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Teacher 'helped to change the world'
By Amy Mack | Daily Herald Columnist

Sleepy Hollow Elementary School second-grade teacher Darlene Motl gets a hug as she arrives at her surprise retirement party at M.T. Barrels in West Dundee Thursday.


Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

Darlene Motl shares a laugh at her surprise retirement party.


Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

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Published: 6/8/2008 12:04 AM

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Plenty of students and teachers have their eye on the clock these days as it ticks down the final minutes until summer vacation.

There's a special countdown going on at Sleepy Hollow Elementary School as second-grade teacher Darlene Motl readies to retire after 24 years of teaching between Sleepy Hollow and St. Peter Lutheran School in Schaumburg.

Friends, family and colleagues surprised her Thursday with a retirement bash at M.T. Barrels in West Dundee.

"She has helped to change the world through every life she touched, including teachers," fellow Sleepy Hollow teacher Zoki Cuvalo said.

"She is a wonderful educator," said St. Peter assistant principal Cindy Oleson, who also described her as warm and loving. "She always had the best interest of the students at heart and worked tirelessly to make sure they understood the concepts they needed to learn."

Her compassion, commitment and sense of humor truly made a difference, Sleepy Hollow colleagues Randy Bruce, Kristi Holm and Amber Lee agreed.

No matter what a student's learning level, she found a way to reach him, said aide Traci Vaughan.

Often it was with laughter.

"Every day she keeps the kids on their toes and laughing," Sarah Carlson said.

I hear she made many a teacher chuckle, too.

Students -- spurred to strive to reach even higher under this teacher's guidance -- often asked her what's next as they finished one project or lesson.

"Stay tuned," Mrs. Motl would tell them. It became sort of a mantra with students.

So what's next for a teacher who loves teaching but also loves quilting and shopping?

I'm pretty sure she'd say "Stay tuned."

Above and beyond

Darlene is one of the people who go above and beyond, one of those hidden heroes who make so many lives different here in the Fox Valley.

She's not the only one. I've heard from enough of you to know there's lots of great folks out there quietly making life better for the rest of us. If you know someone we should feature, give me a call (847) 931-5725 or drop me a note at I'll keep you anonymous if you prefer.

Speak now or ...

If you'd like to weigh in on the proposed West Dundee Wal-Mart, Monday is your last chance. You can speak out for or against at 7 p.m. at the village board's committee of the whole meeting at Public Safety Center No. 1, 555 S. Eighth St., West Dundee. I'm glad to know village officials are making sure they hear what everyone has to say. Aren't you?

Mae day in June

Jennifer Almanza of Senior Services Associates asked me to let you know you're invited to "A Tribute to Mae West," as portrayed by Mary Anne Burkhalter, part of the fun planned to honor Father's Day. It's from noon to 2:30 p.m. Wednesday at the downtown Elgin location, 101 S. Grove Ave. and includes a sloppy joe and homemade potato salad lunch. They're asking for $5 donations from members and $7 from non-members at the door. Reserve your spot by calling (847) 741-0404.

Over the plate

Julie Franz wants you to know about a fundraiser for the 11U Cary Travelers baseball team Tuesday at the Wool Street Grill and Sports Bar, 800 Feinberg Court, Cary. The restaurant will donate 20 percent of your lunch or dinner bill to the team if you mention the Travelers when you order. What a great way to help out the team and check out a new eating spot, eh?