Saying farewell to beloved teachers

Teachers Dan Jones, Gina Gagliano and Jim Vetrone are retiring after many years at Central.

Courtesy of Dan Jones, Gina Gagliano and Jim Vetrone

Teachers Dan Jones, Gina Gagliano and Jim Vetrone are retiring after many years at Central.

As the 2022-23 school year draws to a close, so does the time some teachers at Hinsdale Central have left in the building.

This year, there are a total of six different teachers retiring. These teachers span across many different departments, including math, social studies, science, counseling and athletics. These teachers have been working at Central for many decades. Many Hinsdale Central students are saddened to see their beloved teachers go. However as retirement comes closer, many teachers reminisce about their time at Central while preparing for their future plans outside of school. We sat down with retiring teachers Dan Jones (athletics director), Gina Gagliano (math teacher), and Jim Vetrone (science teacher) to discuss.


What year did you start teaching?

Jones: 1989

Gagliano: 1989, I like to tell people I have been teaching for five decades!

Vetrone: ‘97, the year my daughter was born.


What inspired you to start teaching?

Jones: In high school I had a really good history teacher. At the time I was unsure of what I wanted to do at the time, I kind of wanted to do something in construction, and she mentioned to me that she thought I would be a good teacher.

Gagliano: I have always had a leader side to my personality. When I was in high school, I was always the captain of my sports team, and I loved math! My dad was a high school teacher as well, and he encouraged me to pursue this profession. I love leading, I love math, and that’s what brought me here.  

Vetrone: I guess some of my own kids. I like my own little kids, I like the kids in my neighborhood. I was always the fun adult on the block who plays with the kids instead of the adults. I always wanted to teach Physics later in life but then I realized why wait to start your fun career later, why not do it now?

What got you involved at Central?

Jones: The job opened in 2012. I had two friends who were athletic directors at Hinsdale South and Leyden, and they talked me into doing this job. 

Gagliano: Initially [when applying for teaching jobs], I kind of just applied to all of the suburbs that were far from me. When I got hired here, the minute I stepped through the door I could feel the difference between where I came from and this place. 

Vetrone: I wasn’t from this area, but my wife went to this school, and my kids went to Downers Grove North so there were some good schools around me in the West suburbs. There was an opening here, so I was like “that sounds like a good plan”. 


What got you involved within your perspective department?

Jones: For the first 15-16 years I taught U.S history, world geography and sociology. And then there was an opportunity at my old school where my principal approached me and asked for me to take over the role as athletic director for a year. And that was over 18 years ago, and I really liked it. I’ve been doing it ever since.

Gagliano: When I was in high school, math was the easiest. I mean, I was always the first one done with my paper, and it was just so easy. I think that was why I pursued math because it was just a natural love of mine. And then, actually about 15 years ago, I decided I was tired of finding “x.” I didn’t care who “x” was, and I bit off going into teaching statistics.   

Vetrone: It was either science or the German department. I was endorsed to teach Physics or German, but German was a stretch and Physics was really my main love. 


What’s your favorite memory about teaching at Central?

Jones: Just the people. I really, really, enjoy the staff, students and community. This is a really special place and I’m honored that I was a part of it.

Gagliano: We do something in one of my statistics classes called the Russian Egg Roulette, and it’s modeled off of a Jimmy Kimmel lesson. There’s a dozen boiled eggs, eight are hard boiled and four are raw. Every year I let the kids decide whether they want to do this or not, and usually I get a few volunteers. The kids do the whole stimulation and decide how many times it would take before somebody actually won or not. I think it was fun.

Vetrone: The solar eclipse [in 2017] was pretty cool. When it came together, we were all celebrating science so that was pretty nice.  


As retirement comes closer, how do you feel?

Jones: Bittersweet. I am not going to miss the hours and the decisions you have to make every day, but I’m going to miss the staff and students and community and seeing them everyday. 

Gagliano: I am super, super, super, super excited! I have a lot of travel lined up for myself. 

Vetrone: Excited and looking forward to the new change in life. 


Is there any specific individual or event that sticks out to you?

Jones: There are just so many. For some reason I have been reflecting on the students and staff members that we lost way too early. But there were so many things that happened during my career that I am happy to be a part of. 

Gagliano: I would like to comment on Mrs. Korbitz [math teacher]. She and I started the same year, 31 years ago, and she has absolutely been my work best friend. 

Vetrone: I remember when we got air conditioning in the school, that was a big deal. It made a big difference that year. 


What is your best year that you taught and why?

Jones: I really enjoyed my students from 2000. I don’t know why. I think there were a lot of great personalities in that class. They actually nominated me for a teacher of the year award which I was given, and I remember being at their graduation which was very special. I still keep in touch with a lot of those students.

Gagliano: Honestly I have to say this year, you know why? I have been away from the honors classes for so long that it’s such a refreshment to be in a class with kids who absolutely love math. You don’t have to encourage them to want to do the problems, they are just engaged with it. It’s very bittersweet as you teach your final subjects, but the past year the classes have been so incredibly kind and sweet and caring, and just knowing that it’s the last time I’m gonna do it makes the year the most special. 

Vetrone: I think 2006. I had a rocket club that sort of jumped out of nowhere. In my class were a couple guys and a girl who wanted to launch rockets, and we did it every weekend just for fun in the cold. We were actually submitted for a national competition. We were number seven in the country and we got invited to Washington D.C. That was a fun year.


What is the most unexpected moment in your career?

Jones: I think the year that our baseball team placed second at state. It was the first time as an athletic director that I had a team place a state, and almost the whole team played little league with my son so I knew them very well. I remember being very proud of them, and being able to be a part of that, and also being the first time in my career to get a state trophy. 

Gagliano: I think it would be the time I was asked by the superintendent to be the new teacher mentor coordinator about 15-20 years ago. I got myself certified with the Danielson method for observation, so I was able to go into their classrooms prior to their observation and let them do a dry run with me and give them little pointers and help them feel competent in what they are about to do for the day. Teaching is about finding all the great opportunities and bringing it back to your own classroom. As a result, I feel like my classroom has been so much more rich because I was able to go into the science department, English department, [World] Language department, everything!

Vetrone: The most unexpected was that I was awarded a chance to get pie thrown in my face for a fundraiser. Unexpected. Students like to do that. 

What are your plans after retirement?

Jones: I am going to start my own handyman business. I have a little bit of a construction background, so I’m going to get back into that.

Gagliano: I’m planning on living in Costa Rica for October, November and December. I’m also going to do some yoga, some retreat work. Then I have Iceland, Scotland, Switzerland and England for the summer. So I have lots of travel coming!

Vetrone: After retirement I’m going to coach pickleball and tennis.


Do you plan on returning to the educational atmosphere?

Jones: Yes, I still plan on helping out wherever I can and wherever needed. Sounds like I’m going to be doing a few announcements during events. 

Gagliano: One thing I will always say is that you can take the girl out of the teacher, but you can’t take the teacher out of the girl! No matter where I go, I will continue to be a teacher. I don’t see myself taking a full time role again, but I will definitely still use my love of mathematics and spread that. I think the thing I’m most known for is making math fun and engaging and hands on. I like to take the student that doesn’t like math and thinks they’re not good at it, and by the end of being with me they realize that they do have the ability and it is something that is interesting and fun. 

Vetrone: I might be a Physics tutor. 


Be sure to thank your teachers, retiring or not, for all the time and effort they put in every day at Central.