Western Avenue Elementary School celebrated its 75th Birthday with an open house for alumni on Friday, Sept. 8. The event brought former students and teachers together, creating a nostalgic and friendly atmosphere.
Principal Gina Isabelli welcomed the alumni who had gathered to relive fond memories of their time at the school. The evening was filled with heartfelt reunions and shared experiences as alumni caught up with one another, conversed with Isabelli, and went on guided classroom tours.
Students from Homewood-Flossmoor High School contributed to the event’s success. They volunteered their time, guiding alumni to various classrooms and photographing guests.
Tricia Shea Perl and Anne Marcos Oberman, both 1978 graduates, walked down memory lane, sharing laughs and anecdotes from their days at Western Avenue Elementary. Oberman recalled winning a contest held a few years ago where participants had to name all 50 states.
Former teachers Joyce Lawler Moone and Sharon Neste had a heartwarming reunion during the event. Moone, a former special education teacher, expressed her love of working with children. Neste recalled fondly playing volleyball with other faculty members in the gym after school, emphasizing the close-knit relationships formed during their tenure.
Years later, those connections are still going strong. Principal Isabelli and Assistant Principal Jacqueline Renko paused to reflect on their experiences, emphasizing the difficulties posed by the pandemic. They shared a memory of hosting a reverse parade, which allowed teachers to see their students in person when remote learning was the norm.
“We had a reverse parade to welcome the kids and let them know we are here. Teachers lined the streets, and the fire trucks even joined,” Renko said. She said that this allowed teachers to see their students face-to-face during a challenging start to the school year and how much it meant to them.
Isabelli emphasized her strong connection to the community and joy in witnessing children’s growth and fostering bonds with families. She said her favorite part of being principal at Western Avenue is “the memories of seeing the kids grow up and making connections with them.”