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Humans of WEGO: The lifelong coach

AVID teacher Richard Kost inspires students in the classroom and out.
English+turned+AVID+teacher+Rich+Kost+is+due+to+retire+at+the+end+of+this+year%3A+he+leaves+behind+a+legacy+that+will+be+hard+to+fill.+%28Photo+illustration+created+by+Wildcat+Chronicle+Staff+using+an+image+provided+by+Rich+Kost%29
English turned AVID teacher Rich Kost is due to retire at the end of this year: he leaves behind a legacy that will be hard to fill. (Photo illustration created by Wildcat Chronicle Staff using an image provided by Rich Kost)

West Chicago Community High School’s very own pillar of passion and change started out as a salesman, then changed paths to mentor future generations. Finally retiring after 21 years of changing lives, this English-turner-AVID teacher is ready to hang up his cap. 

Who?

Richard Kost.

Kost is one of the four AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) teachers at WEGO,  but before guiding sophomores through college prep activities, he worked in business as a salesman for 18+ years.  After being in the business world for some time, Kost decided to pursue a teaching degree. He was inspired by his family, as well as coaches. 

“I didn’t start to become a teacher until I was 40. So when most people are trying to look toward the end of the tunnel, or see what they’re going to do for retirement, I just got going as a brand new teacher at 40, which was a little humbling. I thought I was going to be as cool as the young kids coming out of college,” Kost said. 

He swiftly found his passion in teaching and coaching, and was hired as an English teacher at East Aurora High School. 

“Though I’m 63 years old, I’ve only taught for 21 years. That sounds like a long time, but it’s not. But I was in the corporate business role for 18 years, too. I’ve been very lucky. I’ve had two careers, but I chose to become a teacher after being in the business world because I just like being around kids,” Kost said.

Kost and one of his AVID classes posing with socks they collected during a donation drive. (Photo courtesy of Rich Kost)

Later on in his teaching career, he transferred to WEGO, where Kost started out in the English department 17 years ago. He went on to teach AVID, and has done so for the last seven years. 

“Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed my English teaching days. But there’s nothing like AVID. AVID has been everything that I’ve ever wanted to do as far as teaching, because I’m helping the whole student. I can’t wait to see what happens to the kids after they graduate. Whether it’s college, military, tech school, [or trades]. I know as a matter of fact, you are onto great things,” Kost said.

Kost’s coworkers and friends have noticed his ability to build rapport with others. 

Mr. Kost is everything you want in an AVID teacher.  He takes the time to build relationships with students and takes an active interest in trying to make connections with them.  He also coaches multiple sports throughout the year, which shows his dedication to our students in and out of the classroom,” former AVID teacher Nick Kempski said.

Kempski and Kost worked together for many years, and made the AVID program what it is today. With Kempski’s move to STARS, and Kost’s retirement, the face of AVID is likely to change.

“Mr. Kost is a dear friend of mine.  Together we helped to grow the AVID program over the span of a decade.  His commitment to AVID and our students is incredible,” Kempski said.

Jennifer Culbertson, a relatively new teacher to AVID, has also been inspired by Kost in the short time in which they have taught together.

“Mr. Kost is one of the best hype-men in the business; he builds his students up both academically and emotionally,” Culbertson said.

While “hype” might be what he is known for, today, Kost keeps in mind that no two students are alike. He strives to learn from each of his students.

“I see things through different students’ eyes, be it culturally, different religions, different backgrounds. We’re all not just some cookie cutter society. I love the fact that we are such an open, diverse community here. I’ve learned so much about different nationalities and religions, stuff that I didn’t know before. So it’s neat to bounce some things off of very cool students and get that in return. That’s just a bonus,” Kost said.

Looking back on his teaching career, one of the hardest challenges arose when a new enemy and force to be reckoned with arrived in 2020: COVID. Kost still remembers the difficulties he had teaching students during lockdown.

“It sounds like such a cliche, but it isn’t. We’re in the people business and we know that we’ve had a rough few years here with. And it’s the last time I’m gonna say the word COVID. But we had some hard times teaching through a screen. I felt really bad because you forget we teachers have all been students. And I can’t imagine what it would have been like to learn through a screen,” Kost said.

Now, Kost is focused on enjoying his final year as a teacher and coach. 

“I’m not saying COVID’s over, but we don’t have masks on as much. And we’re interacting. You know me, I like to knuckle five everybody and I’ve got to see what they’re doing. So, yes, it’s just an easy thing to feed off the energy of you guys,” Kost said. 

Students resonate with Kost’s energy, and see him as a motivator.

“He’s fun to be around, and he takes the time to learn you – each individually. No matter what he would check in on you and make sure he was doing everything he could help you as a person and student,” senior Miranda Enochs said.

Kost and his children posing for the picture at lunch several years ago. (Photo courtesy of Rich Kost)

Most recently, Kost took on a new temporary role: coaching boys’ tennis. 

“I never thought I would do that. I haven’t played a competitive round of tennis since Richard Nixon was president,” Kost said.

In fact, Kost has long been a coach in whatever sport his children participated in. 

“I played almost every sport, he taught me everything in the backyard, and he was if you start something you don’t quit, different concept that if you practice, you’ll see your results. [He] coached me in soccer, a lot of running, track, volleyball, help me find a coach to train with, He will always find a way, He gets really excited and his excitement expands that if your excited he gets even more excited,” daughter Rachel Kost said.

Coaching high schoolers, not only in tennis, but also in boys’ golf, was a natural transition, though his time as a coach surpasses his work as a teacher and  salesman altogether: 50 years.

“Kost is a coach who embodies empathy, hes is always someone who will understand you and your struggles,” junior and Varsity golf player Nicolas Aiuppa said.

Now after years of trials, experiences, and memories, Kost’s time as the of AVID is coming to an end. As he nears retirement, Kost is considering his options. 

“I wouldn’t mind teaching in college, I also wouldn’t mind going back to my old career in sales. But I’m going to take my time and really make sure it’s something that I’m just as happy doing, as I am teaching. I want to do things besides travel, and so forth, but I wanna hang with my grandkids, but I do want to work too. I also love charitable work. I plan on working in food kitchens and things like that, it’s just what I like doing,” Kost said.

This came to a surprise, as many who knew Kost, understood his love for teaching and coaching.

“He really fell in love with the coaching and the students. It’s his calling. I’m in disbelief that he’s retiring, from coaching three sports and teaching. I believe that he will continue to coach but not in a competitive way,” son Charlie Kost said.

One of Kost’s last messages is to any Wildcats and incoming Wildcats: a last word of wisdom before closing his AVID handbook. 

“You’re going to hear so many people say ‘be involved’ or  ‘try new things’. And it’s really hard sometimes, but if you’re looking at our website, and you look at the cool activities and clubs, just break out of your comfort zone. Break that bubble because this place shouldn’t be a four-year prison sentence. Just step out of your comfort zone. Middle school is behind you, so is childhood. Welcome to early adulthood and taking chances. You’ll thank me later,” Kost said.

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About the Contributor
Fernando Calvillo-Morales
Fernando Calvillo-Morales, Multimedia Content Creator
Senior Fernando Calvillo-Morales has put a lot of his time into clubs and sports including, Rock Climbing Club, the Varsity tennis team, Robotics Team, yearbook, and Compass. Fernando is clearly a leader within the West Chicago community. He has always been very dedicated, and applied himself to being the best he can be. A significant part of Fernando is his humor: most would say he is quite a jokester. He can never fail to make someone laugh and instantly improve their day. Loyalty is also an especially important quality to Fernando, and he is a firm believer in helping others find success. When Fernando is not found drinking chia water, he is listening to NF. His favorite part about NF is his ability to sing and go in-depth about the highs and lows of life, and how to overcome obstacles. 
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