North Star News

Niles North High School | Skokie, IL

North Star News

Niles North High School | Skokie, IL

North Star News

Jonathan Okon, Paraprofessional

Photo from Jonathan Okon

What is your name, department, and pronouns? My name is Jonathan Okon. I work in the English Department as a paraprofessional, my pronouns are he/him/his.

What made you want to become a teacher? I wanted to become a teacher because I struggled a little bit when I was in classes growing up, and I struggled in specific subjects. And I thought that people that always helped me along the way were teachers. That was something that stuck with me my entire life. I wanted to give back and do something I loved. And I always love being involved in activities around schools. I decided I wanted to become a teacher.

What do you love to do outside the classroom? I am a big basketball guy. So I’m the freshman B head coach. Here at North. I spent a lot of time in basketball, I was an assistant coach at Hersey for three years with the varsity basketball team under Austin Scott. And then a few years as a head manager at University of Illinois, Chicago for Head Coach Luke. I like to spend time doing that. And then I spend a lot of time with my family and friends. Because it’s extremely important to be with your family and friends. Because at the end of the day, that’s all you got.

You’re the boys basketball coach, how do you keep the kids motivated? Yeah, it can be challenging at times. But I think it’s important that they know you care about them. I think one of the biggest ways I do that is showing that I care about them academically, and emotionally outside or off the courts. Because they think, you know, as a coach, it’s easy to just show up and, you know, go through the repetitions, coaching wise, but when you show that you care about them off outside the court care about their success as individuals, in teaching them the right things about how to become a successful member in the school or community. I think that’s really important. But I also think, you know, a little pep talks here and there, checking in on them when they’re in classes, making sure they’re doing the right things, and getting to class on time. That’s something that I’ve always found extremely important. I think it goes a long way, showing that you care about your players 

When stress and pressure comes around, how do you deal with it? Stress and pressure is something that you’re going to feel in everyday life, I think you have to show resilience. For me, particularly, I think it’s you know, you can take a moment and look at, you know, what’s causing this stress, but always, you know, take a step back and realize, you know, what a good situation you’re in and that, you know, whatever you think, is hard right now somebody else around the world or somebody else in the community or in the school is going through something harder. And I think that has really helped me in tough situations. And knowing that there’s always going to be a tomorrow or next year or the next game. It’s something that’s always stuck with me. I think that’s a really important way to view life is to look forward, right? Not back. Yeah, you can reminisce a little bit, but you know, there’s always, always a way to move forward. 

If we were to reminisce a bit, what is one of your proudest moments? I would say, honestly, one of my proudest moments would be being able to be a staff member here. I’ve just met so many great people, so many great students who enjoy being around each other and enjoy being part of the Niles North community. It’s something that you don’t see at every other school. I remember when I was in high school, the halls weren’t, weren’t necessarily like this, you didn’t have as much love in the hallways, it’s exciting. It’s an exciting place to work and an exciting place to be. So I would say, that would be my biggest achievement. I think, you know, also being able to coach for Coach Olson, who’s somebody who is really big in the coaching industry, deemed as one of the best coaches in the state of Illinois, and across the nation. For him to be willing to bring me on staff and make me a head coach for one of his basketball teams is an extremely humbling experience. And I really appreciate that. So being able to lead young students every single day, I think is an extremely rewarding experience and I would consider that my greatest achievement so far. 

Do you think that being able to be someone that the kids can talk to and lean on is like something that’s important as they’re growing up? Yeah absolutely, how I like to say it is, you know, your job as a teacher, working in a school, it doesn’t end. When students leave for college or whatever, you might get a call 20 years from now, of a student that just wants to say hi, or needs some advice or something. I think it’s important for teachers to remember that you’re always there for somebody, and always willing to support them. But I do think that the teachers I was closest with, when I was in high school, were the ones that I could really rely on and trust. I also think it was really important for them to be able to tell me the truth, even sometimes, if it wasn’t something I wanted to hear, but knowing that they were doing it to make me a better person, a better student, or a better athlete. So I think being somebody that these students can come to and rely on is critical.

Where do you see yourself in five years? I see myself hopefully, as a contributing member of a great high school, teaching staff and a history department. And hopefully, as a head head, boys varsity basketball coach, that would be ideal. Just loving life, living it to the fullest every single day. Seeing where it takes me and just being every single day in a school where I enjoy being there and enjoy the people I’m around, and still spending a lot of time with family and friends.

What was the most memorable part of your trip to Kansas City with North Star News? Well, first, I would like to say that it was probably one of my most rewarding experiences this year because I stepped into a situation where I didn’t know the students at all. Going there and meeting these students, and getting to know them was an extremely awesome experience, I would say, the most awesome part of that trip, I think just sitting down, having the dinners, and being able to hang out, I think it was awesome. Everybody wants to talk about school in journalism, but actually getting to know students, what drives them, what’s fun for them, you know, about their families, and everything in between is just extremely awesome. And that was a great trip. It was a great success for the journalism team who doesn’t get enough credit around the school, and that’s what they deserve. It was exciting to see them get that experience on the national stage than they deserve.

Are there any areas outside of teaching that you think you’re an expert in? Outside of teaching, I like to think that I’m a good friend to people. I think that a lot of times that being a good friend can take a backseat, to you know, your career. But in this day and age, the easiest thing in the world can be to just send a text message, you know, find out how somebody’s doing and keep in touch with people. But I’ve always felt like I’m a good friend, and I’m caring and I’m supportive of my friends and their families and everything that’s going on in their lives, you know, something that, you know, if I look back and high school would be you know, to stay in touch with more people. But that would be my only real regret, but I think you know, a caring and compassionate person who cares about the people he’s around, and he’s loyal to them.

If you could pick up a new skill, what would it be? I would say I would like to get more involved in the journalism club, but that’s in the school. I don’t know, I would say if I were to maybe get involved in charitable work of some sort. I just think that can be a really good place or a good you know, thing to get into. I don’t know if that’s necessarily a skill, but I just think that would be something that would be fun and rewarding. 

What is something that people don’t know about you? I would say that I have my teaching degree, or a teaching license in history. I also student taught at Taft High School. Norwood Park in Chicago. Second biggest public school in the state of Illinois, 4300 students.

If you were to teach a history class, what would it be? Honestly, I’ve always loved US history. That’s always been my passion, especially growing up, you know, my parents took me to DC when I was young, and then I went with my school in eighth grade. And it was just an awesome experience. For me, It’s like the most beautiful city on Earth. It’s a tremendous experience. I actually taught a class at Taft that was the history of Chicago, which was really cool. It’s not taught at many schools. But awesome, I love that class.You go through Chicago, every single weekend or whatever it might be, and you would never have realized how much history is in that city. And that was, that was awesome. 

How do you think your time at Niles North affected the way you think about life? That’s a good question. I would say it’s, it’s taught me to really care about the people that you’re around. Don’t get too caught up in the small stuff. You’re just able to work with so many good people and so many great students who all come from different backgrounds, different stories, and having respect for each and every one of these people’s stories at North has just taught me don’t sweat the little stuff, because everybody’s got something going on in their lives. I think it’s really important that people know that.

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About the Contributor
Annie Tumang
Annie Tumang, Review Editor & Social Media Editor

Annie Tumang is a sophomore at Niles North. This is her second year writing for NSN, and she is the reviews editor. She is interested in music and writing reviews

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