Making your way upstream


Michael Geheren

Growing up on a lake, swimming was a natural thing for special education teacher Rachel Schwingen. Her dad swam competitively and she spent most of her childhood in the water.

“If you’re a part of this family, everyone swims,” said Schwingen.

She took after her father and swam competitively in high school and college at Augustana College and College of DuPage. Schwingen then took a job at Illinois State University as a swim coach.

So naturally, three years ago when Principal Dave Johnson asked Schwingen to coach the boys swimming team, she accepted. Schwingen has seen a lot change in the high school team during its short time as a sport at Huntley.

“I definitely have seen an increase in the quality of swimmers on the team,” said Schwingen.  “The first year, there was a huge discrepancy of kids who have swam from the age since age 5, 6, 7, then I had a group of kids who have never swam in their lives.”

Usually four days a week are spent practicing at Centegra Health Bridge Fitness Center in Huntley, and almost every week there is a meet. Not having any meets at home, due to not having a pool at Huntley High School, Schwingen said it can be tough for the swimmers not having students there to support them.

“I think it is hard on the kids because all are meets are away and we can’t have other students attend our meets because they are far away,” she said.

Michelle Jakubowski said she would love to see more students come out and support their boy’s swimming team. She said that is a topic of discussion for the Student Athletic Leaders team, a group of 80 students from all sports and grades who meet every late start. The leaders plan on all going to a meet for the team. Jakubowski said she will also be attending a couple meets as well.

Schwingen said she would like to have an aquatics facility at Huntley High School, but doesn’t believe that the community of District 158 would support a facility with a pool. She believes a field house or something of that nature would be more beneficial because it would support many sports year round.

Jakubowski said she also doesn’t see a pool in the future of Huntley High School.

“I would love to have a pool, just like I wish we could have a bowling alley, but the expenses of maintenance would be too much,” said Jaukubowski.

Although the facilities aren’t at Huntley, the team is still very close.

“I would say our varsity groups is really close,” Schwingen said.  “A lot of them have swam together for a number of years. When they were all younger a few of them swam on the same club team so they have known each other for 8-10 years.”

Jakubowski said she believes Huntley’s swimming team has come a long way and she believes that is a huge credit to the players.

While swimming takes up a huge part of her life in the winter, Schwingen also has an extreme passion for education. After she earned her Master’s degree in social sciences, she knew she had to get a job fast so she took a job, as a teacher’s assistant in a school for students with profound and severe disabilities.

Her first class was a high school class with students who are autistic. She loved it and went back to Roosevelt University to get her special education endorsement. The biggest reason she loves teaching the kids with special needs is their personalities. They are happy and fun to be with.

“[Autistic students] make a whole lot of gains and they’re happy with every little accomplishment, as opposed to typical students that want perfection and are not happy with a whole lot that they do, but an autistic kid that learns how to tie their shoe was happy for week because they can now tie their shoe,” said Schwingen.

While in school and out of school, the students are very different. Both types seem to have determination. Whether it is to win the next meet or tie a shoe, Schwingen is happy she can be there to coach her students to succeed.

“I love the kids, the kids are great,” said Schwigen.