A contribution like no other: Bob Knuth’s service to the Army and LZHS
May 3, 2017
“You don’t stay some place 31 years unless you like what you do,” says Bob Knuth, who retires this spring after teaching at Lake Zurich since 1986.
However, Knuth also spent 37 years serving and traveling in the US Army Reserves, a job that would even take him away from LZHS for years at a time.
“I was here in 2005, and I went to a reserve meeting [that year] and our boss said, ‘Hey, I’ve got bad news and bad news, what do you want?’ [And we said,] ‘OK boss, give us the bad news.’ ‘Well, you’ve got to drug test, so you all have to stay here until you pass the drug test.’ ‘Well, that’s not bad news, what’s the bad news?’ He goes, ‘You’re all mobilized,’” Knuth said. “We thought he was teasing, but no, they mobilized 119 of us.”
During his time in Active Reserves, Knuth trained other National Guard Reserve units before they were transferred to Iraq.
After training soldiers stateside, Knuth was also transferred to Iraq.
“I got to do a year in Iraq, which everyone thinks is nasty because it’s war, and it was bad on that level, but it was a great professional experience because I got to do some really cool stuff,” Knuth said. “I was in charge of drones. I had 185 guys working for me, and I worked directly for the generals.”
Knuth’s time in Iraq was not his first tour with the US Army. He originally enlisted after graduating high school in 1975
“I was interested in college, but my grades weren’t that good, and I thought OK, I’m not ready for college, I need to do something,” Knuth said. “I was a helicopter mechanic and crew chief. I fixed helicopters and when they went flying, I went with them to make sure they stayed fixed.”
While repairing helicopters, Knuth served in Fort Bragg, NC and in Germany.
“I did almost 37 years. I don’t regret an instant of it. I got to go places I would never have gotten to go. I went to Germany for a year and a half and met my cousins that were there. I’ve been to Honduras, which is where some of our [school] maintenance people are from,” Knuth said. “I’ve [even] been to Egypt twice.”
After Knuth’s initial tour, he attended Prairie State College and Northern Illinois University, earning a degree in History and Education.
“I had a really cool history teacher when I was in high school and everybody just loved him,” Knuth said. “When I originally got out of the military, I was kind of glad to get out. But after I got out, I missed the people, the flying, all the stuff that went along with it. I thought ‘I’ll go back in, and maybe I’ll get the chance to fly helicopters.’”
Knuth joined the Army Reserves and attended flight school. After a year of active duty in flight school, he started at Lake Zurich.
“[My favorite part of teaching is] the young people I work with and my colleagues. This place has been like a humongous family,” Knuth said. “100 or so adults that have been really amazing colleagues, and 1800 great young people. In fact, some of the teachers here I had in class.”
One of Knuth’s former students from the late 1990s, Laura Kustra, is now also a history teacher at Lake Zurich.
“[In class,] he was very quirky. One of the things I remember that he would do was that he would change something in the room and we would have to try to figure out what it was as part of his psychological practices with us,” Kustra said. “He always had a sense of humor that we, all of his students, liked. We all thought he was a hoot, for sure.”
Knuth’s sense of humor was not the only thing Kustra and his former students attest to.
“[His largest contribution to Lake Zurich] I think [is] his dedication to his students. He is here late, comes early. He [also] will do projects with the kids about communicating with veterans, learn more about veterans, and perspectives of veterans and I think that that is his way of doing that service to keep his students connected to the country,” Kustra said. “He [not only contributes] to the history department, he does that for his students and I think that is very telling, but also it can’t be overlooked the contribution that he’s made to our country. Taking a break [from teaching] and serving, that’s a very honorable thing that a lot of people wouldn’t do. And he did it.”