We’re all just hitchhikers…passing thru….

The early years

This hitchhiker — raised in New York, educated and lived most of his twenties in DC, then moved to Chicago, where he’s been ever since — has developed an interest or two.  Between the

Doug in black and white

ages of 6 and 28 I was an actor.  My bachelor’s is a BFA in acting.  During my sophomore year I took Foundations of Education because I needed a sociology credit and didn’t want to get out of bed before 10am.  Turns out, I was bit by the ed bug and wound up minoring in education in order to teach my major.  After several years of burning the candle at both ends — teaching by day and acting by night, and realizing I couldn’t continue doing both well — I never would have predicted teaching would win out.  But as my cooperating teacher (and later mentor) said part way through my student teaching, “Teaching is the longest running acting gig you’ll ever get.  And you’ll know you’ve taught well when you leave the classroom each day as exhausted as you do the stage after curtain call.”  Truer words….


Along the way I’ve taught high school in Montgomery County, MD, Jersey City, and the Bronx.  Here in Chicago I’ve taught in Roseland, Englewood, and West Garfield Park.  Subjects include English, humanities, forensics, oral interpretation, and theatre.  My favorite grade to teach is 9th graders.  For some strange reason, many teachers find them to be the least desirable assignment.  I find freshman still impressionable, still into learning, a little vulnerable, and in need of teachers who “get” them.  Not to mention, with all we now know about the importance of freshman year for future success, they need the strongest teachers possible.

First Master’s & the Charter Movement

Somewhere in the late ’90’s I picked up a master’s in English lit from De Paul.  After DePaul I was part of the early charter movement — back when the first charters that opened had missions to serve communities in Chicago most in need and before they became for-profit ventures, opening in predatory ways to gut CPS neighborhood schools.  Technology has changed just a bit since then.

An ah-ha moment compiled for LSE 500…
What used to be high tech the last time I was in grad school.

In the early Aughts, I discovered I am a curriculum and assessment geek.  I spent 8 years as a curriculum and instruction director, shepherding my school through mapping our curriculum and improving instruction through formative assessment practices.


Through the Teens, I’ve been the principal consultant for my own educational consulting business, the primary focus of which is leadership coaching, curriculum, instruction and assessment development.  It’s good work.  Important work.  These days all my client schools are within CPS.  But it’s also solitary work.  So my two year goal is to complete this degree and head back to a single school to teach.  What exactly, I’m not yet sure.  A digitally mediated ELA classroom?  A technology classroom?  Regardless of what I teach, I know I will be a coach and resource for colleagues and be a force for shifting school culture such that students experience their education in technologically relevant ways.

Smattering of Interests

Outside of education, my primary interests are in photography, cooking, and mixology.  I’ve always had an interest in photography.  But back in the film days (and my youth) it was far too expensive to pursue seriously.  Thank goodness for the gains in digital photography (and my bank account, because it is still an expensive hobby)!

People, nature, macro, street, architecture encompass some of my photographic interests. (Hover over pictures for captions. Click to enlarge photos.)

Cooking is my therapy.  Most days, I cook three meals a day.  My husband is the catering director at a major hotel downtown.  So we do a lot of entertaining.  A few years ago, we blew out our kitchen and made a professional chef’s kitchen — of the working variety, not trophy variety!  Since word count is telling me I’m already at 772 words, I’ll refrain from saying much more than #GOCUBSGO!  As season ticket holders, to finally be there for the World Series and the incredible afterglow that followed…still makes me tear up.  I’ll wrap with a confession:  My wannabe self is a bartender.  Ahh, to be creative and social and leave work with no papers to grade or lessons to plan or the burdens of the world on your shoulders!  What a life.  For more on my mixology interests, check out my cocktail blog, Dilettante Cocktailer.  (Yup, nearly all the photos there are mine, too.)  Santé!  Tsin-Tsin!  Huzzah!  L’Chiam!  

That’s a snippet of Doug.  Looking forward to travelin’ thru the next ten weeks together!

5 thoughts on “We’re all just hitchhikers…passing thru….

  1. Briana Grenke April 10, 2017 / 12:15 pm

    Hey Doug!

    Nice to have you in another class. I know we’ve talked a little bit about your photography skills (still amazing by the way), but it was nice to get more of a picture of who you are through learning about your changes in education and other interests/hobbies. I agree that I do long for a job that you don’t have to take work home for, but still couldn’t see myself doing anything other than teaching so I just cope by trying to always give myself Sundays off and then enjoying my summer time and random days off to live life! Once again…”Go Cubbies!”


    • dvandykeblog April 10, 2017 / 6:54 pm

      Hey Briana,
      Agreed. I feel like I have a more well-rounded sense of you (and Danielle and Karen) this time around. And I couldn’t agree more about not trading teaching for something else. Several years back, the army had a recruitment line, “Army: The toughest job you’ll ever love.” I always thought that line was far more appropriate for teaching. I’m glad to hear you intentionally take time for yourself. That’s so important for those of us in professions that are about service to others. We must take care of the caregivers. I always remind my fatigued colleagues on their way to burnout of the instructions we all get on a flight before takeoff. Put your oxygen mask on first. That way you can help others. Vacation and personal time are oxygen masks!


  2. Nicole April 10, 2017 / 2:38 pm

    Oh my goodness Doug, that’s quite a snippet! Thank you for such a well-rounded description of who you are and how you came into education. As a consultant are you working with principals in CPS or entire faculties? How is that going? Also, I loved your snippet of info from LSE 500! Can I ask what the assignment was? Were you asked to discuss what tech was like when you were in college? Just curious.
    Finally, you have a photograph of a boy standing on a man’s shoulders during the union rally last April. That’s Max. He is a student at my school! Fascinating family. That’s his dad who is a huge advocate for educators. They own a circus (Midnight Circus) that has shows each summer for the Chicago Park District. Max is also an actor. He’s currently in Canada filming Netflix’s remake of “Lost in Space”. He is the new Will Robinson!


    • dvandykeblog April 10, 2017 / 7:07 pm

      Hi Nicole,
      As a consultant, I refer to myself as an educational Swiss army knife. What I do depends on the needs of the school I’m working with. But yes, I work with some principals directly, as well as ILT’s, departments, entire faculties, individual teachers. It all depends on the PD goals involved. The LSE 500 graphic wasn’t an assignment in and of itself. It was just an ah-ha I had after introducing myself at the start of that course. It was my first class in this master’s program and it struck me how much tech had changed since getting my initial master’s back in the mid-90’s. So I added it to my intro to provide a little context about what I was facing in terms of the change in the learning environment. Pretty amazing.

      I cannot believe that out of the thousands of people at that rally I pointed my camera at one of your students!! What are the odds? And on top of it he’s going to be the next Will Robinson? I’m a big science fiction buff. I remember watching the original Lost In Space as a kid and firmly believing that my father was John Robinson. It made total sense to my 5 year old self. After all, they looked so much alike and dad didn’t get home from work until LIS was over! What a crazy, crazy set of coincidences!


      • Nicole April 10, 2017 / 8:52 pm

        Consulting sounds a lot like being an instructional technology coach- my role changes continuously. In regards to the graphic maybe this is an assignment that should be explored (although for most of our younger teachers it might not be as impactful). I, like you started out in the wee infant stages of technology in education!
        Here’s a link to Max’s blog: http://coonleyandcanada.blogspot.com/ This is the second blog I’ve set up for him. Last year he traveled to Canada (where he is now) to film a movie with Gerard Butler (which comically was filmed in Canada but the backdrop was Chicago). This blog will give you some “inside trader tips” about Lost in Space but doesn’t have any comments on it (except mine lol). Max is in our “Options” program (aka gifted class) and at this age his peers know that I’m moderating the blog comments so they don’t bother- they like to text their memes and snarky comments directly to Max instead of going through me this year 🙂
        But you still might enjoy it…


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.