Teaching is a science Ferreiro never hypothesized as a child, but she could not be happier


Ferreiro’s mom, dad, and brother at her college graduation. (Photo courtesy of Brianne Ferriero)

By Sydney Radke, Reporter

Students of WEGO, either freshman or senior, are eagerly waiting in the biology class with the blue walls and the scientific posters surrounding the room. As they are working together on a lab or individually studying, they are scared by a huge scream of “WOULD YOU RATHER” in the classroom. This automatically makes every kid start laughing as they become more enthusiastic, which is the goal in this classroom. Whose classroom might this be? Brianne Ferreiro’s. 

Science teacher Brianne Ferreiro was interested in biology early on: she did well in that class during her time at Glenbard East High School – at least, so she thought. Studying was a difficulty, even at an early educational age. However, that obstacle did not stop her from continuing to major in science in college, first at community college, and then at Northern Illinois University and North Central College

Eventually, studying was no longer a problem for Ferreiro: she was able to figure out what worked for her and what helped her succeed.

“I had to find a way to take my skill of memorization and find a new way of utilizing it to apply what I know,” said Ferreiro. 

When I first walked into Ferriero’s classroom on a Wednesday afternoon, just before spring break, freshmen were piling out of her room, as our meeting came right after the bell rang. I waited patiently, and once the students left, we had some casual discussion. Although she seemed nervous, it was an easy conversation (I am one of her students now, so she was not too much of a stranger). 

Ferreiro sat at her desk, probably taking a rest after facing her freshman class, and I playfully informed her about the topics we would touch upon. 

Ferreiro’s journey to West Chicago was not a conventional one: she originally started as a long-term substitute, and so she did not start the job she has now until February 2007. She was offered  the job after receiving her master’s in education from National Louis University, and then completing student teaching at Glenbard East. 

The department chair at Glenbard East received an email from the department chair at WCCHS stating that they needed someone to cover maternity leave for science teacher Corrie Stieglitz. After this temporary experience, she interviewed to become a full-time teacher at West Chicago, having heard there would be 3 to 4 positions opening up that year.

During the spring is when most new teachers start looking for jobs, Ferreiro informed me, and since she was just coming out of a long-term sub position, she was looking for one. However, after subbing for Stieglitz, Ferreiro fell in love with WEGO, and did not apply to any other schools. 

“I put all my eggs in one basket,” said Ferriero. Thankfully, doing so worked out in her favor in the end. 

Stieglitz, describes Ferreiro as the most giving, funny, and caring person she knows, and loves having her on her team in life and in work. 

Stieglitz said, “Our running joke is that if there was an accident on the side of the road, she would be the first person to stop and see if you are okay and I would zoom off and not want to get involved. She is your ride or die friend and coworker that remembers things you tell her and asks you about them later.”

Ferreiro believed that biology had always been an easy subject for her, until she had to turn in her transcript to WEGO to secure the job. In college, her grades were stellar, but she mentioned to me that in high school, she might have gotten a C one year which she saw as a surprise because she had always believed that biology was her strong suit. However, a feat that is admirable about Ferreiro is that, during her high school career, she never took one honors or AP class. For those who do not know, Ferreiro teaches both honors and AP biology classes at West Chicago Community High School. Ferreiro saw these classes from a unique point of view when they were assigned to her, and so she took different approaches when teaching the subjects – approaches that would help students be even more successful. 

Ferriero said, “I have a good way of explaining things to students because I see how I would have seen it and I need to make it understandable.” Students agree Ferriero’s methods are helpful, and she demonstrates her methods well.

“I like how every class she starts it off with how her day went, it really connects her with the students and gets me in the right headspace for class,” said senior Grace Leonard.

Ferreiro has always been a competitive person so when she had more time she would run a lot of races. (Photo courtesy of Brianne Ferriero)

It is hard to imagine, then, that becoming a biology teacher was not always Ferriero’s first choice. She originally had aspirations of going into the medical field, either as a doctor or a physical therapist. 

Ferreiro long had the dream of helping people; even as a child, she said, “I want to be a doctor.” However, those aspirations changed after realizing that she would be in school for a long time. Following this discovery, Ferriero had to figure out another way to do what she loves, and that quest led her to physical therapy. 

At Glenbard East, where Ferriero attended high school, there was a program which allowed students, including Ferriero, to shadow different people in various careers, and so she did so for physical therapy. Ferreiro was able to provide water rehabilitation for children with cerebral palsy, go to the National Chiropractic College in Lombard, and finally, work in a clinic as a physical therapist technician. 

Unfortunately, the physical therapy idea did not work out either. Ferriero’s main goal was to help people, and she felt that while working at the clinic, she was just trying to get the patient in and out the door instead of actually making a difference. 

While her plans may have changed, her love for science has never waivered. Ferreiro’s passion for the subject was sparked by her own science teacher, Tom Martinez, who taught her biology and anatomy at Glenbard East High School. 

“He ignited my passion for biology and anatomy because those were the two classes I took with him,” she said. 

“Brianne was a good student, social and very personable. She did well academically, but I didn’t get the sense that she had so much passion for biology until she student taught with me!” said Martinez.

Following the whole process of learning and discovery, Ferreiro landed herself a teaching job. She is certified to teach biology at any level, as well as chemistry and physics (just not at the AP level). 

She decided to teach high schoolers, and when asked about other levels of teaching she responded with a “hard pass,” which prompted some laughing. 

Ferreiro was one of nine teachers who received the Inspirational Educator Award the first year students handed them out. She was nominated by a student and then the senior class voted. (Photo courtesy of Brianne Ferriero)

“Mrs. Ferriero is an amazing teacher. She will answer every question anyone has and she connects with the class. She could be anyone’s best friend. She’s also really forgiving when someone doesn’t understand something, and she realizes that people learn differently. Her class has really helped me with group work and thinking from others’ perspectives and socializing. Overall, her teaching style is great, especially for freshmen, and she has a really fun personality,” said freshman Addison Jeffery.

In fact, Ferriero’s biggest goal, when teaching students, is that they enjoy being in the classroom. 

Mrs. Ferreiro is a great teacher that will always brighten your day with her crazy stories at the beginning of class or wake you up when she yells at you about a ‘would you would rather’. She made biology so fun, and always made sure your phone was put away so you would pay attention and not be distracted. She never fails to respond to emails instantly, and always helps you out whenever you are struggling or miss a day. Whether you were working with her great music in the background, or just following along with some presentation biology was always a blast with Mrs. Ferreiro,” said freshman Gilan Hosticka.

The whole reason Ferriero decided to teach biology is because she had that one teacher, Martinez, who made it interesting, and she wanted to do the same. She wanted her students to be able to say, “What? Class is over already?” Once again, her goal is to make a difference overall. 

She is the type of teacher that I hope my boys run into one day! Lucky for them they get to see her everyday,” said husband Tony. 

Martinez said, “I hope Brianne grows professionally so she can bring cutting-edge technologies to AP Biology. I would love to see her create a biotech program as well. As a teacher/mentor, all I can hope for is her continued success [and] growth over the course of her career!”

Although it is easy to admire Ferreiro as a teacher at the school, it is even easier to appreciate how much she cares about her family. Ferreiro is married to her husband, Tony, who is a fireman and a lieutenant in Carpentersville; they have been together for 18 years. They have three kids: Dylan, 16, Chase, 13, and Logan, 10. 

“I’ve realized the meaning of life is love, and the love that you have for your kids is totally different from the love you have for your spouse,” said Ferreiro. 

Ferreiro and her family enjoy traveling, as well as visiting different ballparks each year. (Photo courtesy of Brianne Ferriero)

Obviously, she loves her husband dearly, but she explained that loving one’s kids is an indescribable experience. “They gave me a different purpose,” Ferriero said. 

All of her kids play multiple sports and are involved in travel teams, which means the weekends are busy.

However, the thought that, at some point, Dylan, Chase and Logan are going to go off on their own, resulted in a sigh from Ferreiro, who is glad she found a passion that does not feel like work, one she loves to do, before she had children. According to Ferriero, she had a purpose before children, but her kids amplified the purpose of life for her. 

Ferreiro’s mom and dad got married when her mom was 17 and her dad was 20, but divorced when she was 7. She also has a brother who is 2 and a half years older than her, and is 6’7. 

Sadly, Ferreiro’s father passed away a year ago from an accident that occurred in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His death was incredibly hard for her and her family: her father was on life support at one point, and the family had to whether decide to do surgery on his neck – which would result in him being a quadriplegic on a ventilator for the rest of his life, which was not the life he would have wanted to live. At the end of the day, they made the heart wrenching decision it was best to let him go. 

While telling this story in class she looked up at the ceiling, maybe in hopes of not crying. 

“I’m not a crier. I don’t cry,” said Ferriero when we spoke. 

If given the opportunity, Ferriero said, “I would say what I never got to say to him.”

Since the accident was so recent for her and her family, she said it was really hard to watch her children go through mourning, as they are still so young; she did experience the loss of a grandparent until she was 33. 

Family is obviously important to Ferriero. Her mother, whom she says is the person who has shaped her into the person she is today, never graduated high school and actually went back to college after Ferreiro and her brother had already been born, all while working two jobs. Her mom is now the General Manager of Cooper’s Hawk in Naperville

This past summer Ferreiro’s family visited the Grand Canyon and described it as “absolutely breathtaking”. (Photo courtesy of Brianne Ferriero)

“I’m really proud of her. She’s done a lot considering she had just us,” said Ferreiro. 

Ferreiro values her mom because the latter knows how to make connections with people, both in and out of work. Ferreiro took what traits she observed from her mom and applied it to her teaching. 

“I like to make those connections with my students because they do matter to me, and they’re not just somebody in my class. At the end of the day, I want to help them do well,” said Ferreiro. 

“I see her put in so much work for her students and this school in and out of work, she never shies away from the hard assignments school throws at her or staying after to help a student in need, her club green success, not to mention her new project of giving students the opportunity to get extra help,” said Tony.  

Although she admires and is influenced by her mother, Ferreiro’s husband is the “yin to” her “yang.” He has modeled the truth of hard work and what never giving up means, which is important because her sons saw this resilience and can look back on it as they get older.

Ferreiro’s husband, now a lieutenant, took the Lt. promotional exam test 4 times before he passed. There are four different types of tests that he had to go through before becoming promoted. It consisted of a practical test, which involved different scenarios that he had to perform, the interview process, teaching someone else information about the fire program, and finally the written test. When performing all of these tests he would be at the top of list  but after doing the written test, he would get bumped down. The written test seemed to always be the struggle. In order to be promoted, one has to have a high ranking and be at the top of the list overall.

“During this time she not only was a teacher at your school but then had to be a teacher at home to me, she was instrumental in teaching me all the things I should’ve learned in high school and helping me get my degree,” said Tony. 

Dylan, Chase and Logan observed their father throughout this entire process: they saw him studying, and trying to achieve his dream, only to struggle. Ferreiro was there for her husband, helping him study – with all the methods she learned in college – to have him achieve what he deserved. 

“You have no idea how many things he taught me about the fire service. It was a long six months of studying,” said Ferreiro.  

On the fourth attempt, he passed the Lt. promotional exam and was subsequently promoted at the end of 2020, right before the shutdown. 

“I cried when I pinned him, and I’m not a crier,” said Ferreiro. Her children, after observing their mother’s emotional reaction, responded to his promotion by saying, “I’m so proud of you dad.” They were able to see the value in hard work, Ferreiro explained, and what never giving up truly means. 

That morality applies to Ferreiro’s entire life. She has observed her mom achieve her dreams, seen her husband do the exact same thing, and now she is living the life that she loves. While many students see Ferreiro as a “normal” biology teacher, she is also an inspiration to them. 

Husband Tony said, “I wish there was a way that we can see where the students that she inspired ended up being in their life after high school by listening to students’ goals and dreams and putting them in the right direction.”