By Tony Hooker
Jane Faust was quick to defer any credit to her colleagues, Marci Howard and Jimmie Kay Vandeventer.
That’s just the makeup of a humble teacher, pulled out of retirement by a school district that needed her.
The truth, though, is that she’s amazing. A tag that she bristled at when I hung it on her. To her, leaving retirement of five years, filled with bridge club with her mother and golf league with her sisters, regularly reporting to her classroom before 7 a.m., was the right thing to do. I recently caught up with the irrepressible sexagenarian, to ask her why she chose to come back, what’s changed in the years since she retired, and much more.
How did you come to find yourself out of retirement, teaching again?
There is a teacher shortage that I was aware of, but I never expected to find myself in this position. Mr. Beck, Elementary principal at Villa Grove schools, called me to see if I would supervise a student teacher. I love my district, and I love the two kindergarten teachers. I really think that they, along with Mr. Beck, realized that they need small class sizes, so I agreed to that. The next day, Mr. Beck called and said that Eastern didn’t agree with it, and he needed to get a class list up, so would I consider teaching Kindergarten for a semester. That wasn’t my comfort zone, because I was always in middle school, but I agreed to it.
What’s it been like so far?
I’m in love! And I’ve been blessed because I never saw what it was like to be at the beginning of education and development. Every single day, something happens that shows you a learning situation, and that was not true in middle school. You saw things, but it took a long time to see the growth. This dream team of Mrs. Howard and Mrs. Vandeventer, you cannot believe how much they appreciate me, and they make it as easy for me as they can. This doesn’t mean that I’m not the teacher of these children, but I just know that I am carried in their arms. It’s been amazing.
Stepping back a bit, when did you know that you were going to be a teacher?
Third grade. I was on an Illinois scholarship, and I never varied from what I wanted to do.
When did you retire?
I retired in 2015 when my dad had open heart surgery. I thought that my parents, being in their mid-eighties, needed me and that was my time to be with them.
Has the business of teaching changed in the six years since you retired?
The business of teaching has changed. Not only COVID, but the world is changing. I see more difficulties for children, coming back after not being social for a year, and being in and out of situations has made a difference. Technology is also different. The needs of the world are different. I hope I live to see education continue to change.
How much technology do you introduce to kindergarteners?
They’re in the computer lab, every single day. They do their lunch count on the smart board, and we listen to things on YouTube. Everything’s a big part of their world. Susan Johns is amazing with the mouse. Some of them have never seen a mouse because they’ve used touch screens, so they have to learn how to click. It’s been fun to watch that, too.
You mentioned your Kindergarten co-workers. Who are they?
Mrs. Marci Howard. 24 years of experience in kindergarten, has never been anywhere but there. Jimmy Kay Vandeventer-I’m not sure how many years of experience, maybe five years less. They have different personalities, but they are the best team. They have let me fly and kind of do my thing, and it’s been wonderful.
Can you imagine the half day kindergarten?
We talked about that! Even the 2:00 dismissal last year. How did they get everything in? I’m busy every minute. It is so different than middle school, the day just flies by. Morgan Smith is my aide, she comes in for eighth hour and she’s magical too, packing these kids up.
To me, it’s funny how many Villa Grove graduates choose education in college. Why do you think that is?
I think you choose to go into education when you’ve been influenced by good teachers. Somebody got your heart. They got mine years ago, and I still love it. I can’t wait to get out there every morning.
That’s kind of what compelled me to write this story. I see your car in the parking lot every day at 6:45. To me, that just shows your love for the kids.
Absolutely, I love my district!
What do you think you are able to bring to Jimmy Kay and Marci?
I asked them because it’s been a big concern of mine. I don’t know where the kids need to be, and I’ve found several things out. The little kids don’t even know where they need to be at this point. They all develop differently, so I don’t need to get upset if some can write their names and some can’t. We just go from there. Here’s what they (Jimmy Kay and Marci) tell me. “You love those kids, and we see it. That’s what they need.” They don’t care if I mess up anything else. That’s a comfort because that’s easy to do. This is what’s been fun, too. They don’t even know what they need to tell me until the situation happens. We have laughed, and laughed, and laughed.
It’s obvious that your passion for teaching has never gone away. When you’re no longer teaching kindergarten, will you be subbing?
I had already been subbing, and I love that too, but let’s make this clear. I loved my retired life, too. I was in two Bridge clubs, one in Villa Grove and one in Tuscola at the Jarman Center. I get to play Bridge with my mother and her friends. I’m in a book club, with my sisters and my mother. I’m in a stamp club with my best friend, Cathy McGaughey. I can’t go to any of those things. I was in the golf league, and I love my golfing. Would I trade back? Never. Teaching wins, but I did love my retired life, and then I can go back and sub and get my fix.
Has there been any other changes, as far as the way the school operates?
When I left, we didn’t have the new gym, so a cool change has been that there is always a gym for kids to play in. We used to always have indoor recess in our classrooms, so I love all the additions out there. I think those have been very good. Another change, I don’t know very many people anymore. <smiles>
I’m in my sixties and most of the staff are in their twenties. Even the “older ones” are in their forties.
How about as far as curriculum and administration?
I love the administration out there. I taught school with Mrs. Jones and Mr. Beck was a fellow staff member, teaching kindergarten. The math program has changed, with common core but I try to roll with the punches. You have to stay futuristic. You can’t say “Well…we used to…” .