The Men Before The Teachers

The question has been answered as to who some our very own teachers here at Vernon Hills High School were prior to teaching at this prestigious institution.

Every boy Curryhas a dream, and Mr. Curry’s dream was to be a big league baseball player.
After he realized he wasn’t very good at that, Curry headed into college at the University of Illinois with every intention of becoming a photojournalist. As he said, “I had worked on the school’s newspaper and I enjoyed that process. I had done that for several years. I was the editor at one point, and I thought journalism would really be it.”
However, Curry was taking an unrelated radio broadcasting course, and through it he found that what he was being taught differed from what he believed to be the actual job. Curry said, “What I was learning about broadcasting seemed to me, in my rather impetuous, naive self to be opposed to what I was learning in the classroom. So I thought it was silly to study it one way and do it another way.”
After this discovery, Curry switched to the only other major he could with the classes he had taken: advertising. With this degree, he entered radio broadcasting.
Curry had every intention of living the rest of his life as a radio broadcaster, but he soon found out he was “allergic to poverty,” and quit his job.
While still deciding what to do with his life, Curry got a job as a bartender; fortunately, he stated that the job prepared him as a teacher. As he said, “You’re in a large room full of unruly people not completely with their wits about them. They’re impulsive, sometimes kind, sometimes difficult to deal with. Which one of those am I describing? A high school english classroom or a bar?”
It was at this point that Curry decided to become a teacher, despite the cliché of his two sisters being teachers as well.
Curry finds his job as an English teacher to be worthwhile. He said, “Finding a way to connect students to something they love is one of the most rewarding moments. It’s different than being an inspiration. I don’t think I’m an inspiration and I don’t strive to be inspiring. I strive to help students find what inspires them and, at least in the area of language, that’s a lot of fun.”


When Mr. Friedrich was a young child, he wanted to be a stock car racer. Then, when he reached eighth grade, he realized how unrealistic this dream was and thought about pursuing a different dream: playing hockey. However, soon after, Friedrich concluded that he couldn’t skate, which was unfortunately a crucial part of hockey, so he went into undergrad school intending to major in business.
Friedrich had no intention of becoming a teacher. “I assumed I’d go into human resources or some corporate type of thing pretty much all through college- I was a psych major with communication- and I dug history, but I thought, you know, what can you do with a history major besides teach? So all through my undergrad work I never thought about teaching.”
Because of this, Friedrich got a job as an executive assistant to “the company that supplies all the stuff to Domino’s” soon after. He enjoyed the job a lot. As he said, “It was cool. Domino’s owns this thing called Drummond Island, so I could take a helicopter ride [there]. It was rockin’ cool, man. You feel like a rockstar in that kind of thing.”
However, after getting the job, Friedrich soon found out that he was entering golden handcuffs. As he said, “I was pondering going back to grad school and I realized pretty quickly that if I was going back to grad school I would have to do it pretty soon because I was gonna get too used to the pay. My first paycheck was more than twice as much as I was making as an apartment manager, which I had worked as in my later years of college…you start getting a car payment and a condo and then you can never go back.”
Not wanting to be consumed by money, and due to the encouragement of some respected teachers, Friedrich went to graduate school and became a graduate assistant to find out if he’d be interested in teaching. It was from here that Friedrich found a passion for teaching and became a professor of Loyola University for seven years.
After some time, Friedrich began to question his choice, however. As he said, “I had been a teacher for seven years, and I dug it and I went ‘well if I’m a teacher, and this is what I want to do, then where do I want to do it and why do I want to do it?”
This conclusion of a more “connected community” led Friedrich to switch to high school education.
Now that he has been a teacher here at VHHS for several years, Friedrich is confident about what he believes to be the greatest reward of being a teacher. As he said, “Unquestionably, the relationships with people over a long term…When parents, whose kids you’ve had over five years ago, still pop in to say hi. Or when students pop in to say hi over break- that’s cool…It’s that being connected to the broader narrative of the community.”

LuekanBobby Fischer had chess, Charlie Brown had baseball, and Adam Lueken had Legos. In fact, Mr. Lueken has legos, but when he was five they were what inspired him to want to become an engineer.
Lueken’s love of constructing things carried through with him to college. Though not planning on becoming an engineer, Lueken instead got a similar degree in computer science from Indiana University.
In order to support himself in college, Lueken had an assortment of jobs: “I delivered sandwiches on my bicycle, I worked IT support, and then I was also a computer programmer on the side.”
After college, Lueken said “I did take a job as a programmer, but that company went under after about a year, and I didn’t like the lack of stability. And I also didn’t like sitting all day. I’m not very good at sitting, so I decided to get back into college and get my teaching certification.”
Lueken then got his degree in secondary education from Eastern Illinois. Unfortunately, there were not many jobs there to help him pay for his education, so he “picked up selling things on Ebay or Amazon.”
After getting his education, Lueken became a teacher of computer science here at VHHS. The idea matched his dreams as a child. As he said, “Computer programming and Legos have a lot in common because the only way to build things is to follow a series of steps, and being creative is the most important part of both Legos and computer science. You always have to think outside the box.”
Lueken even has a plan for the future. As he said, “I actually have a further dream in which I take my computer science degree and my teaching degree and get a doctorate in educational technology. And I want to find ways in which we (VHHS) can make techonology work vetter, hand-in-hand together. So I’m taking both of my worlds to make it the best world possible, hopefully, for upcoming students.
However, just for today, Lueken described the most rewarding part of being a teacher: “Every day. I love what I do. I always have a lot of fun with my students, and it’s always fun to challenge myself and challenge my students. You know, similar to my childhood ideals where I wanted to build things.”