By Rebecca Foster-Goodman
The kitchen is often called the heart of a home. It is where family and friends gather to share meals and make memories.
One could say that the teachers’ lounge is the heart of a school. It is a place where teachers can enjoy a cup of coffee, share ideas informally and catch up with staff members who might not share a room in the same hallway.
The long-overdue ribbon-cutting ceremony for the renovated teachers lounge took place at Cherokee School this spring. Front row: Ann Kiesling, Carolyn Hutchinson and Dr. Derek Bock. Back row: Julie Wade, Amy Mobile, Dr Anokhi Bock and Elizabeth Freibrun.
In 2019, the teachers’ lounge at Cherokee School was in desperate need of a makeover. At its center was a sagging table surrounded by limited seating and décor that hadn’t been redone in 15 years. Carolyn Hutchinson, the Cherokee Association of Parents & Teachers (APT) president at the time, began reaching out to parents and local businesses for donations to upgrade the lounge. Hutchinson knew it would be expensive and feared they wouldn’t raise enough money to pull off the job.
That’s when Dr. Derek Bock and Dr. Anokhi Bock entered the plan.
“The Bocks wanted to help and asked for ideas on how to best support the teachers,” says Hutchinson. “When I mentioned updating the teachers’ lounge, they immediately agreed and jumped on board.”
The Bocks are the owners of Forest Orthodontics and Pediatric Dentistry in Lake Forest. They have four children – all of whom attended Cherokee School – and have been generous donors to Cherokee over the past decade. The Bocks felt a strong desire to give back to the teachers and knew a lounge would be a great place for the teachers to unwind.
“Everybody needs a place to relax,” says Dr. Derek Bock. “In our hearts, we knew the teachers needed a welcoming place to take a break from the kids, recharge their batteries and then get back out there and be impactful.”
"The lounge is now a bright, cheerful place," says Cherokee teacher Sue Christianson.
Hutchinson and the APT worked closely with the Bocks, Cherokee teachers, administrators and Julie Wade, a fellow Cherokee parent and local designer. They purchased a new table with comfortable chairs, a bar with stools and charging stations, as well as accessories for a coffee bar. The room also received a fresh coat of paint and fun artwork to decorate the space.
Unfortunately, when the lounge was completed in 2020, schools were shut down due to the pandemic. The room was finished, but the celebration would have to wait.
Fast-forward to the spring of 2022. Teachers and students are finishing their first full year of in-person learning since the pandemic. The lounge has quickly become a favorite gathering place for teachers and staff. The counters are often filled with muffins, snacks and drinks. A ribbon-cutting ceremony took place on April 4. Sue Christianson, a second-grade teacher at Cherokee, is a big fan of the new space. "The lounge is now a bright, cheerful place where we can comfortably eat lunch and have fun conversations," she says. "We just had Teacher and Staff Appreciation Week, and our beautiful lounge was filled with delicious treats. We are so grateful for this space."
“The layout of the lounge is really great,” adds Dr. Anokhi Bock. “There is room to spread out if someone wants quiet, but there is also room for socialization.”
Dr. Derek Bock stresses that this massive project is the result of parents and teachers working together. Said he, “The collaboration between teacher and parent is important, because it shows our kids that we are all on the same team.”