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Kellogg Elementary Students Surprise Retiring Teacher

27 January 2022

Teacher Retiring after 34 years at same school

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CHICAGO - Faculty and students at Kellogg Elementary held a surprise celebration Thursday for a teacher who is retiring at the end of the month after 34 years – at the same school – in North Beverly.  Students held an assembly honoring Diane Pajkos, a teacher who has broadened the perspective of her students through local and international initiatives. “My heart is so filled,” said Ms. Pajkos, tearing up. “I just don’t know what to say.”

“Ms. Pajkos has become an integral part of the school in her 34 years here,” said Principal Cory Overstreet. “She has made a multigenerational impact at the school teaching parents and later their kids.”

The coordinator for the International Baccalaureate Program at Kellogg leads student of the month announcements, tutors students, mentors teachers and leads various activities. 

Pajkos has taught a number of subjects including programming and has kept many traditions alive in the school such as a special 8th-grade dinner.  She calls the 2020 pandemic-related school shutdown a challenging time as classes transitioned fully to remote learning.

“Nothing replaces that face-to-face contact,” said Pajkos. “Seeing their faces light up or react to something I’ve said; that connection, it is just not the same.” 

In 2017, Pajkos organized a walkathon to raise funds to improve a water well in Kenya where women and children often walk miles for water.

 “You know it was amazing to see how the kids started to see beyond their little corner of the world,”  Pajkos said. “Our walk carrying gallons of water was only a mile long. But I tell you, it was really tough and they got to see how difficult it can be to live in other environments.”  The school effort raised more than $2,000 to rehabilitate a well near a school which is meant to encourage parents to send their children to class and later return with fresh water.

“It’s a bittersweet moment,” said Pajkos of her pending retirement. “I’ve been coming into this building for so long and have worked with so many amazing teachers. I’m going to miss it.”