CRYSTAL LAKE – Kathrina Konfirst has moved from classroom to classroom in her career, teaching at Prairie Ridge, Crystal Lake South and Cary-Grove high schools.
Her next move will take her slightly farther, as she prepares to travel about 5,400 miles to teach in Ukraine.
Konfirst, who has been a student and a teacher in Community High School District 155, will leave for the Eastern European country this week to start a two-year service trip with the Peace Corps to teach language courses to middle school, high school and adult students.
“One of my goals has always been to get into the Peace Corps, and it’s even more of a dream come true I get to experience it with my husband,” she said. “We both wanted to do something where we could give back a little and see a little more of the world.”
The trip will be just a little more of the world, as the well-traveled 28-year-old has experienced a life filled with multiple cultures. Konfirst was born and raised in Germany before moving to Crystal Lake in 1999.
But growing up in Germany, where she was surrounded by multiple languages and cultures, inspired her to explore, whether it was backpacking through Canada or teaching at museums in Washington, D.C.
Konfirst, who speaks German, English, Spanish and French, said she was excited to learn the Ukrainian and Russian languages and expected to be fluent in both by the end of her service.
“It has been awhile since I have been to a place where I could not speak the language, so it will be a good reminder of how it feels to be a student again,” she said. “It always helps me become a better language teacher after I have to learn.”
Ukraine was a surprise destination for Konfirst, who said she applied to be placed anywhere in the world but did not expect an Eastern European country as it is one of the least-served regions in the Peace Corps.
Konfirst said she did not know whether she would bring her new language skills back to District 155 or Crystal Lake after the two-year trip. She said her husband already has an eye on a stint in Asia.
“We thought now would be a great time before we decide to settle down, if we settle down,” she said. “I don’t think we could go without [travel]. We’re too interested to see what’s out there.”