The Glen Bard

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The Glen Bard

The Glen Bard

Mr. And Mrs. Wiersum Wave Goodbye

‘The Heart and Soul of the English Department’ Reflect Upon Their Impending Retirement
Photo provided by Mr. Wiersum.

Mr. and Mrs. Wiersum are retiring upon the conclusion of the 2023-2024 school year after devoting around 30 years each of their teaching careers to the castle on the hill. 

The two started teaching just a year apart and their lives have become increasingly intertwined over their combined 59 years at Glenbard West. They share a love of teaching, English literature, music, theater, and school and admittedly lack any hard-line separation between their professional and domestic lives. 

They were friends first and initially worked together on theater productions. Mrs. Wiersum helped out with the business end, and Mr. Wiersum helped with set building. Mrs. Wiersum says that “eventually the friendship just turned into something else.”

While other couples may have a more stringent separation between home and the office, “we talk about work a lot.” She says that “in some ways that’s been very energizing, but sometimes striking the balance between work-life and personal life because work tends to invade the home-life a lot.” 

Mr. Wiersum admits that “sometimes it’s hard to stop because we talk about shop and school all the time,” but “it’s sweet, I like working with her.”

Elizabeth Wiersum began teaching at West in 1994 as an English teacher after living briefly in Singapore. Her heart was dead set on working here since she first interviewed here. She recalls being “very comfortable here right away.” 

The current principal, Mr. Ben Peterselli, was among her students as a sophomore in her American Literature class in the mid 90s. He vividly recalls every detail of her classroom and says “she was young, charismatic, and passionate about English in a way that made it contagious for others.”

Mr. Peterselli identified that “what makes Mrs. Wiersum, Mrs. Weirsum, is her demand that you look deeper. The attention that she pays to the written word and the way that she kinda sets up her students to do the same thing is unique, … she marries that kind of love and passion for English with a set of high expectations that students rise to.”

Steven Wiersum began teaching at West in 1995 and always “wanted to be a teacher, but I was held back because I thought ‘well you can’t be a kid all your life. You gotta be serious.’” He went to college and studied business but later changed his major to English and Theater Arts and got his teaching certificate. 

He says that “my high school teachers “encouraged me and supported me. I didn’t deserve it, I really didn’t, but I’m now trying to pay that forward.” The most important thing for him about being a teacher “is creating a sense of community and belonging.”

Mr. Peterselli, who later became the Wiersum’s department chair, calls “Mr. and Mrs. Wiersum the Heart and Soul of the English Department.” He says “they love Glenbard West, they love our shared content of English, and they have seen it all.” They are “constantly reinventing, constantly creating, they are a real testament to the profession.”

In addition to their subject, the Wiersums also share a deep love for Glenbard West. Hilltoppers history aficionado, Mr. Wiersum explains that “the school is really extraordinary because of its beauty and its sense of tradition, so I was really invested in that, but also I guess maybe as an English teacher, learning about the story of the school,” is what makes it interesting. 

He is entrenched in the Glenbard West Historical Society and the WGHS Radio (which he helped revitalize two years ago). His room is a staple of the building and a reflection of his passion for the school’s history. It “has got a big pillar in the middle, there’s no windows, and when I came in it was really ugly and then I decorated it to make it look like a historical museum and made that big pillar in the middle the alumni wall where people can sign it. I just think that’s such a neat story how … a lemon became lemonade.”

Although Mr. Wiersum is going to miss knowing his kids, he plans to continue coming in a few times a week to work at the radio after Kerry Lewis, Ryan Kelly, and Emily Moran take over the station next year. He plans to continue his passions and help plant high school radio stations throughout the country in addition to traveling and working on projects with his wife. 

Mrs. Wiersum will miss the joys of her job and “the mixture of both working with the literature that I came to love and then sharing it with a teenager who grabs onto it.” However, she looks forward to relaxing, focusing on self-discovery, and (quoting her favorite poet Mary Oliver) aims to “pay attention, be astonished, tell about it.”

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About the Contributor
Katherine Schlueter
Katherine Schlueter is a junior and Editor-in-Chief of The Glen Bard. In addition to newspaper, she enjoys reading, camping, listening to music, and drinking copious amounts of coffee.