By DASCHELL M. PHILLIPS
Zeus Preckwinkle, 7th and 8th grade math and science teacher at the Ancona School, will retire at the end of the school year.
“I bumped into one of my former students I taught when I worked at Harvard [Elementary School], who is now 47,” Preckwinkle said. “After I talked to her I thought ‘Wow, it’s time to retire.’”
Preckwinkle, who said he has taught for 38 years without a break, has been a teacher at Ancona, 4770 S. Dorchester Ave., for 21 years and before that he taught at Harvard Elementary School, 7525 S. Harvard Ave., for 17 years. He said he even used his summer breaks to teach in the Philippines.
Preckwinkle said what he likes about Ancona is that the school is educating kids for life-long learning.
“Instead of coming in the room and having the students open their books to a certain page or prepping them for tests, teachers are allowed to lead the learning,” Preckwinkle said.
He said the autonomy has lead to a wealth of experiences for himself and his students.
“A curator from the Field Museum came to visit our class. After the third time, one of the kids asked if the class could volunteer at the museum,” Preckwinkle said.
Every Friday during the school year and in the summer the class worked together and catalogued 60,000 specimen of diptera during what the students named “Bug Camp.”
He also had a student who wanted to study preservation in urban areas. His wife, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, who at the time was alderman of the 4th Ward, was able to set up a meeting with him, his student and former Mayor Richard M. Daley who led them on a tour of green roofs in Chicago.
Another one of his students wanted to do a project on the White Sox and he was able to set up an interview between the student and Hyde Parker Mary Francis Ackerman. Ackerman’s husband Bill Veeck was once an owner of the major league baseball team.
He also set up a pen pal program between his Ancona students and his students in the Philippines.
Preckwinkle said he plans to use his retirement to run more and coach new runners.
Preckwinkle, who is well known in Hyde Park as an avid runner, said he ran with the University of Chicago Track Club for about 16 years and trained under Olympic Coach Ted Haydon. He said he plans to help coach others and motivate them to join him for runs in Washington Park.
Preckwinkle, who plays the flute, said he also wants to do more music performances. For about 34 years he has done live performances with his friends and also performs with teachers during the summer in the Philippines, he said.
Preckwinkle, whose last day at Ancona will be June 14, said he also plans to coach students in the areas of math and science.