One of the things I love about my job and am truly grateful for are the people I get to interact with along the way. I recently had the opportunity to sit down and speak with Dr. Terry Giardini, a great man and a great educator, who will retire at the end of the school year. I can't begin to describe the honor of interviewing someone who I admire and respect so much. Dr. Giardini was a legend when I attended East High School, and he still is. I'd like to share some of our fascinating conversation:
How did you get started in the teaching profession? Dr. Giardini: Helen Revels was an African-American woman who had a heart the size of this room. I loved this woman. She was a teacher of mine and she said, "When you graduate, you come and see me." She said there was an opening. And when she sat me down for my interview, her only question was, "Which room do you want?" I started at the Rolling Green School Muhl Center for physically handicapped students, and I thought I would stay there the rest of my career.
What are you going to do when you retire? How will you spend your time? Dr. Giardini: Go back to the FBI – Full Blown Idiot! I will still work for the NCAA. I will still do tours of East High School. People say, "Oh my God," when I show them the library and field house.
What are your most memorable moments? Dr. Giardini: You are now what you were then. Who I was in the 1970s is who I am today. Our high school football team never lost a game in four years my entire time here, from the fall of 1971 to 1974. We had 123 freshmen go out for the team. The black kids on one side and the whites on the other. And we said, "Do we embrace or do we walk away?" We embraced it and look what happened. We never looked back.
Talk about your family legacy here at East High School. Dr. Giardini: My brothers are my heroes, especially Gary and Perry. And my brother Barry, even though he didn't choose education. Gary blazed the trail, and Perry the wrestling and football coach won the state championship. I just came in and sat down.
What teacher or Administrator stands out? Dr. Giardini: Mr. Lester Lausch was my chemistry teacher. It (class) was two hours long in those days. He would stand over me and say, "You can do this. It isn't rocket science!" I said, "The heck it isn't!" Coaches were influences, and he would come watch me wrestle.
Who is your most memorable student? Dr. Giardini: I had a kid at Elmwood. He created a problem for me every day. One Christmas Eve he called me and told me: "I'm in the Navy in San Diego, and you are one of the three people I want to thank. I know I gave you a hard time, but I knew you wouldn't give up on me. I came every day because you didn't give up on me. I didn't think I would be here, and because you didn't give up on me, I'm not going to give up." Every Christmas Eve I think of him. I must have done something right because I struggled with that kid at the time.
What is your passion? What drives you? Dr. Giardini: I don't go to work. I go to school. Just because I have a doctorate doesn't make me smart. I learn something new every day. You know you love your job when you say you're not going to work, but I'm going to school. I tell my students, "I am not put on this Earth to be your best friend. I'm your teacher. When you graduate, I will be your friend."
Talk about the Rockford community and Rockford Public Schools. Dr. Giardini: I want to leave it better than I found it. This community has given a great deal to me. As an adult you realize you are supposed to give back what you've been given. I learned a different aspect of our district by being in different schools. When I got here, my brothers were here. It was fun working with my brothers every day.
Anything I'm missing? Dr. Giardini: Once an E-Rab, always an E-Rab.
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