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The Paw Print

News for Wildcats, by Wildcats.

The Paw Print

News for Wildcats, by Wildcats.

The Paw Print

Making History: Mr. Berardi, one of the last original Wildcats

provided by Voltaire Grant
Mr. Anthony Berardi is one of just a few of the original Wildcat teachers. When Normal West opened in 1995, Berardi took the job with high hopes. He reflects on his journey here at West with fond memories and high hopes as we move forward.

When Normal Community West High School opened its doors in 1995, there were around 65 teachers, with Dr. Crabtree as the principal.

Now, there are only four original Wildcats left teaching: Mr. Price, Ms. Fairfield, Mr Franz, and Anthony Berardi.

Mr. Berardi is the last original social studies teacher at West, with Mrs. Freeman retired as of last year. Fresh out of ISU and looking for a teaching job, Berardi applied for Unit 5 weeks before the school year.

Serendipitously, West had just finished being built and Unit 5 needed a whole slew of teachers.

Recounting the beginnings of West, Berardi says, “It was actually a little tough. I mean, we were a new school. We were a state of the art school.”

Further complicating the opening was a change in Unit 5 that moved 9th graders from the middle schools to high school and a closed campus.

“That was when there weren’t a lot of laws against cigarette smoking… if you were to by Normal Community a year before, there would always be 100 kids outside smoking…” Berardi recalls.

But among all of the problems, he still remembers those early years fondly: “It was cool, interesting, and something that not many people get to do is kick off the beginning of a school.”

Berardi’s true beginnings, though, were in Pekin, IL. “I grew up in a very poor community [which unfortunately,] still had a lot of holdovers from Jim Crow laws.”

This didn’t stifle him though, mainly thanks to his grandfather.

“My grandfather was an [Italian] immigrant and faced a lot of discrimination. And he really hammered into us that you treat people based upon the way they behave and not ethnicity, race, etc,” Berardi explains.

This teaching from his grandfather has become infused into his own teaching style and logic, whereby you can have your opinion but it has to be backed up by facts. Otherwise, he says, “You’re just going to keep cycling the same hate and garbage.”

Another person Berardi was influenced to become a teacher by was his father, who was a teacher himself. Additionally, he adds, “I liked the idea of learning and I like the idea of helping other people learn.”

Once he got into college he was “sure that’s what [he] wanted to do.”

When asked what keeps him invested in teaching, he explains that, “those moments of intellectual growth that takes place…” but even on a larger scale “seeing students growing and maturing and then you know, becoming people ready to go out into the world.”

His proudest teaching moment was when a brilliant but arrogant student slowly realized that he could be the smartest person in the world but that it didn’t matter if he didn’t treat others well.

“He kind of told me I had a little bit of a hand in helping him realize there was more than his selfish abilities,” Berardi remarks.

Today, Berardi teaches US history, Intro to Logic, and Sociology. If any of those classes sound like fun to learn, then consider signing up for them next year for a chance to learn from one of the last remaining original teachers, Mr. Berardi.

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