Family of Teachers

The Schweitzer women personify the spirit of education with generations of teachers

Mary (Gregurich) Schweitzer

Mary (Gregurich) Schweitzer chose to be a teacher based on the advice of her big sister in college. “She told me that teaching was something you could always fall back on,” stated Mary, “and it ended up being my life-long career.”

The Joliet born city girl was an English major at the University of St. Frances with minors in speech, journalism and art. She completed student teaching and attained her teaching certificate in 1964. And later earned a master’s degree in Adult Education from NIU.

During her teaching career she educated elementary, high school and college students.

“I always told my students they can never take education away from you. You can lose a car and other things, but you will always have your education,” said Mary.

Mary’s teaching career took a pause when she married her farmer husband, Paul, and they raised their family of seven children in rural Malta. The young farm wife had a steep learning curve to adjust to livestock and grain farming.

“My first experience on the farm was taking care of a sow that was farrowing. Paul had to attend a Farm Bureau meeting and I was alone on the farm, at that time with three little kids. I was nervous and wondered what I had gotten into. Paul told me I had kids so I would know what to do! Thankfully everything worked out and the piglets were just fine,” she said.

When their youngest son, Mike, was preschool age Mary resumed teaching while taking her toddler in tow to Kishwaukee College. He would be in the preschool program there while Mary taught classes.

Her teaching curriculum changed through the years but focused heavily on English as a Second Language with the Hispanic population along with helping them adapt in their local communities. Her final educator role was being Director of Adult Education at the college.

Reflecting on her 25-year teaching career, she feels a sense of pride in her accomplishments. Mary is gratified that two of her daughters, Christi and Mary Beth, are in the same profession as well as her daughter-in-law, Amy.

The Schweitzer family of rural Malta: (from left) Cathi, Sara, Greg, Paul, Mary, John, Christi, Mike and Mary Beth.

She’s also happy that she left the city for the farm. “It’s one of the best places to raise children. They were involved in 4-H and learned many skills. And all of them learned how to raise animals and crops, with some responsibilities.”

As for others understanding agriculture, “People don’t realize the knowledge and skills that farmers need today. My husband has his master’s degree in agronomy and my son, Mike, who has taken over the farm has his college degree in technical systems. Both continue to stay abreast to changes and use best farming practices,” said Mary.

Christi (Schweitzer) Kane

Christi (Schweitzer) Kane closely followed her mother’s path being an English as a Second Language teacher. “I knew from an early age that I wanted to be a teacher,” said Christi. As a first grader she would come home from school and set up a classroom in their basement acting as a teacher and her three younger siblings were her students.

Christi graduated from the University of Illinois with a degree in Secondary Education and a master’s degree in Literacy Education from NIU.

In her 15-year teaching career, she has taught all grade levels, from elementary to college students. She currently teaches English at Albright Middle School in Villa Park. She and her husband, Tim, and two children reside in Wheaton.

“My main goal beyond teaching students the English language and that they are important, is to guide them to be empathetic and caring members of society,” stated Christi.

Having been raised on the family farm, Christi will share her experiences with her students. “Farming is so important to our existence, and I use my farm background to impart information when I can to my students.”

Dr. Mary Beth (Schweitzer) Ressler

Dr. Mary Beth (Schweitzer) Ressler had a real passion for theater. While her siblings went to the University of Illinois, she chose the theater path and attended Loyola University Chicago hoping to be a director or actress. During her college years her parents urged her to also consider teaching.

“When I did my student teaching, I fell more in love with teaching than only acting or directing,” said Mary Beth.

Mary Beth has taught high school and college students English, speech, theater, journalism and environmental studies in the last 17 years. She even taught at her alma mater, Rochelle Township High School. Now she is a college teacher and professor at North Central College in Naperville.

One of her classes is “Agriculture and the Environment – Educating Tomorrow’s Consumer.” The class involves taking students on tours of farms, including the Schweitzer Farm, and the Farm Bureau.

“There are a lot of misconceptions about farming, farmers and farming practices. Each term students are shocked by the assumptions they had previously made due to marketing campaigns and biased reporting. Looking at the scientific evidence through research, much of what students learn is about how complex decision making is in farming and food production,” she said.

Mary Beth holds a master’s degree from NIU and her PhD from Ohio State. Her husband, Jim, is a professor at NIU. They have three boys and reside in Kaneville.

Amy (Drach) Schweitzer

Amy (Drach) Schweitzer grew up on a grain and livestock farm in central Illinois and her mother was a home economics teacher. She told her mother she had “no desire to be a teacher and she wasn’t going to marry a farmer.”

“I learned you should never say never,” noted Amy. “I enjoy my job as a teacher and the farm is a great environment to raise children/family and I could not agree more (with my mother).”

Amy earned a bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology, Applied Life Sciences with a teaching certificate from the University of Illinois. She taught a few years at Urbana High School and then took a job at Rochelle Township High School where she met Mary Beth Schweitzer, who was also teaching there at that time.

Mary Beth introduced Amy to her brother, Mike, and they were married a few years later.
Amy has taught high school students at Rochelle for the past 17 years including being the department head of fitness and sports education. “I enjoy my job and love working with my students,” she said. “My health classroom is in the science/agriculture hallway so it lends itself to a variety of situations to talk about farming with our students.”

Amy and Mike reside on the home farm with their two sons who raise beef calves and help with the grain farming. She is currently working on her master’s degree in education in Professional School Counseling at NIU.

The Schweitzer family has strong roots in education and farming. The Schweitzer women are passionate about both and all agree “we need good farmers and good teachers!”

Amy, Mary and Christi share common teaching interests.