Dana Kanwischer Collages Together Her Final Moments at West


Gloria Kosir

Social Studies teacher Dana Kanwischer stands in front of her prized wall of magazine covers. She’s collected the various pages over the course of her 35-year teaching career.

By Gloria Kosir, Editor in Chief

For dozens of years, magazines with headlines of events that encapsulated the years have gradually filled a collage in the back of room 3015. Social Studies teacher Dana Kanwischer has collected these magazines throughout her entire teaching career. The collage has lent itself as a history book to all who noticed its photos of celebrities, political events, natural disasters and more. After 96 covers, Kanwischer’s time as a teacher has come to a close, but not without meaningful stories and memories.

Kanwischer began her teaching career in Antioch High School in 1986. After five years of teaching there, she started her second teaching job at Niles West, where she’s stayed for 29 years. She’s taught U.S. History, Sociology, Civics, People & Cultures, Global Studies, Modern World History and Law.

Kanwischer’s pride and joy of her teaching career is her law class. Created in 1999, the class is available for sophomores, juniors and seniors, and covers a variety of law-related subjects, including, according to the course description, “crime statistics, American prison system, alternatives to prison, factors of crime (reasons and solutions), the death penalty, the philosophy of justice, the American court system, Bill of Rights, civil rights, and due process of law.”

The course, which is heavily discussion-based, also spends time on major current cases, such as the Kyle Rittenhouse case last fall. One of Kanwischer’s many gifts is handling difficult conversations, such as this debate, with her students, providing them with the information and education they need to come to their own decisions.

“[Kanwischer was] the best teacher I ever had. She was amazing and everyone loved her. She taught very objectively and she and her class continued my interest in law and reaffirmed that I want to become a lawyer,” senior Samuel Philips said.

Kanwischer never went into teaching with the presumption that she was going to do grand things or make a difference. However, after a few years of teaching and experience under her belt, she began to realize her true impact.

“When I went into it, I am gonna be honest, I wasn’t like one of those people who thought ‘I’m gonna change the world’ or  really affect the students in any wayI just thought it’d be a fun job,” Kanwischer said. “But then, when I get letters from students, I realize how I influenced them. Some became teachers, some became lawyers, or whatever, and I’m like, ‘Well, I guess it really did influence some kids.’ I’m not gonna pretend like it’s a lot of kids, but I was surprised that I influenced some of them.” This realization, Kanwischer said, is one the greatest takeaways of her career.

Since her own high school days, Kanwischer knew that she was interested in becoming a high school history teacher. She observed the teachers who she admired and took notes on their teaching styles. She leads a pretty relaxed classroom setting that emphasizes discussions and reasoning, resulting in a space where everyone is heard. According to Kanwischer, the most important thing that she’s learned as a teacher is to “listen to the students.”

“Ms. Kanwischer was an amazing teacher. She was so passionate. Everything she taught us, she really cared about us learning. She was just an amazing teacher, and I learned a lot from her. I wish her the best in her retirement and I hope she’s happy in everything that she does,” senior MurphyMaeve Holleran said. Holleran and Philips were among Kanwischer’s last law students.

Leaving a place full of memories and milestones is always a challenge, as is finding something that can fill that gap. Kanwischer will split her time up between Chicago and Florida and is planning to teach ELL, work with a charity and volunteer. Her presence, friendliness and time here at West will be greatly missed.