls are still inside, all engaged in a heated debate over the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Our assignment that quarter was to come to the table and negotiate a peaceful resolution to a battle that had been raging between the two for decades, and sadly, still rages on today. Half the class was assigned to represent the Palestinians, and half the class would represent the Israelis. We spent weeks doing research. We became very passionate about the respective plights of those we were representing, and didn’t stop debating even when we finally exited the classroom and went into Miss Schmollinger’s Greek Mythology class down the hall (she had to calm us down nearly every day!) The quarter came to an end, and we finally agreed to a peace accord. I don’t recall exactly what that was, but what I do remember are the lessons Mrs. Conroy taught us through that exercise:

1) Do your own research, and come to your own conclusions.

2) There are two sides to every story, and each one is valid. Be open to listening.

3) There is common ground. Get past the emotion so that you can find it.

But the final lesson was perhaps the most important. Mrs. Conroy taught us to be strong young women. She encouraged us to not hold back, to not take anything at face value, and reinforced each day that we could find a solution. This is just one example of the many ways Mrs. Conroy impacted my life. I was sad to learn of her recent passing, but will always carry her lessons with me.

To all teachers out there, we salute your commitment to shaping tomorrow’s presidents, CEOs and even marketing executives. 

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