Tattooed and Employed: Teachers with Ink

By Alyssa Guzman

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Whether it’s an infinity sign on your wrist, or an elaborate, unique design that holds a special place in your heart, tattoos have been used as a way to mark one’s body for thousands of years. Although some people may view them as taboo, or a surefire way to never obtain a decent job, the teachers of Niles West have proven otherwise.

Evelyn Lauer, English teacher and Niles West News adviser

Lauer remembers her college years as a time when tattoos were on the up and coming. She always knew she wanted one, but also knew that she wanted it to be meaningful. It wasn’t until her senior year of college that she finally knew what she wanted.

“I was working on a chapbook of poems that I self published. In book design, on a title page, there’s a printer’s logo. I had my friend Dave, who’s a graphic artist, design a really cool light bulb for me,” she said.

The light bulb was significant to Lauer because of an exercise that she did in her first creative writing class at the University of Iowa, her Alma Mater.

“My teacher has an exercise where she puts random items in a basket, and I picked a light bulb. It went on to be a poem that I published called ‘Naked Like a Light Bulb.’ The light bulb was a symbol of creativity for me in writing, and I knew that that’s what I wanted,” she recalls.

Though she was confident in her decision, her father wasn’t so sure, deeming tattoos as “unprofessional” and “sailor-like” over a Christmas dinner conversation. When Lauer admitted that she wanted a tattoo, her father made — what she remembers to be — a “total flippant comment.”

“He said, ‘maybe if you still want the tattoo when you’re 30, it’ll be okay.’

That comment resonated with Lauer, so she chose to wait another eight years.

Finally, on the day she turned 30, she got her first tattoo.

“I got my tattoo and I got my wedding dress. three months after my birthday, [I] got married,” she said. “I think it’s a great story because it all fell into place so perfectly. Not only was it a meaningful tattoo for me in terms of what it was personally, but I was in grad school down in Texas working on my poetry degree [when I got the tattoo].”

Having waiting until the age of 30 to get her first tattoo, Lauer advises young people to “think hard before they do it.”

Jason Macejak, physical education teacher and varsity girls’ swimming coach

A competitor of the Iron Man Triathlon, which consists of a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike ride, and a 26.2 mile run, Macejak’s tattoo is completely appropriate.

“I completed it in Louisville, Kentucky in 2008,” he said. “An Iron Man tattoo is not something that is required to have when completing the race, but I thought it would be a great way to symbolize the achievement.”

The tattoo has not only served as a reminder of his accomplishment, but it has also served as a permanent reminder to keep up his fitness.

“When people see the Iron Man tattoo, there should be an in-shape guy [wearing it] and the tattoo has helped keep my mindset on being physically strong and fast,” he said.

Dana DesJardins, English teacher

“My first tattoo was a cover up of a scar I have that was caused in a car crash. I was always self-conscience about the scar, and as soon as I turned 18 I went to get a tattoo to cover the scar,” DesJardins said. “I went into the shop scared out of my skull, and they told me they would take me the next day. The tattoo artist was almost positive I was too scared to get one.”

The tattoo artist was right — at the moment. DesJardins wanted the tattoo at 18, but didn’t actually get it until she was 30 years old. After her first tattoo, her fear had completely diminished.

“After the first tattoo, I got a couple more because I love how you can honor something important to you,” she said.

Nicole Reynolds, physical education teacher and varsity girls’ softball coach

Reynolds got her tattoo her senior year of high school when she was at a softball tournament in Florida. It was her last high school season, which is why she decided to get a tattoo of a softball with her playing number incorporated into it.

“If they are meaningful, then it’s worth it, but if it doesn’t have meaning, then it’s not worth it. It stays with you for all of your life,” she said.

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Mark Rigby, assistant principalĀ 

Having a two year old son who is diabetic, Rigby decided to get the breast cancer sign as a tattoo. However, instead of a pink banner, it’s grey with a drop of blood.

“I got it so I could permanently commemorate what he has to deal with every single day,”

Like Lauer and DesJardins, Rigby also waited until he was older to get his tattoo.

“I got my first tattoo when I was 37, so I thought a lot about what to get and where to get it. I think you have to really think carefully beforehand; it’s not a spur of the moment decision because they’re forever.”

In addition to the tattoo for his son, Rigby also has an army ranger tattoo since he was in the army for 10 years.

Seema Chandarana, math teacher

In yoga and other Dharmic religions, the Om symbol is sacred and meaningful. Since Chandarana practices yoga, she decided to get the symbol on her food.

“I have the om symbol on my foot because it grounds me. There are a lot of positions in yoga where I’m gazing at my feet, so it offers me something to contemplate while breathing,” she said.

Being the owner of more than one tattoo, Chandarana takes pride in her tattoos.

“Each tattoo is very permanent and personal,” she said. “They’ve chosen me more than I’ve chosen them. I got each during a time of transformation, so they’re each a mark of a shift.”

Sharon Swanson, English teacher and yearbook adviser

Swanson proudly bears a blue bird on her wrist, which serves as dual meaning for her.

“One [meaning] is from when my granddaughter was little. She made up a song: ‘little birdy, what’s your name? A snake pooped on you and threw up in the store.’ The second is from a quote I heard: ‘be like the bird who, pausing in her flights awhile on boughs too slight, feels them give way beneath her and yet she sings, knowing she hath wings.'”

Swanson got her tattoo seven years ago, and knew even then that she only wanted something meaningful.

“I didn’t want one until I knew exactly what I’d want,” she said.

Emily Butera, Paulina Michael, and George Panoutsos contributed to this article.