Unexpected Faculty Departures Shake Up School Semester


Katie Hallinan

Two Upper School faculty members announced their mid-year departure when students returned from break.

Two faculty members abruptly left their jobs prior to the second semester, and the rest of the Upper School is left to face the aftermath. Upper School English teacher Pedro Gonzalez and eighth and ninth grade counselor Perla De La Torre—both hired at the beginning of the 2023-24 school year—have resigned.

These departures came unexpectedly to the Latin community. “Anytime we hire a teacher, our intent is to have that teacher the entire school year,” Assistant Head of School Ryan Allen said. “Anytime someone leaves a faculty position in the middle of a school year, it’s a surprise.” 

While unforeseen, the mid-year departures of Mr. Gonzalez and Ms. De La Torre are not unprecedented. Upper School French teacher Benjamin Bourlange left mid-first semester. These departures have impacts on teachers and students alike.

Since Ms. De La Torre’s resignation, Upper School counselors Jane Knoche and Anneliese Kranz took on her ninth grade caseload, and Middle School counselor Cristina Vasquez took on the eighth grade caseload. 

“If someone leaves in the middle of the year, we may not have someone in the wings waiting,” Mr. Allen said. “We have folks help out from across the division and within divisions.” 

Ms. Knoche noted that the Upper School counselors “were already teaching Affective Ed, so we’ve been getting to know those students regardless.” 

Nevertheless, some students found the change to be frustrating. Freshman Hadja Barry said, “I think that was not right because I’ve talked to [Ms. De La Torre] two, three, four times, and I just feel like our relationship was more than [her leaving].”

Myles Antelis, another freshman, felt similarly. “A bunch of freshmen were starting to build bonds with her. Then she just kind of left, and she didn’t really give any explanation, which was hard for people.”

In addition to the problems caused by Ms. De La Torre’s departure, students also expressed difficulties having to shift English or language teachers mid-year. 

Junior Michael Gray, who got a new French teacher a few weeks into the first semester, said, “The harsh truth is that students thoroughly care about the teachers that they work with, and some children can be extremely discouraged when they receive a teacher that they did not expect.”

And Latin’s administration does not discount the effect of teacher resignations. “Someone has been in their classroom and has been teaching them and working with them intimately in terms of who they are as a learner, and then that person is gone. So we think that has a huge impact,” Mr. Allen said. 

But these mid-year departures affect more than just morale. Mr. Gonzalez taught a section of a sophomore English class, Eastern European Literature. His departure just before the second semester left students with incomplete class grade reports. 

“He didn’t leave any feedback,” sophomore Vivian Lee-Yee said, one of Mr. Gonzalez’s former students. “Now, on our grade reports, we have a blank grade. That’s really annoying.” This issue might leave those who have to submit mid-year grades for summer programs or job applications in a tricky situation.

Mr. Gonzalez also taught junior Katie McDermott’s American Seeker class. “He had a very unique perspective on things in the classroom, and I feel like he had a lot to say as a teacher,” she said. 

After his departure, another Upper School English teacher, Kailey Cole, took over Katie’s class. Ms. Cole and Mr. Gonzalez each taught one section of the class, so she is familiar with the curriculum. 

However, Katie said, “She has a different perspective on things than Mr. Gonzalez did, so it is a bit of a shock. We literally changed teachers in the middle of reading a book.”

Although the particular reasoning for these teachers’ exits has not been disclosed, the vacancies caused by their departures goes along with an ongoing trend. Currently, Illinois is experiencing an educator shortage. Across the state, schools have reported difficulty in filling positions. 

Mr. Allen acknowledged that hiring and retaining teachers has been a challenge. “We have a smaller pool, and often we’re competing for the same folks,” he said.

“I don’t know if we’ve figured that out yet,” he said, regarding combating these circumstances. “We have worked a lot around onboarding and trying to ensure that the faculty we do get, we keep. We [want to] make this a place where they have a sense of belonging.”

And there are many reasons a teacher might resign. President of the Latin School Union Elissabeth Legendre said, “We’ve had a culture for the last 135 years, and that culture is not necessarily very open to new voices all of the time.” As of now, though, Ms. Legendre said, other teachers at Latin “are not coming to talk to [her] with complaints.” 

She added, “It’s always a loss when we hire somebody and they come into our community as a new person, and we lose them so quickly. Turnover is part of working in a school. The unusual part of this is that people left mid-year. That usually doesn’t happen at a school. I think we’re just seeing a lot more teacher turnover across the board.”

While the reasons behind Mr. Gonzalez and Ms. De La Torre’s respective departures remain unknown, Katie said, “It’s sad, but depending on what the circumstances are, it must be for the best.”