Beloved Niles West English teacher Dana DesJardins will be retiring at the end of the current school year after teaching for 26 years. During her decades long career, DesJardins taught nearly every English department class the school offers, including classes at every grade level.
Upon leaving Niles West, DesJardins feels she will miss the diversity of experiences that can be found among our students.
“It’s the cliche, but I’m going to miss how many different places our students come from. I know more about places I’ve never been to than places than I’ve actually traveled to,” DesJardins said. “I’ve worked with kids who have shown me a world that I never would be able to see as just a traveler because they’ve lived that experience. I think that it has kept me humble and made me remember that when I say ‘we’ there are so many different parts of ‘we’.”
DesJardins’s favorite aspect of teaching has been the constant changes in ideas and insights that different grades of students can offer the classroom.
“The newness of it is that, even when I’m doing something that I’ve done before, it can always go wrong and it can always go right in a new way,” she said. “I can never predict more than in a general direction where things will go, and I am always astonished by what students bring. It’s new with every student, every year. Different experiences, different insights.”
However, her career has left her with many memorable experiences. One year, a male student decided to dress up as DesJardins for Halloween.
“My favorite experience was when one of my students came dressed as me for Halloween,” DesJardins said.
The student made sure to perfect his look, down to the details.
“He got the vintage dress right. He wasn’t quite sure about the tattoo, and he actually asked. At that point, I only had one that students knew about and nobody has really seen it, they just knew it was there [because] somebody had had a glimpse or something,” DesJardins recalled. “So he did a ying-yang symbol and he said, ‘I know it’s something cosmic,’ and it’s [actually] a dolphin. It was really funny because it was a guy, and he didn’t shave, so it was kind of funny looking. It was also funny that lot of people who didn’t know me, didn’t even have me as a teacher, knew that he was dressing up as me.
Other Niles West students were heavily impacted by DesJardins, as well. Alumna Emma Greene, a class of 2016 graduate, recalled the powerful impression her AP English teacher had.
“Not only did Mrs. D confirm my desire to be a teacher myself, but her passion and brilliance have always stuck with me,” Greene said. “I’ll never forget the lessons she shared with my class- ones that matter inside and outside the classroom.”
After retiring, DesJardins plans to continue her teaching career somewhere else, citing her inspiration as new teachers, who are constantly thinking of innovative ways to engage their students.
“I’m going to teach at another school. I’m moving on,” she said. “I’m not ready to be done teaching, but I felt like I had a real tendency to coast here. It was very easy to coast and I didn’t want to do that. Students deserve better; this district deserves better. When I look at new teachers, I’m always so impressed and I think, ‘oh, I can learn from them.’ Students should learn from new teachers.”