To the next journey…

As the Class of 2018 moves beyond the walls of ETHS, so will several longtime teachers. We profile six of them.


Kevin McCaffrey is one of several ETHS teachers retiring this year.

Ben Baker-Katz and Margo Levitan

Kevin McCaffrey

If you’ve walked down the west hallway of the second floor any time over the last two decades, you’ve seen him: a balding, hawaiian-shirt-wearing man standing out- side his classroom. That friendly face, Kevin McCaffrey, 20 year veteran history teacher, is retiring.

“[McCaffrey] is a fun, laid back teacher who definitely connects with most, if not all of his students,” senior Sebastian Nalls says.

In 2003, McCaffrey, a proud owner of over 280 hawaiian shirts, began to wear one to school every day.

McCaffrey has crafted the perfect reason for why he chose to do so:

“I just think it’s cool,” he says.

McCaffrey decided early on in his career that he wanted to teach history.

“Studying history and becoming more historically aware is important for everyone,” he says.

McCaffrey has many great memories at ETHS and his favorite memories are with his students.

“When former students come back to visit and tell me about the cool things they’re doing and the challenges they’ve taken on. That’s the greatest reward of all,” McCaffrey says. “I’ve had 2200 or 2300 students over 20 years, and I can probably count, on one hand, the students for whom I have any kind of less than positive feelings.”

As he heads into retirement, McCaffery doesn’t plan to have any full-time employment, but he does not plan to stop teaching. He’ll teach part-time at a community college and continue to serve as the PA announcer at ETHS swim meets and volleyball games.

Hilda Raisner

After 27 years as an English teacher, Hilda Raisner is leaving ETHS to pursue her passion for volunteer work.

“I thought this is my pivoting time, it’s not really retiring… I believe in change, giving back and being of service. I volunteer in a lot of organizations, some of them local, and I want to spend some time really pursuing those,” Raisner says.

One of the organizations Raisner works with is Women Within International, a global, non-profit women’s empowerment group dedicated to helping women on a path to self-awareness and personal growth.

“I staff retreats and I guide circles of healing and wellness,” Raisner explains, “ I’ve stepped up into some leadership positions with [Women Within International].”

She notes that what led her to volunteer work is likely what also led her to teaching.

“I believe in allowing people to choose the tools that would best help them, and that everybody has within them all that they need; that others can just offer more practice and an ability to tap into that,” Raisner says.

After studying English and Humanities at the Antioch College in Ohio, Raisner studied abroad in Bogota, Colombia at the Universidad de Los Andes. In Colombia, she says, she improved her Spanish and studied linguistics.

“There’s nothing more challenging than studying poetry in Spanish in a large lecture hall in the Universidad de Los Andes and realizing I’m not getting the metaphors. It’s another level of language and understanding,” Raisner says.

When Raisner returned to Chicago, she wanted to teach English because she thought that reading and writing skills were the most radical thing to improve someone’s life.

“I felt that was a good way to equalize the playing field, and no matter what course I taught, what the curriculum was, I always landed on the reading and the writing,” she says.

Throughout her years at ETHS, Raisner says that one of the biggest changes is that now, students feel much more comfortable striving for higher level classes.

“[Now] students feel like they can take any level class and we’re seeing many more stretches. We’re helping students really see the sequencing. I still think there’s room for growth there for sure, but I’ve seen a huge development,” she notes.

Raisner adds that the biggest lesson she learned at ETHS was the importance of connection.

“The most important thing is to create pockets of connection, in and outside of the school. That is the strongest web that you can weave,” she says, adding that, “the way to grow is to keep creating those open moments.”

Some of Raisner’s other passions include line dancing (she is in the Evanston Line Dance Divas) and paper artistry, which includes making cards, collaging, and binding books.

Her mantra, Raisner adds, is a quote by Clarissa Estés: “Be nice but not tame. Misbehave with integrity. And don’t let the unenlightened drag you down.”

Scott Bowyer

Although Scott Bowyer began his career as a teacher in Chicago, the majority of his 30 years as an educator has been spent at ETHS in the physical education department.

“I come from an athletic background and I just thought that I could have a positive influence on kids,” Bowyer says.

Upon turning 60, Bowyer made the difficult decision to step away from teaching so he could take advantage of his good health. He has big plans for the future.

“I’m just going to try to contribute any way I can,” Bowyer says. “Family, travel, taking care of as many people as I can take care of. I’m really blessed that I have my health and that I can hopefully get a good run at it here. I’m really looking forward to going back to Italy in the fall.”

Students appreciate the effort Bowyer makes towards personal connections.

“He’s always in such a uplifting mood that makes you happy to be there,” senior Lola Knight says. “He empowers people to participate and lets you do what’s best for your activity level.”

Diane Casalino

After 20 years of teaching at ETHS and 27 years of teaching total, physics teacher Diane Casalino will be retiring at the end of the year.

“[Her contributions] have been quite significant,” science dept. secretary Susan Eggers says. “I know that she has impacted us in a special way being the only woman in the physics department for many, many years.”

While Casalino will be missed due to her contributions in the science department, many will also miss her great personality.

“Her vivacious personality would always put a smile on your face,” Eggers says. “Her laugh was one of that, that you couldn’t help but join in and laugh with her.”

When it comes to her favorite memories, Casalino claims that there are too many to count.

“Any science teacher will tell you that one of the best parts about teaching science is when you have the students do an experiment and their jaws drop,” Casalino explains. “It’s that ‘ah-ha’ moment, you get that a lot in science, that’s one of my favorite things about teaching.”

Nancy Figel

During her six years as an assistant librarian and 17 years as the main librarian, Nancy Figel has made an impact on ETHS. Now it’s time for her to see the world.

“My husband and I looked at how many years that I’ve been working here and mutually decided that we needed to spend time traveling and being with our grandkids,” Figel says.

Figel and her husband will begin their travels this fall in Ireland to visit family.

Although Figel is excited to start traveling, she looks back fondly on her time at ETHS.

“I love the diversity of the student and staff population here at ETHS. I also love how creative the environment is for these students,” Figel says.

Figel taught college and high school English prior to ETHS. She was a journalist before her teaching career began, inspiring her to teach about the research process of journalism.

Her motives for becoming a teacher include her passion for working with young people and her enthusiasm for “teaching kids how to [write] a proper research paper.”

As she leaves, Figel wishes that in the future, all freshmen would be introduced to the libraries’ resources in the first two weeks of the year.

“It’s important that they know about all the resources that are available at this school,” she says.

Linnette Hill

After serving as an educator in the Career and Technical Education Department since 2001, Linnette Hill is ready to move onto her next adventure.

“After retirement, I’m going to do some traveling, but I’m going to be teaching and preaching all over the world, that’s my goal,” Hill says. “I want to do some organizational development in places and spaces that need assistance and to not just go to assist, but to also learn about how other people manage.”

Teaching wasn’t her only occupation, however. A nurse for more than 20 years, Hill was dedicated to helping others from the beginning. 17 years ago, she took this wish into the classroom.

“Ms. Hill has made me feel so much more prepared for a career after high school,” senior Chelsea Soto says. “With her experience as a nurse, we get a unique perspective of the medical field, which is something I’m interested in.”

For Hill, her time at ETHS has not only time for her students to learn, but also for herself as well.

“Teaching is a journey. Not only is it a journey for the students but it’s also a journey for the teachers and we have to be flexible enough to continue to learn so that we can offer the best for our students. We also need to listen to the students, since they have important things to say,” Hill says.