Thanks for the Memories
After 37 years of dedication to University School of Milwaukee, Assistant Head of School Gregg Bach has hung up his colorful neckties and stored away his button-down shirts for a more relaxed life in retirement. He led the school in a variety of ways and oversaw major indoor and outdoor construction projects, including the Lubar Center for Innovation and Exploration, Jack Olson ’67 Commons, and Wildcat Park. His presence was a reassuring source of stability for colleagues, students, and parents, and we are forever indebted to him for his leadership and commitment to USM.
We also celebrate additional faculty and staff members below, whose dedication and service to USM have made it such a special place to learn and work.
Before coming to USM, you taught 5th grade at a Milwaukee Public School. Why did you leave MPS?
At MPS I taught all subjects, including music, but I really wanted to only teach math. So I saw an ad in the newspaper for a private school seeking a 6th and 7th grade math teacher. The ad didn’t even mention the school’s name. I got the job, with the salary of $15,500, and started at USM in the fall of 1985.
You’ve held many roles at USM, in Middle School, Upper School, and administration, but you especially love Middle School. Why?
I just found that Middle School kids have a tremendous amount of energy, and I appreciated their sassiness. I learned that if I could relate to them, talk with them, and gain their trust, they could do amazing things. But I had to develop classroom management techniques to harness their energy. If they saw you as a good teacher and if they respected you, you could play around and have fun while learning. With Upper School kids, there’s just not the same energy or enthusiasm. But the Middle School kids would always come in happy and ready to go. And they would laugh at my jokes.
What guided you in the instrumental role of helping to develop the school’s Common Trust?
In the mid 1990s I was asked to serve as the Upper School dean of students. At that time, there was some turmoil in the Upper School and I was asked to write an honor code to provide some cohesive direction for the division. So I worked with [then] Upper School English teachers Peetie Basson and Rosie Lyons to see if we could put something together. Peetie remembered something called the common trust from the old campus, which was essentially an unwritten rule that students wouldn’t cheat. So we explored that idea, and eventually came up with the Common Trust that we have today, which is that we agree to treat each other with respect, trust, honesty, fairness, and kindness. At first, the kids didn’t like it. But we stuck with it, and eventually it was adopted by the other divisions.
What will you miss the most about USM?
I will absolutely miss the relationships with the kids, and seeing all their faces in the hallways. I will miss the tremendous employees we have here, whether faculty, staff, or administrators. I will also miss the parents. I have loved working with the Parents’ Association and the many incredible volunteers. I think it’ll hit me in late August or September that I’m not coming back. Susie (Gregg’s wife, who is also retiring) and I will have to do something fun this fall.
What will you do next?
I’m still doing a lot of nonprofit work, including being involved with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and chairing the board of directors of REDgen (an organization focused on building resilience in kids and teens). I’m also part of the planning commission for the city of Mequon. So I’ll continue doing those kind of civic and volunteer things. I’ll probably lay low for the next five or six months, probably do some traveling. And then we’ll see. I still have one good job in me, but I’m just not sure what that encore career will be yet.
The USM community held a special farewell celebration for Bach in June. Visit www.usmtoday.org/bach for a video of speeches that were given in his honor.
Susie Bach | 25 years
In 1990, Susie Bach started the first teaching job of her career at USM. Although at the time she had never heard of University School of Milwaukee, it would become the place where she would meet her husband, Gregg, raise two children, and support and guide nearly 400 students during their formative years. “I feel very blessed, thankful, and grateful to have spent my whole teaching career at USM,” she said. Bach has taught prekindergarten, junior kindergarten, and kindergarten children from ages 3 to 6, and took a seven-year break from 1998 to 2005 to be home with her children.
Of Bach’s many accomplishments and accolades during her time at USM, one of the things she’s most proud of is her ability to remember the names of every child she has ever taught—as well as middle names and birthdates. “Sometimes, when former students return on school tours with their own children, I often surprise them by remembering their name, what grade they were in when I taught them, and when they graduated from USM.”
Although she will miss her time with young students, Bach is looking forward to spending more time with her family, including adult children Emily ’13 and Matthew ’16. She also plans to enjoy long walks, practice yoga, and explore volunteer opportunities. “It has been my passion and purpose to serve as a Preschool teacher during my career, and my students have brought me so much joy. My heart is happy when I am with the children learning, laughing, and loving each day.”
Steve Bertucci | 25 years
Math does not come easily for all students, but Upper School mathematics teacher Steve Bertucci has a knack for making the subject relatable to even the most reluctant mathematicians. Part of his success was his ability to connect classroom math to the real world, thanks to his 10 years of actuarial and financial coding work for companies like Ernst & Young and Harley-Davidson. “The most valuable education I received was to work in the real world, which only helped me become a more balanced teacher,” he said. He retired in June after 25 years in USM’s Upper School.
Another part of his success was the obvious care he took with his students. “He related to his students and he really got to know them,” said Rebecca Steinbach, Upper School math teacher. “Part of the reason, I think, he stayed here as long as he did is because he really cared about his students. They were always his number-one priority.”
“Some of my favorite things are the things I will miss most,” he said, “including the beautiful campus, delicious lunches, and the satisfaction that I’ve touched the lives of many students in a productive, positive way.” He already has several trips planned, and is looking forward to visiting his two daughters, one in medical school at Northwestern University, and one in the physician assistant program at Marquette University.
Dawn Taylor | 38 years
In her role as assistant to the head of school for 38 years, Dawn Taylor has worked with six heads of school, one assistant head of school, 14 Board of Trustees presidents, and numerous faculty and staff. Her son, Eric Taylor ’02, attended USM as a lifer from prekindergarten through grade 12. She worked tirelessly behind the scenes as the school has undergone numerous leadership transitions, playing a vital role in helping the school to run smoothly. “Dawn always knew the best ways to serve her school, and nothing stopped her from doing her best work,” said Head of School Steve Hancock.
Taylor will miss many things about USM, including working with great colleagues and wonderful students, the ever-evolving nature of her role, the beautiful campus, and delicious lunches. She is looking forward to sleeping until 7 a.m. every day, spending more time with family and friends, traveling, volunteering, and spending cold, winter days at home in her blue jean attire.
Gary Kasper | 32 years
As a dedicated member of USM’s Grounds Crew for 32 years, Gary Kasper was often the first to arrive at campus each morning. His days varied depending on the season and the weather, and Kasper was integral in maintaining USM’s 125-acre campus. He held a variety of roles, including plowing snow and mowing athletic fields, and for 25 years he served as added security during the annual Holiday Shops event and the former Rummage at the Rink. He even worked on Saturday mornings, supporting the school’s Learn to Skate program by driving the Zamboni.
“Gary has been a dedicated member of our Grounds Crew for more than three decades,” said Gregg Bach, assistant head of school. “His good-hearted, helpful, and generous nature has been appreciated by students and colleagues alike.”
Kasper will miss many things about USM, most notably, his friends and colleagues and the laughs they have shared over the years. He is looking forward to spending time with his wife, Kay, at their home in the Hayward, Wisconsin area, as well as spending more time with his mother.
Patti Keller | 5 years
Patti Keller came to USM in 2017 as an assistant teacher in the Lower School, bringing 40 years of prior teaching experience with her. The decision to retire wasn’t the easiest for her, but she prefers to see this next step as moving forward, not looking back.
“Over the past 45 years, I have been blessed and honored to be a part of the lives of hundreds of children,” she said. “Each one came to me in the fall as an unfamiliar face and owned a forever piece of my heart by year’s end. I have enjoyed being the recipient of accomplishments during my career, but none compare to each time a former student reaches out to say, ’Thank you, what you did really mattered.’”
Keller is looking forward to spending more time with her husband, children, and grandchildren. She plans to travel, take walks, and rediscover who she is and what comes next.
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