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Gorton's Drop-In Center Director Wants Early Education To Enrich, Engage

Lisa Spewak brings 18 years of experience to Gorton Community Center's Children's Drop-In Center

Lisa Spewak, the new director of Gorton Community Center’s Children’s Drop-In Center, isn’t interested in providing a babysitting service. She’s interested in providing an enriching, comfortable and secure space for children to learn.

“I want to make the children feel comfortable, secure and actively engaged so that they can get everything out of the program they can,” Spewak said.

Spewak became the Drop-In Center’s new director on July 20, replacing Sue Buhrmester.

“It’s been exciting and exhilarating,” she said of her first month as the new director. “I’ve taken apart every single room, looked at every toy.” The first major changes to the Drop-In have been visual with new paint for each room and updated amenities

“The Parent Board has been overseeing the renovations,” Spewak said. “The parent support has been overwhelming in welcoming and supporting me.”

There are also changes to the curriculum: More parent involvement and enrichment classes that offer various physical education options including dance and athletics. 

Spewak did not always plan on being an educator. While attending the University of Missouri for journalism and advertising, she found she wasn’t very interested in her classes. 

“I wrote a letter to a high school teacher – Dr. Jerry Grunska at Highland Park High School – asking what he thought of me becoming a teacher,” she said. “He wrote back a very encouraging letter, and that’s why I’m in education today.”

Spewak’s early childhood education leadership and classroom includes 10 years working with children and families at JCYS Northwest Family Center in Buffalo Grove and JCYS Lutz Family Center in Highland Park.

“I started my career in Lake Forest,” she said. “I had my first job at Lake Forest Childcare. My memories of it are awesome – the parents were really involved. It’s always been a great feeling to be in Lake Forest.”

Spewak was born in Chicago, raised in Highland Park, and obtained her Bachelor of Arts in Teaching Early Childhood Education at National Louis University. She's been nominated for the Kohl Teaching Award and recently was an "Excellence in Education" Top 10 Finalist for the 10th Congressional Ward, according to the Drop-In’s website.

Spewak and her husband, Wes, have been married 13 years. They lead an active family life in Buffalo Grove with their children, Audree, 9, and Ethan, 11. In her spare time, Spewak wants to learn to play her guitar. 

She's also passionate about the environment and leaving a lighter carbon footprint.

“There will probably be more recyclable art projects. It’s a great thing to celebrate earth day and practice being environmentally responsible to make those practices a daily occurrence,” Spewak said, pointing out that instilling kids with respect for the environment will create good habits.

Spewak is excited to join the Drop-In’s teachers in creating an exceptional place for children to grow, play and explore.

The Drop-In Parent Board will be holding its annual fundraiser, Oktoberfest, on September 28 at the Lake Forest Club. Anyone interested in donating to the Drop in Center or purchasing tickets to Oktoberfest should call the main DIC number: (847) 234-2799 or check the website.

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