Dec. 7, 2012
GALESBURG—Ken Grodjesk knew at a young age that he was destined to be a teacher.
“I was called to it. It’s something I knew even as a kid. I’ve done a lot of things, but I always knew I was going to teach,” Grodjesk said. “I taught in scouts and worked for the recreation department — that involved teaching. I guess I was always teaching something.”
His passion has been preparing others. Now Grodjesk is preparing for his next chapter.
Grodjesk, associate professor of education and psychology at Carl Sandburg College, will retire at the end of this semester after a 40-year teaching career. An open house for Grodjesk will take place from 4 to 6 p.m. Dec. 15 at En Season Café, 2900 W. Main St., Galesburg.
“I’ve been around long enough to realize that institutions go on after people retire,” Grodjesk said. “I can joke and say, ‘Free! Free at last!’”
Grodjesk grew up in Jersey City, N.J., but began his college education at Lincoln College and transferred to Bradley University, where he earned his bachelor’s degree.
“I knew Illinois was a state, and I knew Route 66 went through it because I’d read ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ and that was it,” Grodjesk said. “I started, literally, on my own.”
He began his teaching career in Pekin as a junior high science teacher — “That’s where they sent all the rabble-rousers,” he said — and taught there for 23 years.
Meanwhile, he continued his own education, often going above and beyond the requirements. He earned an extra 32 credit hours at Bradley before he began studying for his master’s from Illinois State University. Then he racked up 42 extra credit hours at ISU before he started working toward his doctorate from Northern Illinois University. He also served as regional chair of the Illinois Junior Academy of Science; earned the Outstanding Teaching Award from the Bradley chapter of Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society; and was president of the Bradley chapter of Sigma Xi.
“I went to school 23 years in a row after receiving my bachelor’s degree because there was always something new I wanted to learn about,” Grodjesk said. “I enjoy learning, and I enjoy teaching those who want to learn.”
After earning his doctorate, Grodjesk moved to higher education, spending six years as an education professor at Monmouth College and since 2003 at Sandburg. He served as president of the Galesburg chapter Phi Delta Kappa and, with the efforts of adjunct instructor George Chadderdon, established a teacher education student scholarship.
In addition to his time in the classroom, Grodjesk played a role in forming Sandburg’s Faculty Peer Support Group, which helps fellow faculty members learn how to integrate technology into their teaching and learning process.
“The faculty peer group was virtually dead when I came along,” Grodjesk said. “It’s that group that now really distinguishes this college from many others.”
For Grodjesk, learning has always been a lifelong lesson. Even with a few weeks left before his retirement, Grodjesk was excited to share with office mate and business programs coordinator Keith Williams how his first experience went using Apple TV in the classroom.
“I just enjoy exploring new things,” Grodjesk said.
He said he hopes to travel the country with his wife, Carol, and spend time with their sons and three grandchildren during his retirement. He doesn’t have any other specific plans, but that’s not a concern to him.
“New projects will find me. I’ve never been bored in my whole life,” Grodjesk said. “I’m not worried about finding something. It’s just a schedule change.”
Caption: Ken Grodjesk, associate professor of education and psychology at Carl Sandburg College, interacts with students while using an iPad and Apple TV to view and discuss a video portrayal of the effects of poverty on low-income children.