Kim Pakowski establishes a legacy at DGS

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Katie Anthony

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Issue 5
May 18, 2018
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Kim Pakowski establishes a legacy at DGS

Kim Pakowski is the Library Department Chair at Downers Grove South High School. She has deep roots at Downers Grove South as she is a former student at DGS, currently a teacher and the mother of a son currently attending DGS. Pakowski sat down with students and answered questions about her unique relationship and perspective regarding the school.

Q: What are your responsibilities as the Library Department Chair?

A: My responsibilities are to make sure it’s a functioning department that meets the needs of the school. I supervise six staff, so I actually am an evaluator for staff. I have two support staff, three certified librarians, and an instructional technology specialist, all of which are in my department…I am responsible for the facility as well, so the entire space that is the library as well as any equipment within there. I am responsible for making sure that it is running and functional and just making sure that things work well.


Q: What high school did you go to?

A: I went to Downers Grove South High School.


Q: Why did you choose to come back and teach at Downers Grove South?

A: It was a fluke, to be honest, I was not someone who thought I would be a teacher. That was not my goal if you asked me in high school, that was not something I had visioned. And I was an English major in college and my father is a teacher, and he said to me, “What are you gonna do with that English major?” And so I decided to add education and I was doing observations…and I decided to do some observations at Downers North, where he [my dad] worked, and was hired there after I finished my student teaching, and I was given the option at the end of the year to stay at North or I was given the opportunity to come interview over here [at Downers Grove South], and so I took the opportunity to interview and was offered the job and 21 years later, I’ve been at Downers South.


Q: What’s your favorite part of your job?

A: You know, I think my favorite part of my job is just the numerous interactions I get to have with everybody in the building…we get to see staff from all over the building, we get to work with students from all different classes, all different curriculums, in a casual just helpful way, in a curricular way, in a social way. There’s never a dull moment in the library because we are always interacting with people.


Q: What kind of relationship do you have with the students?

A: I’d like to think a positive relationship…our number one goal is to be as helpful as we can…I’ve been in the library a long time. and even having been a student here, I think a long time ago that wasn’t the case…libraries were very different than they are now. A library was a quiet place where you sat and you did things and…the expectation was that you weren’t gonna do anything except for sit and not bother anybody, and we have tried very hard to work away from that…I hope that’s the kind of relationship I have, that a student knows they can walk into the library, and no matter what their problem is, they can ask us, and if we don’t have the answer, we can get the answer for them.


Q: Has being a mom changed the way you do your job?

A: Yes, absolutely. There’s nothing more interesting than experiencing school through the perspective of your child. So, that has changed a lot of what I’ve done. I think it has made me a more empathetic person, I think…because I see what he goes through, it’s a good reminder. I’ve been out of high school a very, very long time and I think, even though I try to keep front and center how hard it is and what you guys go through, you know you’re in high school, you’re on the cusp of the rest of your lives. And at the same time you have the restrictions of a school…and there’s this push and pull. What are you gonna do with the rest of your life, but you also just want to have a great experience in high school and learn as much as you can, and that is really stressful. And so seeing him go through this now is a really good reminder to me that this is wonderful, but it’s also really challenging.


Q: How was your high school experience, and has it affected how you are as a teacher?

A: I think so, I mean I think you can’t help but to compare what you see to what you went through. So, I’ve been out of high school 25 years now, the school itself feels the same…but at the same time there are a lot of things that are really different. So it’s still teenagers, it’s still a lot of the same problems and advantages. You still have all of the issues of just being a teenager and cliques and friends and the social issues that you deal with in high school…so I think a lot of that is the same. My high school experience was pretty typical, it was pretty eve and keel, I was an athlete, I swam in the fall, I ran track in the spring; I was a pretty average student…I wasn’t in all AP classes, but I took college prep…so I was a good student, but really I was here for the social…my number one goal was always my friends…the biggest difference now is that everything that I did in high school wasn’t recorded. I think that is such a reality of what [high schoolers] are dealing with is everything is recorded. There are pictures and videos and social media and everything has a recording of it and that’s a reality that is just part of our society, moving forward, but it’s definitely the biggest difference.


Q: So would you say you have a more unique view at the school, because you have a son that goes here now, and then you also went here, and you work here?

A: I guess in some way it’s unique from a lot of people, I would say, absolutely. I get to see it from all perspectives, and not everybody gets to see that experience. So yeah, as a graduate, as an employee and as a parent you get to see all those perspectives, and that is unique…I would say  it’s not a universal experience, absolutely.


Q: What have you learned about yourself from being a librarian?

A: That my goal really is to help other people…at the end of the day, when I look back at whether I had a good day or a bad day…if I felt like I was able to help people, then I had a good day, even if every technology broke, if everything else went wrong, if at the end of the day I felt like I helped people, I think that was a good day.


Q: How has being a librarian taught you certain values in being a mom?

A:…being an educator has helped me see their [my kids] perspective as well. I hope they would say that… I think I am far more tolerant with everybody else’s children than with my own, and I think especially as they’ve gotten older, I have tried to learn that…they’re not just my children who I am trying to raise the way I want them to, but they’re also human beings, and I need to be sensitive to their needs and issues and struggles as well.

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