Every morning, students and staff pass the draping banner in front of the carter gym, covering the wingspan of a bald eagle and displaying the faces of Hersey’s retirees. Among the twelve iconic faces hanging from the wall is that of Kent Borghoff: history teacher, student council sponsor, scholastic bowl coach, and, of course, legend.
In one of Borghoff’s last weeks spent here at Hersey, I sat down with him for an interview to reflect upon his last thirty-three years teaching and discuss his hopes for the future. Thus, this story is—from beginning to end—a recount of Mr. Borghoff’s teaching career based on his own words, and more or less a celebration of his successes at John Hersey High School.
When graduating high school for the first time (the second time being, of course, this year), Borghoff set himself upon a career in teaching history. In his own high school experience, he found most joy in his history classes.
While he appreciated one of his math classes, he decided it was his teacher at the time, not the equations or circumferences, that motivated him to learn. In his own words: “a couple of classes with a couple of good teachers” were most important in shaping his high school experience.
Those memories, however, lie at Naperville Central High School. It was not until 1989 that he took his first tour of Hersey. After touring every other school in District 214, he felt a definite difference in Hersey, in the greater level of comfort between students and teachers, and the collaborative approach taken towards learning. For that reason, he listed Hersey as his first choice for student teaching. After a single year, he accepted his job offer in the social science wing in 1990.
He taught a plethora of classes, some which are still taught and others that have since died off. From the extinct courses of American Studies, Introduction to Social Studies, and American Problems to the classes we know today—such as World History, United States History, Economics, and European History—Mr. Borgoff has taught almost every class the social science department has offered.
As a young teacher, he took on a hefty pile of initiatives. Many might be surprised to hear he spent years as a golf coach, a basketball coach, and a volleyball coach (the last being most surprising, as he had no knowledge on the formal rules or strategies of volleyball when accepting the position).
Beyond athletics, he coaches scholastic bowl, and he has supervised student council for as long as he can remember, handling perhaps his most impressive accomplishment: Mr. Borghoff has been to every homecoming dance and prom for the last 33 years.
He’s attended many graduation ceremonies, and has–not surprisingly–given the staff graduation speech a gross amount of times in his career.
The most rewarding product of his career, however, is his marriage. Borghoff met his wife at a school holiday party. As he recounts, the celebrations were always fun, but this year was the best. There is some debate over who asked who to dance. But, as he says it, “the rest is history.” Around eighteen years later, Mrs. Monahan and Mr. Borghoff are the power couple of the social science department.
After his second high school graduation–also known as retirement, if someone insists on its traditional label–Borghoff aspires to keep researching in some way or another. Though the idea remains abstract, as he reports, one avenue for his future is a website more academically oriented and less “tailored for the college board”.
Students and staff reluctantly say goodbye to Borghoff this year at the bittersweet end of his long and fulfilling career. Senior Gabi LaQuaglia finds that when “he speaks, everything becomes more humorous and enjoyable.”
In my personal experience in his class, he brings history to life with light-hearted sound effects, passionate lectures, and giddy commentary on the subject he loves the most. His adoration for stories and lessons is infectious. His affect on students, class experience, and staff alike can never be overstated.
While it is a difficult goodbye, we wish him the best of luck, health, and happiness in his retirement.