29 years and still going


Photo by Photos used with permission of Robert Knuth

Robert Knuth has been teaching at the high school since 1986. Before teaching, he fixed helicopters for the army, trained soldiers, and was part of the drone program in Iraq.

While most people only spend 4 years in high school, Robert Knuth, social studies teacher,  has been at the high school since 1986. During those years, he served in the army in Virginia, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Mississippi, and Iraq. Previously working with helicopters in the army, he is now retired and teaches history here at the high school.

Q: What did you do for the army?
A: When I first went into the army, I was a helicopter mechanic. When I got out and went to college I became a helicopter pilot. Then I fixed helicopters and eventually went to test-pilot school to test broken helicopters and tell the mechanics what needed to be fixed. Eventually I moved to a training division to start teaching our soldiers how to do stuff, and that’s what I was doing when I got mobilized to go to Iraq and work with the drone program for a year.

Q: How was the transition from the army to teaching?
A: I had a couple of months to get ready to teach because once you’re gone for a while, you have to transition to the school environment, realizing you’re working with younger people and not just a bunch of grizzled old guys that shoot people and blow stuff up.

Q: What is your favorite part of teaching here?
A: Mostly the students. I have some memories of stuff that happened in class, just weird and funny stuff that would make you laugh even now, twenty years later. The stuff that I like best is when people come back after twenty years to visit, because right now all you guys want to do is graduate and get out. The sad part is that you don’t realize until afterwards all the things you could have done. If I was able to redo any part of my life, I would probably go back to junior high and do better at math and I would apply myself better. High school is over in a blink of an eye, sometimes it may not feel like it, but it’ll hit. Something will catch up to you, and then it’ll hit.

Q: What is the most significant change that has happened to the building?
A: Probably the latest addition which was the field house, PAC, and the science wing. When I first got here there, was 860 students, 67 teachers, and it went from the cafeteria to the main gym to Mr. Zasadil’s room now. Everything else was added on later.

Q: What is the strangest thing that has happened?
A: Probably some of the pranks that have happened. We had someone that tried to superglue every lock in the building; some people came in and let crickets and rats and chickens loose.

Q: What is your proudest moment at the high school?
A: Years ago when I was coaching the tennis team, I had two kids that were fighting for state against the Barrington team. It was match point for the Barrington team, and one of their kids hit an amazing shot which landed right on the base line, and my kid went and hit it and called it out. Then the Barrington kid looked at him, and my kid’s partner looked at him, and my kid said, “No, I called it wrong, it was in.” He reversed himself, ended up losing the match, and knocked himself out of the state tournament, but he did the right thing.

Q: What is one thing that only you would know from all your years of teaching here?
A: I know “The National Treasure Secret of Lake Zurich High School.” When they we’re redoing the building and were putting in the robotics classes, I wrote my name and the year in one of the metal beams, and it is probably still there today.

Q: What do you like best about this school?
A: Mr. Antczack asked that when the school hired him back in the day. At the end of his interview, he looked at me and asked, “Why do you teach here?” I told him that you could make more money some place else, you could be at a bigger school, a smaller school, or closer to home. I told him as of yet, I have not once gotten out of bed in the morning and said, “Oh no, I got to go to work today.” This isn’ just work, it’s what I like to do. I’m 58 years old, but I’m still 18 in heart because the kids here are vibrant, intelligent, committed, persevering, and good kids. That is what keeps me coming back every day. We get about 15 sick days a year, and altogether I probably have about 350 of them saved up, because I would rather be here than some place else. The teachers here are like family, they take care of each other and look out for each other. There would have to be something really extraordinary to make me want to leave.

Q: What is the happiest story you can remember?
A: They are all happy. The happiest is probably when the alumni come back to visit, but that has kind of been squashed by all the new security stuff. It used to be that they can come in, sign their name in the office, and go to their old classes. That’s my happiest memory, because they grow up and go to college, but they appreciate everything that happened here and come back.