North bids farewell to three retiring Tigers


Physical education teacher Tina Sunderland. HR Imaging Partners

Mary Henry, Staff Reporter

Spring is the time to commemorate the careers of three North staff members as they move forward to a new stage in their lives and leave behind a lasting impact on North students and staff. Physical education teacher Tina Sunderland, English teacher Robin Callan and math and science division chair Ginger Brest will be retiring at the end of the school year. 

Sunderland taught for 14 years before making her way to North, including 12 years at Oswego High School. She joined the physical education department at North when the school first opened and has been teaching here ever since.

“She has worked with freshmen wellness, Driver Ed/Safety and the very underappreciated job being in charge of the Stars Physical Education program,” physical education teacher James Walter said. 

Sunderland’s job often places her in an unconventional classroom: a moving vehicle. Many students have been introduced to her through a driver’s education course, which is paired with health and safety. She is a great source of advice and information in these subjects.

“Ms. Sunderland has been a real help to me with teaching the safety portion of Driver Ed/Safety,” Walter said. “Her experience as an athletic trainer and her understanding of the Red Cross material was something that I leaned on as I began to teach that subject matter.”

Sunderland was also highly involved in athletics, making it one of her favorite things about working at North.

“[My favorite memory is] working the scorer’s table for volleyball and basketball games,” Sunderland said.

In addition to being the official book person behind the scores table at countless sporting events, she was previously the athletic trainer for all sports at North and has more recently been an assistant for the football program.

“Ms. Sunderland has been an outstanding member of our athletic team here at North,” athletic director Ron Lear said. “She steps up and works events year-round for us and does an amazing job. Every good athletic department needs one person like her who is willing to put in countless hours after school to help our student athletes.”

After over a decade dedicated to North, Sunderland has much to look forward to in her retirement. 

“[I look forward to] traveling and spending more time with my family,” Sunderland said.

Callan will also be retiring after teaching for 37 years at five different high schools. Most of those years were spent in District 202, where her teaching style has inspired other educators in the English department. One of those people is her best friend of 25 years, English teacher Kerrin Vance.

“It sounds like a cliche, but she really cares about her students,” Vance said. “She sees the best in everyone; she’s the ultimate hypeman, but it’s all really genuine.”

Her expertise has also inspired her students. Callan currently teaches English IV, a class made up of entirely seniors. It can be difficult to maintain the attention of these upperclassmen– senioritis is real– but she does so with her enthusiasm and great communication with students.

“What I like about Ms. Callan is that as a teacher she doesn’t just focus on the students who are always engaged in the lesson; she wants every student to be involved and share their ideas,” senior Jayln Patterson said. “She makes an effort to create relationships with her students to understand them on a personal level. If you previously talked about a subject the week before, then the week when you come back to school she’ll ask you how it went and want to know more just to keep the conversation going…She is a great teacher and an even better person.”

Callan also makes a major contribution to North outside of teaching students: she helps create a positive work environment for her coworkers.

“Ms. Callan brings a sense of humor, an open mind, a listening ear and a calming spirit,” Vance said. “We are going to miss her so much next year.”

North has always been a place of positivity for Callan. She has worked here since the school first opened, even back when it was still under construction, which evokes feelings of pride and reminiscence.

“Offices had multi-disciplines sharing the same space, so we all became friends,” Callan said. “There was a special vibe, and the teachers and students felt it. The feeling was one of pride to be part of something great. We knew it then; we live it now. PNHS is a great place, and I will never forget how it felt to be on the first PNHS parade float and the reception the crowd of Plainfield gave to us as new arrivals.”

Callan has one last thing to leave behind for North students: a book recommendation. Her top choice for every high schooler to read is a Pulitzer Prize winner called All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.

“I am proud to say that my seniors are reading it because I made it part of the curriculum,” Callan said.

The final retiree is not only the math and science division chair, but also a science teacher, a sponsor of two extracurriculars and a… choreographer? Brest organizes the annual teacher dance during the Homecoming pep rally every year.

“The best part of the experience is hearing the students cheer and seeing them dance along with us in the stands,” Brest said. “[It] doesn’t matter how well we all do, or if we are dancing all together…the reaction of the students is well worth all the effort.”

Brest had a nostalgic start to her teaching career working as a substitute teacher for the Ohio high school she attended as a student. She then taught biology and environmental science at Plainfield Central before becoming North’s science department chair when the school first opened.

“Mrs. Brest is kind, caring and dedicated to doing what is best for students,” world languages division chair Rachel Hidalgo said. “We worked together at Plainfield Central High School, went through our master’s program together at NIU and opened PNHS together as department chairs in 2005. Throughout all those years she has been my biggest supporter at work.”

Brest has been committed to that role as not just a coworker and friend, but also a great leader.

“Ms. Brest really listens to her staff and is quick to offer support or advice,” science teacher Nancy McBride said. “I really admire the adaptability Ms. Brest has shown over the years as a classroom teacher. State and local curriculum requirements are constantly being updated, and Ms. Brest is quick to keep up with the changes in content and instructional methodology.”

Brest has shown a clear investment into the success of North’s students over the years through teaching and extracurriculars. She has taught anatomy, physiology and biology, as well as being the sponsor of the National Honor Society and co-sponsor of Student Council.

“We’ve been the only two advisors for NHS at North, and as such have developed traditions that I am extremely proud of,” Hidalgo said. “We’ve been a great team for years. Both of us have different strengths and we work really well together…I will miss that.”

With all of her experience teaching within the STEM field, Brest has some valuable advice to offer to all the aspiring scientists, engineers, mathematicians and educators.

“I would advise students interested in STEM to take advantage of all the courses offered at North,” Brest said. “Use the high school experience to find a career you will love.”

The North community is endlessly grateful for the contributions of these three staff members, especially since they have all worked at North since its inception.

“I would like to thank each of our retiring staff for their dedication, sacrifice, and the positive mark they are leaving behind from the years of service to our Plainfield North community,” principal Ross Draper said. “You have all left this place better than you found it and will always be a Tiger. I wish you a well-deserved retirement.”