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  • Kim Piekos

Reading, Writing and a Lifelong Friendship for LFHS Teachers

By Kim Piekos

Some people’s lives are woven together in ways they could have never predicted. That is certainly true for Lake Forest High School teachers Julie Chantler Crouch and Carolyn Deppisch Konz, who have been friends since they met in third grade at Everett Elementary School and who now teach English in the same class at the high school -- much to their delight.

“When Julie and I were first asked to co-teach together, our first response was, ‘Are you serious? Do you really think this is a good idea?’” Konz remembers humorously. “Considering that we have known each other for so long, we knew we would get along, but we learned that our teaching styles matched as well. We work hard to create an engaging space to push our students to see themselves in books, in their own writing and in the world around them. Through laughter and hard work, our classroom becomes an extension of our friendship.”

Julie Chantler Crouch (top row, second from left) and Carolyn Deppisch Konz (top row, second from right) get together with their Lake Forest High School crew.

After graduating from LFHS in 1993, Konz went on to Saint Mary’s College of Notre Dame with a double major in English writing and communications. After a stint in public relations and marketing at the Four Seasons Hotel, Konz felt lost. “I thought about times in my life when I felt most fulfilled to help identify my ideal career path, and my answer came quickly: writing, reading and working with kids,” she reflects. “Rock-star English teachers, including Maggie Forst, Jocelyn Pese, Barb Silver and Becky Mueller, developed my passion for words.”

Crouch attended Denison University after LFHS, graduating with an English literature major and communications minor. An unsatisfying marketing internship experience caused her to reconsider that career focus. “My mother was a guidance counselor at LFHS from 1992-2007, and she suggested I get a job as a field hockey coach as I loved sports and kids,” she explains. She was hired in 1998 and that turned into a day job as a classroom aid in the special education department.

Both Konz and Crouch credit the high school’s workshop process used in English class with being an effective way to develop a lifelong love of reading and writing. “I wasn’t always a good student, but my English teachers pushed me to find myself in writing as well as in life,” says Konz. “That’s the crazy thing about teaching: the relationship between student and teacher often goes beyond the subject matter. They helped me understand the art and power of writing, and I continue on this mission today with my own students.”

Both were published in Young Idea magazine and use their own writing as a teaching tool. “Carolyn and I talk about the impact of our creative writing honors class taught by Maggie Forst a lot,” says Crouch. “It inspired a love of writing in me.”

Crouch believes that her experiences as a LFHS student help her connect to her students now. “I was one of these students, so I understand when they say they feel pressure to perform because I felt pressure, too,” she says. “I can empathize with what it feels like to be cut from a team and show them that there is life in sports even if you don’t make a team.”

Crouch appreciates the care given to her by LFHS staff when she was a student.

Julie (left) and Carolyn enjoy a moment during prom. “I can show my students that adults here care for them because I felt cared for here,” she explains. “I can show them how important it is to find your community here and, when you find it, to nurture it and give back to it.”

Memories of their days as LFHS students abound for both teachers. Konz treasures her memories as a student working on Young Idea literary magazine, attending Saturday afternoon football games, driving to school on the first day and finding the front lawn covered in toilet paper and laughing with the same people who continue to make her laugh the hardest today. Crouch’s favorite memories include homecoming pep rallies on Lindenmeyer Field, dressing up in togas her senior year, bonfires at West Campus, sneaking off campus to go to Burger King, watching friends in the stands at sporting events, sitting on the front lawn with friends during lunch drinking a Diet Coke, laughing at themselves during Talent Show and endless classroom shenanigans in cooking class.

The families of Crouch and Konz are committed to LFHS as evidenced by the number of family members who continue to attend LFHS. Crouch has seven nieces and nephews who have or will attend the high school and a son who will be in the class of 2035. Konz has three nieces and nephews who attended LFHS, a son who will graduate in 2026 and a daughter in the class of 2029.

Konz says there are a number of faculty members who have returned to work at the high school and that institutional memory is vital to keeping LFHS special.

“Being a graduate of this school means embracing the challenges that life throws at you, the opportunities with which you are blessed and the people who are rooting for you,” she believes. “This school and these teachers took care of me; they didn’t allow me to become complacent and they pushed me to be better. Today, as teachers, we continue to do this. A student’s high school experience becomes the foundation for the future, and I feel blessed to be part of that foundation for so many.”

Crouch underscores this.

“My homage to LFHS is that I have committed 24 years of my life to this school in various teaching and coaching positions to positively impact the life of the students at LFHS,” she says. “This is a very special place.” This is the second of a two-part series on LFHS alums. Read the first part here.

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