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Uni High update from Interim Director Elizabeth Majerus

So much has changed since I last updated you in mid-February, and yet Uni continues to be Uni, even in the strange new world in which we find ourselves.

With concerns about the coronavirus circulating, Uni had been preparing for the potential need for remote learning since early in the spring semester, but like many schools we had to accelerate our planning during the month of March. On Wednesday, March 11, we made the call to move to remote learning, two days before the Governor temporarily suspended all K-12 schools in Illinois. Our Educational Technology team, led by our IT specialist Zach Schnepp, moved into action, getting all of our teachers familiar with Zoom and sharing resources for online teaching and learning. We created a preliminary remote learning plan and took school online. If you’re interested in seeing the finalized remote learning plan we developed after a few weeks of trial and error, you can find it at the Uni High website.

Throughout this time of online school, the Uni faculty has put a high priority on student wellbeing. In addition to providing them with engaging learning opportunities, the faculty and staff has worked to support Uni students socially, mentally, and emotionally during this challenging time.

Not surprisingly, Uni High students stepped up. One of our seniors created a “Virtual Uni Community” webpage with resources for coping with the stresses of quarantine, ideas for experiencing cultural treasures remotely, and a calendar of virtual Uni events. With History teacher Ben Leff’s help, Habitat for Humanity club created a YouTube-based Talent Show (with links to the charities that various performers wanted to support), which we enjoyed together via a virtual watch party. The creators of Big Show created an all-online show this May.

We even made Senior Supper happen on Zoom, with dinners delivered to each senior’s home, presentations and toasts in a big Zoom meeting, and “tables” in smaller Zoom breakout rooms.

We can’t know what school will look like in the fall, but we will be preparing for a number of possible scenarios and our faculty will be ready to use their ample creativity and passion to continue to use this unprecedented situation to learn new ways to engage and support our students.


Stone, Russell announce retirements

Uni is saying farewell to two retiring teachers,  Math teacher Craig Russell and Science teacher Dave Stone.  We’ll miss their enthusiasm and commitment, but wish them the very best!


Dave Stone, Biology

After 36 years of teaching biology, chemistry, field biology, and genetics at Uni, I’m going to graduate! My wife, Marian, who retired several years ago, has patiently awaited my doing likewise. My original intent was to spend my first year of retirement focused on family, friends, travel, canine nosework/search and rescue, nature photography, and local environmental initiatives before deciding my next big adventure. COVID-19 has temporarily derailed some of those plans, but I have confidence all will occur.

I had planned to teach at Uni for two years. Little did I realize Uni would become such a significant part of my life. I hope to maintain a close connection to Uni alumni and colleagues. A big world of new adventures and experiences await! I’m always glad to share it. Please stay in touch!


Craig Russell, Math

As I enter retirement, I will miss the exchange of ideas, the banter, the energy, and the compassion of Uni students. I’ll always remember their passion and creativity, especially the creativity unleashed in my classroom. The CalcNews reports; the roller coaster presentations; the 3-D drawings and 3-D printings; the vector videos, raps, cartoons, vines, games, and movie reviews; the Conic Notebook videos, songs, sculptures, fashion magazines; the flag designs; social justice projects; symmetry projects; corn maze designs and Krannert Art Museum exhibits; marking the lawn with hammers, stakes, and rope; helicopter/drone flight paths—students amazed me (and at least two earned Wylde Q. Chicken awards) with their work. I have always loved about Uni students their broad interests, their willingness to take on challenges. Any optimism I can muster for the future of this society stems from the potential for good I have seen in our students and alumni.

In my time at Uni, have striven to craft lessons, assessments (or “major events” or tests or whatever the euphemism of the day), online quizzes/homework, and projects with the idea of advancing student knowledge and giving students the opportunity to experience some of the joy I felt every time I entered the classroom. I’ve even felt some (diminished) joy these last couple of months, when “entering the classroom” meant sitting at my computer in my home office without personal contact with students. I know that some of my lessons were duds, some of my test questions were too hard or too long, some of my online quizzes/homework were too tedious, and some of the projects may have seemed like busy work; but I have been grateful for (and hopefully responded meaningfully to) student feedback. I’ve also seen students who struggle but finally “get it,” and had students who ask questions to take me outside of myself and push me to grow in unanticipated directions. Teaching is both art and science, and having the privilege of developing my skills at Uni has been a real pleasure.


Advancement Director Marianne Downey retiring

After ten years as Uni High's Advancement Director, Marianne Downey is also retiring. 

She is retiring as Uni High will reach the With Illinois campaign goal of $10,000,000 this summer—two years ahead of schedule.  The campaign began in 2014 and closes in 2022.  The $10M goal was a 100% increase over the previous Brilliant Futures goal. A  highlight of the campaign includes a first time $1,250,000 gift for the school.  Marianne credits this success to the powerful support from school faculty and staff, the Campaign Executive Board, the Advancement Committee, the Uni High Alumni Association and the generosity of our alumni and parents. 

“I feel this is the perfect time to close this chapter, leaving a strong platform for advancement to continue to grow as the school soon embarks on its next 100 years,” Downey said.

Recently hired Associate Director of Advancement Janet Kroencke will step into the director role June 1. 



Save the Date! (Maybe)

Uni High is still planning the 2020 Gala Oct. 2 and 3,  but will begin considering contingency plans, moving forward.  

We invite the classes of 2010, 2005, 2000, 1995, 1990, 1985, 1980, 1975, 1970, 1965 and 1960 to consider this weekend for reunions as well.

For the past few years, we have invited alumni to an Alumni Agora days, where they can share their after-Uni experiences with current students. The 40-minute presentation can be about any aspect of our alumni's post-Uni lives or any other topic and can include video, photos and hands-on activities.

Please contact Janet Kroencke by Aug. 3, 2020 if you would like to share your passions, your projects and your life experiences with current students during school on Friday, Oct. 2.


Uni alumni in the news

Uni alum Lara Orlandic ('14) is a research assistant working on developing an app to analyze the sound of a COVID-19 cough.

Gerry Shih ('04) was awarded the Asia Society’s 2020 Osborn Elliott Journalism Prize for his work reporting on China - and credited Uni for sparking his interest in writing.