Mr. Jilek finds his way back to Naz

Caitlin McGarry

Ray Jilek may be new to the History Department at Nazareth this year but he is not new to the area: he has lived here his whole life. The Announcer was able to take some time to talk to him and learn more about how he has become the person he is today. 

Growing up, Jilek thought he wanted to go into a career having to do with journalism. He had always seen himself as more of a “reading and writing type of person.” Jilek knew he had a passion for history, but thought an English major would set him up best for a future career. “Once I started talking to more people and kind of realized that choosing history wouldn’t limit me in terms of my career options, I decided to go that route.”

As a high school student, Jilek played golf and baseball. He took baseball more seriously though, even considering playing in college. When it came time to make his college decision, Jilek had to choose between going to a small college to play baseball, or going to The University of Illinois and not playing. 

“I didn’t have any ideas that I was gonna play professional baseball so I had to make the call like, am I gonna change my college experience just to keep playing baseball for four more years, or should I cut the cord now so I can experience college fully like I want to?”

Jilek says this decision was very tough for him to make. Ultimately, he has no regrets going to the University of Illinois and not playing baseball because he had a great experience there.

After graduation, Jilek worked at Saint Patrick High School, an all boys’ high school on the northwest side of Chicago, for nine years before coming to Nazareth. After having a son a little over a year ago, he thought it was time to work somewhere closer to home. 

Although this is Jilek’s first year of teaching history at Naz, he has been familiar with the school for a while. “So, I graduated undergrad with a history degree, but I had to go back to get my teaching certificate and when I was doing that, I came here and actually, this was like ten years ago, I observed Mr. Jurasas’ classes.”

While he was observing classrooms, he recalls students coming up to him in the hallways throughout the day and asking him if he needed help finding rooms, going out of their way to be welcoming. Students at Naz continue to surprise him with their friendliness.

When asked what he likes about Naz, Jilek says, “There’s a real kind of unspoken sense of pride I feel,” he goes on to say, “You get that sense that the kids really like it and the teachers really like being here.”

Jilek could have pursued an English career or possibly could have gone to college to play baseball, but his decisions not to do both led him to where he is today. This unexpected path for Jilek turned out to be a great path after all.