Most of us have someone in our lives who helped shape who we are and guided us toward the paths we’ve taken. There’s a story behind why we do the jobs we do, and what has inspired us to continue doing it for years to come. For many in Kenosha Unified, those stories have ultimately connected them to the district for generations.
For some, the generational connections were meant to be, as Jim Landgraf puts it. Landgraf has taught in KUSD for more than 30 years, and one of his Grewenow Elementary students was Raymond Bishop. Bishop then went on to teach and had Marcelo Hernandez in his math class at Washington Middle School. Last year, Hernandez was hired as a math teacher at Mahone Middle School, bringing their love of teaching, learning and math together under one roof, as Landgraf also teaches math at Mahone and Bishop serves as Mahone’s dean of students.
“We didn’t plan this at all, it just happened,” Landgraf said. “The cool thing about it is that Ray didn’t come to Mahone because of me, and Marcelo didn’t come to Mahone because of Ray. It was fate.”
In fact, fate kept Landgraf connected with Bishop all the way through his college graduation party, where Bishop read aloud an essay he wrote about Landgraf. That day, Landgraf also gave Bishop a letter, which he has held onto after all these years.
“I only have a few letters that were given to me at my graduation – from my mom, my brother, my grandma, and (Landgraf),” Bishop said. “He signed it ‘your future colleague, former teacher and forever friend.’ Who would have thought?”
Pursuing the opportunity to join Bishop and Landgraf at Mahone was a no-brainer for Hernandez and he’s finding some familiar elements in his teaching strategies.
“It’s cool because some of the things (Bishop) did in his class are carrying over into mine,” Hernandez said. “He taught me that math doesn’t have to be just one plus one, it’s the logic and thinking and problem-solving skills that are life skills as well.”
That kind of impact and chance to pay it forward is an opportunity you can’t find in other professions, Bishop said.
“My teachers in KUSD made learning fun,” Bishop said. “I loved being a part of that and I wanted to create that for other kids as well. To see evidence of that working is so exciting and it’s now continuing into the next generation.”
Additionally, the leadership in KUSD has been a significant factor in their love for what they do, because it has provided them with the trust, tools and support needed to become a “master teacher,” Landgraf said.
“The district gives us the opportunity to move from place to place to get new experiences along with great leaders who have believed in me – all of that combined has helped lead me to here, at this moment, with these guys and a lot more connections as well, and I’m just so grateful for all of it,” Bishop said.