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Face time with ... Cate Cardella

Published: Monday, Sept. 23, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT
(Jill Duchnowski –
Cate Cardella, a 1992 graduate of DeKalb Hugh School, is teaching kindergarten at Tyler Elementary School in the same classroom space where she attended kindergarten in 1980-81.

Cate Cardella’s life has come full circle.

She moved back to DeKalb and married Fred Cardella, a high school friend, three months and a day after she bumped into him again two years ago. Now, the 1992 DeKalb High School graduate is teaching kindergarten at Tyler Elementary School in the same classroom space where she attended kindergarten in 1980-81 in Donna Bennett’s class.

Her mother, Ruth Maher, also taught in Tyler Elementary School. When Cardella was in first grade, Maher was teaching a combined class of second- through fifth-graders, but at one point she taught in the same space where Cardella now teaches. The school’s first principal, George Riccio, remains a family friend.

The Cardellas are expecting their son, Clayton, to be born toward the end of November. Cate Cardella recently spent a few moments talking with News Editor Jillian Duchnowski about how Tyler Elementary School has touched her.

Duchnowski: Tell me how you ended up here.

Cardella: I moved to Florida when I was 21, and I came back to visit two years ago after being in Florida for 16 years. I bumped into a guy I knew in high school, and I ended up moving back, and we got married three months and a day later.

I obviously quit my job in Florida, and I had to get into the sub pool here to get into the system. I picked up the sub job that John Hahn [an art teacher for Malta, Founders and Tyler elementary schools who suffered an aneurysm Nov. 20, 2011] had posted when he was out. That went from being a two-week job to a month to two months to the rest of the school year. For my four-school rotation, I was at Tyler for one of my schools. I just got to be back in the building here and familiar with everyone.

Duchnowski: What do you remember from when you went here as a student?

Cardella: When I walk in the building every morning, just that front entryway, the bricks. It smells the same. Turning different corners. Obviously, with the walls up, it’s different, but looking out certain windows or getting a drink from certain fountains I have mini-flashbacks from when I was a student here and what that was like. The room next to me was my fifth-grade classroom. The library is still in the same place. Walking through what used to be the teacher’s lounge, having little flashbacks of teachers in plaid pants, smoking cigarettes. Things were different. The gymnasium is the same. Having assemblies or Christmas programs in there completely reminds me of when I was little.

Duchnowski: Do you live in a place where your son ultimately could go here?

Cardella: I would love for him to go to kindergarten here. That would bring it full circle even further. ... There are still come rules and regulations I’m not sure about.

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