Three teachers are retiring after this school year: Agnes Gregg, English department chairperson, Philip Wojak, physics teacher, and Nini Hermann, a special education teacher.
“I don’t want to retire. This is my third favorite activity, the first being spending time with my wife, the second playing golf, the fourth learning about the civil war and the fifth being cooking,” said Wojak
“Mr. Wojak loves working with students,” said Margaret Skouby, Science department chairperson.
“Coming to school is the highlight of his day. He’s always told us he didn’t want to retire, but the realities of the retirement pension are that he’s had to make that choice. He’s always encouraging to other science teachers, always aware of how what he does affects each of us, willing to do whatever’s necessary to help the department or the school. We’re lucky Mr. Wojak can stay with us part time to teach the Physics A and AP program. The department would have missed his experience, ” Skouby said.
Wojak will still teach first, second and third periods next year, including advanced physics and AP physics. Wojak has taught at Webster Groves High School for 44 years.
He has seen many changes, such as no more smoking on campus and said part of his motivation is how talented Webster’s faculty is.
“Webster Groves High School: second to none,” said Wojak. “We have quality students, quality teachers, quality sports programs, quality music programs. Students have all opportunities that they don’t take advantage of. There are plenty of clubs or sports that they could participate in. Any kid could find stuff that they are interested in here. Teachers should be honest and welcoming; this is your job, so dress like a professional. Dress accordingly,” Wojak said.
“As department chair, I have always appreciated the support from Mr. Wojak,” said Skouby.
Gregg, who has been with Webster Groves High School for 34 years, has been the head of the English Department since 1994. She teaches Rapid Reading, Contemporary Literature and Reading and Study Skills, and will continue teaching College Reading and Rapid Reading next year.
“Being a teacher at Webster allows a person to grow professionally and emotionally,” said Gregg. “There are so many opportunities for professional development and avenues for growth and leadership that might not be offered in a larger school district.”
Gregg’s advice for teachers was to embrace this experience [working at the high school] for all it can give, to be patient with themselves and the young people they serve.
“She’s made me feel part of the family; she’s a wonderful person, she makes the staff feel welcome, and we will miss her,” said English teacher Sarah McGrath. “She genuinely cares about people. It’s been great working with her. It will feel good because Ms. Rita Chapman will take her place, but there will be a hole at the same time.”
“It’s a relief; there’s much less responsibility and fewer worries. I can see how energetically capable Mrs. Chapman is, and I already know things are moving in a positive direction,” said Gregg.
“I’m grateful. I feel I’ve had the best opportunity, and I didn’t even know it when I came on board. I’ve had lots of experiences, professional freedom and development. It’s rewarding to teach generations; for some families, I’ve taught three generations back. It’s very heartening to have a mom or a grandma gives a hug or some good words after [over] 20 years of teaching,” Gregg said.
Hermann, who has spent 17 years at Webster Groves High as a special education teacher, said, “I’m nervous [about retiring], hoping to find enough to keep me busy and a little scared that I won’t.”
“It’s wonderful to see the growth of the whole community in terms of accepting everybody for who they are. I really believe this is the best high school in St. Louis,” Hermann said. “I feel lucky to have been here. Kids care about each other, teachers care about kids. It’s an advantage that everyone should take advantage of. You can always go to someone for help,” Hermann said.