McHENRY – Carl Vallianatos is entering his 18th year with District 156, but this year, he’ll be leaving McHenry West High School and moving across the parking lot to the administrative offices.
The District 156 school board promoted Vallianatos to be its director of curriculum and instruction, replacing Brent Raby who is moving to West Aurora’s District 129 to be its assistant superintendent for teaching and learning.
As one of West Campus’s assistant principals, Vallianatos has been involved with student activities and community service, including the two high schools’ annual pediatric cancer fundraiser for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation.
Vallianatos sat down with reporter Emily Coleman to talk about his new role.
Coleman: What are you looking forward to about making the move?
Vallianatos: I’m looking forward to having a position that is, in a lot of respects, a bit similar [to my current position]. I’m looking forward to working with teachers and students in a completely different manner than I had in the past, but it’s still a position that’s very much focused on achievement and learning, just a little bit more from a global perspective I guess.
Coleman: Do you have any goals of things you want to accomplish or programs you want to implement?
Vallianatos: I would like to look at increasing the collaboration among teachers of our district. There’s some big things on the horizon. The PARCC [Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers] Assessment is starting this year, and in the next couple years, we’ll have to add measures of student growth into teacher evaluations.
That’s going to be an exciting and long to process to get right. You have be thorough to get it right, and I think that’s going to be really important. I know things like that can have a positive effect on the culture of a school if you get it right, which we intend to do of course.
Coleman: Is there anything you’re going to miss about your current job?
Vallianatos: People ask me all the time how are you going to ... I’m so involved with the students, and they say, “Well, how are you going to do that getting farther away from the students?” It’s something that I naturally gravitate toward, the student life of a school. That’s why a lot of people join this profession, and I’m going to have to continue to find ways to be around and in the schools and the hallways and come to events so I still feel like I’m part of the school life in that way.
Coleman: Will you continue to be involved in a lot of events like St. Baldrick’s?
Vallianatos: I think to very different degrees. Things like St. Baldrick’s, other people are going to direct activities and other people are going to be more directly involved with the students than I will be. It’s hard to be involved with something like that and then just walk away from it. It is a cause and I do believe that a lot of learning takes place by our young people and our community. That’s something that will be really important.
Coleman: Before you became an administrator nine years ago, what did you teach?
Vallianatos: Social science.
Coleman: Did you have a favorite subject to teach?
Vallianatos: Most of what I taught was world history. I loved it. I came here more of a U.S. history person, but then I got to teach all the world history. I really grew to love it and to see all the connections, the threads and the common themes throughout history, whether it’s one culture or another or different periods of times.
You watch what’s going on in the Middle East right now. It’s a head shaker, but yet it shouldn’t be if you’ve studied history. That’s what I love about the human sciences. It’s not like you’ve got an equation on the board, and there’s only one right answer.
Coleman: How did you end up as a world history teacher?
Vallianatos: I just always loved history, politics, law. I went through a time where I thought I wanted to be a lawyer, but the classes in college that really interested me were the history ones. I started coaching, as well, and I just really had a passion for working with young people. I knew that’s what I wanted to do.
Coleman: Being so involved in the school, you probably spend most of your time here, but do you have things you enjoy outside of the school building?
Vallianatos: I like doing things with my family, traveling when I can, attending this ball game or that ball game or going to the movies. My wife and I are pretty big movie buffs, but I wish we had more time to actually do those things. It gets a little bit harder when the kids are little.
Coleman: Where are you from originally?
Vallianatos: I’m from a central Illinois town called Metamora. It’s right outside of Peoria.
Coleman: How big of a town is it?
Coleman: You didn’t want to go back to a small town?
Vallianatos: No, I went to Northern Illinois [University], and I decided I wanted to go to Northern because most of the people where I’m from went to ISU [Illinois State University]. I kind of just wanted to go north. I met my future wife there, and she was from Elgin. We ended up staying up this way, and I love it.
What’s great about McHenry is it’s close enough to the suburbs and sometimes McHenry County can have a suburban feel to it in some respects, and yet at the same time, I live 100 yards from a cow farm and that’s just perfect for me.