Teacher Feature – Mr. Gibson

Kayla Fink, Features Editor

What do canoeing, photography, astronomy, and playing the drums, have in common with each other? They’re just some of the many activities that make up Mr. Gibson, astronomy teacher at Joliet West. Mr. Gibson became interested in astronomy when he was in high school and from then on has been obsessed. Gibson is not only a great teacher but he also coaches Boys’ Cross Country and is the sponsor of the Astronomy Club at Joliet West.

 Q: What made you want to become an astronomy teacher?

A: One winter day – way back in high school, our science teacher taught us about a few constellations that would be visible that night.  So that night, after I dressed in my warmest winter coat, I grabbed a flashlight and a star atlas I checked out from the school library, and then went outside and just started observing the night sky.  I grew up on a farm so I was fortunate to be able to stargaze away from all the light pollution of town.  I remember the pure pleasure of finding the same patterns in the sky that I was seeing on the maps of the star atlas.  Over the next few weeks, I nearly froze but I learned most winter constellations and the names of the bright stars.  I was hooked on astronomy.  Teaching astronomy came much later.  There aren’t many jobs out there where you can teach astronomy, so I was happy to teach biology and earth science.  Eventually, though, I proposed the idea of an astronomy class to a school committee and it was accepted.  I’m glad too; astronomy is a great class to teach.

 Q: You mentioned in the beginning of the year you lived in Hawaii, how was that experience and how long did you live there?

A: My very first teaching job was also a dream job – teaching junior high science on the Big Island of Hawaii.  Although it was expensive to live there, I really made the most of my one year on the island.  I joined a canoe racing team – great exercise and beautiful way to enjoy the ocean.  I snorkeled 2-3 times a week in world class coral reefs.  Since I knew geology, I played tour guide in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park site of Kilauea volcano, the most active volcano in the world. And I plundered ornate statues from sacred burial sites of the natives – no wait – that was a Brady Bunch episode.

 Q: What do you like to do in your spare time?

A: In my spare time, I enjoy spending time with my wife, and playing with my 2 year old son who thinks he’s a bulldog or a tiger, he’s not sure which animal he wants to be – and my beautiful daughter, who doesn’t want to be a brain surgeon when she grows up.  Aside from that, I enjoy foot races, photography, canoeing, fishing, playing the drums, and building things – especially things that launch projectiles.  Ask me how to turn an ordinary bic pen into a deadly blow dart gun.

 Q: What kind of music do you listen to?

A: I have recently gotten into bluegrass.  It’s different.  I also enjoy classic rock n roll – Bob Segar, Reo Speedwagon, genesis, Zeppelin, Rush, but I also enjoy, depending on my mood Nat King Cole, Elvis.

 Q:You’re the sponsor of the Astronomy Club, how is the club coming along this year?

A: The Astronomy club is going well. I’ve never been more excited about the great opportunities astronomy club students will have.  We are planning several big trips to Yerkes Observatory, several dark sky sites to go stargazing, and perhaps the Adler planetarium.  We even have a few members who are planning to build their own telescopes.

 Q: You also coach Boys’ Cross Country, was the season everything you’ve hoped for?

A: I love coaching cross country.  It has been a real pleasure working with every one of our young men on the team.  Each one, from the slowest to the swiftest, has set goals for themselves, worked hard in practice, and seen faster and faster times over the weeks.  Something Coach Newman and I impress upon the athletes is that luck has nothing to do with a performance.  At the end of the season, I want each one of our runners to be able to reflect on their efforts, and say with pride that they did everything in their power to run as fast as their bodies would take them.  I believe in each one of those runners.  They are strong in character and I’m real proud of their work.

 Q: You ran the Chicago Marathon, how was that!?

A: Racing the Chicago Marathon was hands down the most invigorating, emotional experience I’ve had in a long, long time.  And that’s because of what I did leading up to the race.  I trained long hard miles through the blistering heat of July and August, ran speed workouts till I thought my lungs were going to burst, got up at 4 am to run 20 plus miles in the dark while everyone else was sleeping. Some training days I would run till I was delirious and dizzy.  All so I could line up on race day, with the comrades I trained with, and face the enemy that I knew I would beat.  In the end, the race was epic. I did not reach my goal time, but I ran as hard and fast as I could for 26.2 miles,  and I don’t mind saying I’m real proud of that.