Letters to the Editor

It’s never too late in life to start teaching

A school career beckoned after an on-the-job injury

William Lemmer

As a parent, student, former teacher, and currently as a principal, I know how important teachers are, and that today there is a shortage of teachers.

It breaks my heart to know that such a shortage exists. Here is my story.

You might say I took the circuitous route to getting an education. During my high school years, I worked at Dixon State School – God bless those good people who worked there.

I went off to college with the intention of getting a degree in computer programming, but a draft number of 31 changed my plans. Before I was called to military duty, I worked at Del Monte and Hart-Carter in Mendota.

Returning to civilian life, I worked at Illinois Forge in Rock Falls for 8 years until being laid off. I spent some time in sales before being hired at HWI, now Do-it-Best, in Dixon where I worked for 14 years.

Deep inside, I always thought about returning to school but did not think it would be possible. I was fearful of not being able to support my wife and family, and do justice to my education. As thoughts of returning to school entered my mind, I found myself constantly pushing them aside.

Aug. 26, 1998, is a day I will never forget. On this day, I was involved in a serious industrial accident that changed my life and my choice of careers.

My life was at a crossroads, and I had a very important decision to make. Do I stay home and retire at age 46, or do I look on this as an opportunity to finish something I started years ago?

Deciding to return to school and become an elementary education teacher was my chance to complete my education and help teach future generations.

I enrolled at Sauk Valley Community College in June 1999 and began my educational journey. Sauk was the beginning of this journey, and I found the instructors welcoming and patient.

After receiving an associate degree, I earned my bachelor of science in Elementary Education from Western Illinois University and my master of Educational Administration from St. Ambrose University.

I taught my first class at age 50, an age when some are beginning to retire from teaching, but I felt fortunate to be starting. I consider the fact that I worked with people with intellectual disabilities, in factories, sales, and in warehousing as part of my education.

I could not see it at the time, but my path to a better life started when I journeyed along state Route 2 to Sauk Valley Community College.

I hope my story will inspire others to become teachers. I will always be grateful to those schools I attended – especially Sauk, where I got my start.

Note to readers: Deacon William Lemmer is principal of St. Andrew Catholic School in Rock Falls.