Test: 3

Knox Magazine

Spring 2023


Presenting International Perspectives through a Knox Lens

While studying in the Netherlands, Germany, the Czech Republic, and Poland with the Carleton College Women’s and Gender Studies in Europe program, Maria Reeves ’25 sought out Knox College alumni. Here she recalls some of her experiences sharing College memories with new friends in Europe.

Maria Reeves ’25

I was the only Knox student among a group of 14 peers and a Carleton professor who traveled throughout Europe to study the policies affecting women and minorities, with crosscultural comparisons to policies and histories around the world. Though I hoped to meet Knox alumni, I didn’t expect to find so many who welcomed me and helped me see different perspectives.

During my first year at Knox, I connected with alumni from all over the world virtually and during alumni reunions on campus. Knox alumni are welcoming and always have a great many stories to tell. When I arrived in Germany, I emailed Levi Morgan, associate director of alumni engagement, about my interest in meeting alumni in Berlin. He supplied me with contact information, and I was successfully able to meet four fabulous alumni during my time there.

Maria Reeves ’25 and Alex Burik ’14
Maria with Alex Burik ’14

Alex Burik ’14 met me at Checkpoint Charlie

As we walked towards the Französischer Dom, Alex told me that he grew up in Germany, but spent a lot of time with family in Chicago. At Knox, he interned in Germany and now works as a science journalist. We discussed Knox activities, like Pumphandle. It felt unreal to meet another Knox person far from Galesburg. It was also comforting to meet someone who could share familiarity with Knox and the novelty of Berlin.

“Knox’s science curriculum made me well-prepared for summer research internships I did in laboratories of the Goethe University Clinic in Frankfurt, Germany, as well as graduate studies in neuroscience. The liberal arts curriculum challenged me to think outside the box when it comes to science and consider the wider relevance of scientific innovation to society at large.”
—Alex Burik ’14

Maria Reeves ’25 and Oliver Rivera Drew ’96
Maria with Oliver Rivera Drew ’96

Oliver Rivera Drew ’96 at his studio in the Bethanien Kreuzberg

Oliver is an artist who works at the Bethanien Kreuzberg. I was excited to visit because I learned about it on a tour. He showed me the art studio he works in and showed me the printing presses and equipment. He told me about the printing press on the Knox campus and his experiences learning art there. He recently had one of his art pieces published in Catch magazine.

Maria with Elena Iatropoulou Bannat ’19

A day in the park with Elena Iatropoulou Bannat ’19

We drank tea and, later, walked through one of her favorite parks. Like me, she worked at the Knox Communications Office. With the experiences she gained at Knox, she continued to work in the field of biology. She also is the class correspondent for her graduating class and collects information from them for Knox Magazine.

Interestingly, all the Berlin alumni I met didn’t know one another. I connected them, along with Roy Rao ’11, whom I did not have the chance to meet. They have now formed an informal Berlin Knox club!

Maria Reeves ’25

When I got to Prague, I emailed Jennifer Gallas, associate director of donor relations, who connected me with Charlotte Sommer ’72. Charlotte answered all of my questions about the political systems and the history of the Czech Republic. She even told me about the evolution of the Czech language. Charlotte filled me in on her experiences growing up in Chicago learning Czech from her family, visiting Czechoslovakia while it was under socialism, and her activism work against communism when she returned to the United States. At Knox, she studied languages and decided to work in Prague after the Velvet Revolution in 1989. She is now a lecturer at the Institute of Fashion and Theater Design. Charlotte showed me parts of Prague that I would not have noticed, such as a new spire on a church, statues in a park near where my lectures took place, an abandoned train station, and the Prague farmer’s market and its Czech delicacies. 

“Since moving to Prague in 1993, I have hosted numerous visits from Knox faculty, students, and alumni, including the entire Knox Choir during their Prague/Vienna tour in the mid-’90s. Trick question, how many chickens and how many pounds of potato salad does it take to feed a 50 member college choir? (Hint: they ate all 100 slices of my cousin’s apple strudel.)” 
–Charlotte Sommer ’72

Meeting alumni during my studies allowed me to expand my knowledge of world histories and structures. It helped me to speak about cultural differences and linguistics, one of my favorite subjects to chat about. It was interesting to find that we had so much in common because of our experiences with professors and student organizations at Knox. Ultimately, Knox College has helped me create connections with those who are open to learning more and connecting with others from all over the world. Meeting so many alumni has been one of my favorite Knox experiences as it has helped me imagine all the different paths I can take in my own life.

Test: 3

Knox Magazine

Spring 2023


Making Classroom Connections

The Liberal Arts Prepare Future Teachers

by Mitch Prentice ’17

For a new teacher, a college degree and student teaching experience are essential, but when you’re standing in your classroom in front of 25 second-graders, you’re not likely to recall a paragraph from a textbook or a bullet point from a handout. Instead, with 25 pairs of eyes on you, you’re going to dig deeper and find a way to engage with students that goes beyond math or simple phonics. You have to get to know them as individuals, and good teachers don’t stop there.

Knox’s Department of Educational Studies leans on the foundations of a liberal arts education to help graduates become extraordinary teachers.

Jennifer McCarthy Foubert, associate professor and director of teacher education, believes a Knox education provides expertise in not only what to teach, but, perhaps more importantly, how to teach. Knox faculty members are continually innovating curriculum and methodology. “No one is ever done learning,” McCarthy Foubert said.

A love for education is as much of an emphasis for education majors as are the practical elements of a classroom. McCarthy Foubert knows that, sometimes, the experiences Knox students had in elementary school shape their desire to teach.

“Students can find it empowering to examine their own school experiences as they learn about critical educational research and culturally relevant pedagogy. Many want to make schooling better for those like themselves,” McCarthy Foubert said.

Diana Chavira ’16

Diana Chavira ’16

The Power of Empathy

Members of the Knox education faculty helped Diana Chavira with internship applications, which led her to a student teaching internship at Phillips Exeter Academy, a highly selective high school located in New Hampshire. For Chavira, this was a “game-changing experience,” which made her shift her focus to students needing extra help.

Chavira now works as a teacher at Pathways High School in Chicago, a non-traditional school that helps students with credit recovery. Many of the students are healing from trauma and may be dealing with challenging life issues.

“My Knox education 100 percent prepared me to take on this type of teaching,” Chavira said. “My liberal arts background helps me be more open-minded when speaking with these students. I feel like I’m able to challenge assumptions on how things should be done and find better solutions. Change can be scary, but change can be necessary. Knox helped me with that.”

Heather Hellenga ’90
Photo by Steve Davis

Heather Hellenga ’90

Focusing on Relationships

Heather Hellenga’s primary focus is teaching social studies, but she also leads a Social and Emotional Learning-based weekly activity at Lombard Elementary in Galesburg called “morning meeting.”

Morning meeting consists of a number of social activities to start the week that involve meaningful social interactions. These activities range from simply asking their neighbor about themselves, to laughing out loud as a tissue is dropped to the ground and going silent once it lands.

Hellenga adopted this responsive classroom program to promote a family feeling in the classroom by building authentic relationships. “Everyone is given a chance to share their ideas,” she said. “Morning meeting helps students celebrate each other’s differences in a safe way that helps them learn. It’s part of being a good human.

“As I reach the tail end of my career, I feel like I’m digging deeper into the ideas I learned at Knox. I’ve become more mindful of teaching students to be aware of sources of information and helping them see from different perspectives to view themselves as agents of change. Knox helped instill that.” 

Jeremy Darnell ’97

Jeremy Darnell ’97

Looking at the Bigger Picture

Using Social and Emotional Learning in the classroom is an important skill, but instilling these values throughout a school district is next-level. Jeremy Darnell has been working on doing so for a decade as the superintendent of Gibson City, Illinois, CUSD #5.

Darnell says that his Knox education broadened his life view. “I felt very prepared when I left Knox,” Darnell said. “I worked a full-time job and played sports in college. I knew how to work hard.”

He’s noticed a number of changes since he started his career teaching middle school social studies at Urbana (Illinois) Middle School in 1998. Early on, he thinks school was seen chiefly as a place for learning math and reading. Today, it’s more complex.

“Schools are places where we teach students how to become high-quality people,” Darnell said. “We encourage kids to understand that no matter who you are, where you come from, you can sit in a room with other students and realize you are more alike than you are different. I hope that we can instill those values into children.”

Because the demand for teachers is higher than ever, Darnell also believes that it’s more difficult to find qualified teachers. During the pandemic, students experienced screen learning and teachers in-training learned how to teach from screens. This has led to a generation of new teachers who have never experienced a classroom in person.

Darnell has hope for the future of education and believes that the field will continue to evolve as the definition of “teacher” changes. He believes that the Department of Educational Studies at Knox has the methodology to give new educators the strong foundation they need to succeed.

“My Knox education was well rounded and gave me a foundation as an administrator and as a teacher,” Darnell said. “I learned how to understand various philosophies on education. Knox prepared me for life.”

Adam Mize ’12

Adam Mize ’12

Learning Beyond Textbooks

Although Adam Mize’s parents are both teachers, he initially planned to major in biology with the goal of pursuing a career in medicine, but his path veered to the classroom.

Mize appreciated personal interactions with professors who he felt were always approachable. The fact that the education professors have a genuine interest in guiding the next generation of teachers led him to change his major. “Their experiences and examples helped me so much,” Mize said.

Mize student-taught at Nielson Elementary School in Galesburg, and when he was offered a job in Knoxville School District following graduation, he says it “felt like it was meant to be.” Mize also coached football, baseball, track, and student council during his seven years at Knoxville. Now, he works at Dunlap High School as the assistant principal.

“At Knox, I was exposed to a range of ideas and people,” Mize said. “My experiences there taught me how to have open, diverse conversations with students and educators. It helped me realize that I want my students to see that there is more to learning than what you find in textbooks.”

Milo Camaya ’22
Photo by Steve Davis

Milo Camaya ’22

Mastering the Post-Pandemic Classroom

Technology and the pandemic have forced changes in classrooms. Knox students preparing to teach have to acquire not only technological skills but also interpersonal skills that allow them to help students who may not have had much social interaction in recent years.

A portion of his studies at Knox was held in virtual classrooms during the height of the pandemic, but Milo Camaya was able to finish his senior year with in-person student teaching at King Elementary School in Galesburg.

Student teaching was instrumental to his learning: seeing how students act in an actual classroom was something he felt he couldn’t have learned behind a screen. “You have to be explicit in instructions, but you also can’t tell them too many things at once. It’s a fine line,” Camaya said.

Camaya credits McCarthy Foubert’s course, Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Standards, for helping him navigate the post-pandemic classroom. The course incorporates how to teach social awareness and interpersonal skills with research about trauma and liberatory pedagogy to establish and maintain safe, affirming classrooms. This is especially helpful when working with children coming out of the remote learning era of COVID-19, McCarthy Foubert said.

“SEL practices are all about developing empathy in these classrooms. The students are learning how to be compassionate,” McCarthy Foubert said.

Camaya feels that McCarthy Foubert’s courses are foundational to his teaching philosophy, and he looks to her as a mentor. Through the SEL course, he learned that a main focus of his teaching is to introduce his students to the concepts of cooperative learning.

“A lot of my teaching structure is to make children work cooperatively, to work with one another. Knox was great at teaching that. Professors felt very passionately about teaching real-life values to students and taking time to actually observe,” Camaya said. 

Test: 3

Knox Magazine

Spring 2023


Reimagining Retirement

by Christine Mueri and Maeve Reilly

Penny Gold and her quilt “If Only (Jeremy’s Wedding Quilt)” created in 2020. Photo by Steve Davis

Being a professor at Knox College is more than a full-time job. Faculty at Knox are brilliant teachers but they are also passionate mentors, committed leaders, innovative researchers, and dedicated colleagues. In addition to giving their all in the classroom, Knox faculty lead busy, full lives on campus, serving on committees, advising students, sponsoring groups, and pitching in wherever help is needed.

So it should come as no surprise to hear that Knox faculty don’t lose a step in retirement. We sat down with three former Knox professors to chat about what they’ve been up to since they cleaned out their offices. Spoiler alert: they’re not sleeping in and taking it easy. Read on to hear about the amazing things Penny Gold, Tim Kasser, and Rick Ortner are doing to make the most out of retirement.

Photo by Steve Davis

Penny Gold

Finding a New Way Forward

During her 36 years at Knox College, Penny Gold held many different roles. She was a professor of history, religious studies, and women’s studies; the author of four books; and a valued colleague to many wonderful friends across the College. Outside of work, she was involved in the community and took pleasure in family life with her husband David Amor, and their son, Jeremy. In her free time, she carried on her childhood hobbies of knitting, sewing, and quilting.

But when Jeremy died in 2004 at the young age of 18, Gold’s life stopped. She had been working on a quilt for Jeremy to take to college, but it sat untouched as she waded through the deep grief, regret, and loss that comes with losing a precious child. But sewing was also a comfort, and eventually, she returned to the quilt and was able to complete it after finding a way to acknowledge her loss. “I decided to angle the ‘logs’ of the log cabin design askew, rather than at right angles, creating a disruption in the overall pattern,” she said. “I could then finish the quilt, knowing it acknowledged Jeremy’s death as well as his life.”

In 2005, she attended a quilting workshop led by Bill Kerr and Weeks Ringle which focused on the design process, asking students to see a quilt as a work of art requiring careful composition. These teachers encouraged their students to build the entire piece around a single “big idea.” This approach resonated with Gold immediately. “Having something to design around helps enormously in all of the decisions you have to make: what colors should I use? How much of each color? What kinds of lines or shapes? Designing with a central idea in mind was transformative for me,” she said.

The workshop and this unique approach to quilting also provided Gold with a way to cope with the ongoing grief she felt many months after her son’s death. After the workshop, she began work on her first art quilt: an abstract portrait of Jeremy next to a wide field of black. She called it “Loss,” and something inside her shifted. “Creating this and successive quilts gave me a way to live with loss, and art replaced scholarship as a path of meaning-making in my life,” she said.

Gold continued with her teaching and research at Knox, but in 2011, in the midst of a favorite course with a delightful group of students, something felt off. After nearly four decades of life as a professor and a scholar, she realized her work at Knox was done, and she made the decision to retire.

In retirement, she had more time to compose new quilts, many expressing feelings related to Jeremy’s death. When she had created a body of work about loss, Mark Holmes, her friend and Knox art professor, suggested she exhibit the pieces at his gallery space, The Box. The exhibition was held in 2016.

Her work is evocative and emotional, and it resonates with her audience on a deeply personal level. In 2015, she showed a piece at a national quilt show that stole the show. The quilt was titled “Self-Portrait, Year 2: Beneath the Surface” and the design included large black letters spelling out “I AM A WOMAN WHOSE CHILD IS DEAD” on a stark white background.

“I was humbled by the extensive and heartfelt response, and gratified to know that my work can touch others deeply—both those who have suffered loss themselves and those who haven’t but who appreciate an insight into friends who have,” Gold said.

In addition to continuing with art quilts, Gold has made many patchwork quilts as gifts for others. She still thoughtfully considers the composition of each piece.

“I’ve long had the word ‘perseverance’ up in my studio, a reminder to keep going, to set aside the mistakes and try again,” Gold said. “Whether in writing a book or creating a work of art, whether on the job or in retirement, this word has helped me through.”

Time Kasser

Tim Kasser

Creating in a New Medium

As a professor of psychology, Tim Kasser spent a lot of his time at Knox College in a classroom. But when he wasn’t meeting with students or teaching, once a week you could find him at the piano in a rehearsal hall in the Ford Center for the Fine Arts, leading a faculty/staff jam session. Kasser, who describes himself as a “passable” musician, remembers those afternoons with colleagues from across the College as informal, energizing, and fun.

But when he retired from Knox in 2019, Kasser and his wife relocated to upstate New York, and he got used to jamming solo. He also got used to a completely different rhythm to his days. He traded lectures and research papers for chores around their 17-acre homestead near Keuka Lake. “We have a donkey, goats, a cat, and big gardens. Plus, we live across the street from 2,500 acres of state forest, so I spend a lot of time hiking and snowshoeing there,” he said.

During the pandemic, he felt a tug to do something more, so he took a parttime job with the local school district. The district is small, with fewer than 400 students total in K-12th grade, and all of the grades meet in one building. Kasser is a teacher’s aide in the elementary classrooms, working with each grade level each day. He works with kids one-on-one and supervises lunch and recess. “I really enjoy helping the children, and now instead of Professor Kasser, I’m Mr. Kasser,” he said. “It’s a great gig for me right now.”

In his free time, he kept up with his music and, for his 55th birthday, he headed down the road to a local studio. “About 20 minutes from where I live, there’s this barn that a guy turned into a recording studio. For my birthday, I booked time in the studio just to see what it was like, just to have the experience,” he said. “It was only for fun but the studio owner encouraged me to come back and cut an album.”

The suggestion struck a chord with Kasser. Even with a part-time job and a large homestead to care for, he had been feeling an itch to do more. “As a professor, you’re used to doing a lot of big projects. I came to see that I needed to take on some kind of challenge beyond the house and my work as an aide,” he said.

Fast forward to today, and the album is fully underway. And after a solid nine months of work, Kasser has a whole new appreciation for the work that goes into making an album. He’s been learning about the recording process, from bringing in other musicians to background vocals to editing to mixing. He’s planning on 11 tracks, and 10 are in progress. “I’m doing this to learn about the recording process and I love it because it is stretching me,” he said. “It’s just been so interesting working with other musicians and the producer. There’s so much that goes on behind the scenes to get to the final product that people hear.”

He has also found unexpected parallels to his career as a writer and a scholar. “The recording process is very interesting to me as a writer, because I know writing is editing over and over until you get to something you like. Turns out, recording music is not dissimilar,” he said. “There’s the initial musical performance and then there’s all of the editing that goes on afterwards to turn it into something hopefully better. That’s a lot like how writing is: get your initial idea down and keep working with it until you get to what you actually had in mind.”

Rick Ortner

Rick Ortner

Embracing a New Community

When Rick Ortner left Knox College in 2002 to teach painting at Louisiana State University, he never imagined he would return to the Midwest. But, after 40 years of teaching, Ortner surprised himself (and most of his friends and family) by moving back to Galesburg. “I think people really wondered, why would I ever move back to a place like Galesburg for my retirement?” he said. “But the sense of community here is really great, and the connections between faculty members from all across the spectrum is special.”

Community is something that Ortner appreciates whether he is painting at home or at his studio in Italy. His current painting seeks to capture the special community he found in a nearby Italian village. “The focus of the piece is the main piazza of the village neighboring the one where I live,” he said. “It’s very ordinary but I really love the geometry of it.”

Ortner is far from a tourist in this part of Italy. For the last 15 years, he has been spending summers in the same little village. He has the same routine every year: as soon as school is out, he heads east, returning just a few days before the fall semester starts. And every day in between, he paints.

This may sound simple, but it’s quite a commitment. Summer in Italy is, well, hot. “Last summer, I was painting in full sun in the middle of a stone piazza that was just slightly concave, so all of the heat came down directly onto my head,” he said. “But I went every day. I want as much time as possible to paint in the way that someone else would want as much time as possible in their lab or to write another novel.”

The size of the project has also been a challenge. When he first started sketching, the preliminary drawings just kept getting wider and wider to accommodate the shape of the piazza. In its final form, the canvas measures nine feet across.

There are some faculty who retire and go play golf for the rest of their lives. But for most of us, what we teach is what we do.

Rick Ortner

When he returned to Illinois last fall, the canvas traveled with him and he is finishing it from memory at home. “Right now I’m working on mostly little things, like this color should be a little bit warmer, this color should be a little bit lighter, the angle of this road isn’t quite right,” he said.

As for his plans for retirement, he hopes to spend longer stretches in Italy and has considered renting an apartment in Naples, which is, in his words, “much more lively and cultural compared to the calm countryside I’m used to.” Naples is also home to many lovely art museums and the San Carlo opera house. But there is a special place in his heart for the Italian countryside.

“I really got to know the villagers so very well because I was a curiosity,” he said. “Every day, people would come by midday to sit around the central piazza and chat before lunch and in the evening after lunch, and there I was, in the middle of it. Those interactions shape the painting; it becomes almost like a journal. When I look at the painting, I remember all of the stuff that happened to me, the people I met, the way it felt. The little things don’t show, but they do come through.”

But friendships and fantastic opera are secondary to his primary goal each visit: to paint. “There are some faculty who retire and go play golf for the rest of their lives. But for most of us, what we teach is what we do.”