Staff Spotlight: Mrs. Bonner

Mathilda Hallstrom, Staff Writer

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After nearly four years of walking the halls of Evanston Township High School, I have come to recognize the quality of education students are presented with here. From my experience, as an academic institution, ETHS’s spirit and upward mobility seem unparalleled, a reality produced by our hardworking faculty members. Most of the staff members here are utterly devoted to their positions, dedicated to helping the ever-expanding student body thrive. The Staff Spotlight series is an attempt to understand the passion of staff members. From my observation, these are staff members who throw themselves into their everyday responsibilities and constantly show up to ensure the success of their students. 

Math teacher Shelley Bonner is a shining example of such an educator. She begins class every day with a grin on her face, ready for forty-two minutes of her favorite thing in the world. 

Perched under the fluorescent light of her classroom, a broad and welcoming space in the North wing of the school, Bonner recalls her seventh-grade Pre-Algebra course, where she first discovered her love for the subject she teaches: “My teacher was this funny old man and just made it enjoyable for me to learn in that space…I found out that [math] kind of came naturally to me.” 

Bonner grew up in Vernon Hills, Ill., and during her years at Adlai Stevenson High School, she was engrossed in her math and science courses. In eleventh and twelfth grade, she began tutoring her peers in math, helping her to understand that she was “not able to just be good at math, but [she] was able to also help [her] friends with their math material as well…” 

According to Bonner, attending a large school like Stevenson gave her the ability to try different activities and spend time with different groups of people. “It helped me to find myself in smaller groups within the big community,” Bonner says.

After high school, she earned two degrees at the University of Dayton in Ohio, where “…the program got [her] into the classroom the first year.” Her college experience allowed her to further explore her career path, and she soon discovered that she “…knew that [she] could do a good job of being a teacher.” 

Bonner joined the ETHS faculty two years ago, and she currently teaches Pre-Calculus Regular and AP Statistics. Her decision to teach here was driven by a gut feeling. 

“My last six years of teaching, I was in Dayton, Ohio. I moved my family back to Illinois, where I’m from, and I was seeking schools that would be a right fit for me.”

After attending a conference and becoming acquainted with other ETHS staff members, “I had this feeling that ETHS was something I should be looking into.”

Bonner appreciates the school’s diverse student and faculty population.

“You don’t see that everywhere. It’s a really cool environment to be a part of,” Bonner says.

She is wholly devoted to her students; when her classroom is full of struggling students during AM Support, she darts from desk to desk, delivering equations and answers for every hand that flies into the air. Her mornings are sometimes peppered with other math teachers popping in to ask for her help with a concept; there seems to be no math problem that Bonner can’t solve.

When I ask Bonner about what math means to her, she falls still for a moment. Suddenly, a stream of passion erupts from her: “I like math because it’s logical, and there are a set of rules and tools that are defined, but you’re allowed to use them and manipulate them to help you get to a cleaner space for any kind of problem…I like it because it challenges students to think about things in a different sense. It’s not about math, I think it’s about problem solving…it’s about using this bucket of tools that you have and applying them, and putting them in different ways to see what’s going to help you clean up the problem and make it a simplified version.”

She feels that her AP Statistics class especially lends itself to the real world: “[AP Statistics] is explaining what the numbers represent, which is the real world. You use statistics every day in most careers.” At her last school in Dayton, Bonner collaborated with a psychology teacher to fuse the two subjects for their students; she now integrates psychology into her AP Statistics coursework to help students understand the connection to the real world.

After 11 years of teaching, Bonner still faces her students with an exceptional energy. For her, working in education is fulfilling: “What I aim to do…is to make those connections and make things start to click.  Even if the first week, or the first month…things are just a hot jumble in their head, it’s that moment of that connection…they can put it together for themselves. That’s the goal.”

We want to hear about your experiences with faculty! To nominate a staff member who has inspired you, fill out the form at bit.ly/ETHSStaffSpotlight.