P.E. teacher leaves legacy of compassion


Carter Chang

Diane Taylor will retire after showing kindness to students in her 36 years teaching at Lab. During retirement Ms. Taylor plans to spend quality time with family.

Amon Gray, Sports and Leisure Editor

The sound of basketballs hitting the hardwood floor echoes off the padded walls of Sunny Gymnasium. Middle schoolers dressed in gray and maroon uniforms dribble between the colored lines on the floor, their gym shoes squeaking as they run. Standing on the sidelines, Diane Taylor shouts instruction and encouragement, handing out lighter volleyballs to students who can’t quite reach the basket with the regular balls. 

When Ms. Taylor came to the Laboratory Schools in 1985, it was her first full-time job out of college. At the end of this school year, Ms. Taylor will retire after teaching P.E. to lower, middle and high school students for 36 years where she has become known as a teacher who goes above and beyond for her students to stay active. 

“It was really a learning curve for me because, in my experience, I hadn’t been exposed to really a lot of other religious beliefs and a lot of the diversity of the cultures that are here,” Ms. Taylor said. 

Her own children attended Lab, too.

“I loved it, that my kids got that experience and were exposed to so much when they were here.”

Ms. Taylor said that before 1993 she coached a year of swimming, two years of volleyball and eight years of gymnastics. After her second child was born, she stopped coaching to devote more time to her family.

Terri Greene, a friend and P.E. colleague, said Ms. Taylor will be very difficult to replace. 

“When you look at things that she does for the school, you know, it’s just like all the little things … not a lot of people are willing to do that,” Ms. Greene said. “People don’t realize that putting up bulletin boards, you know, like things that you don’t get paid for, things that are to make the school look nicer for the kids, like setting up websites.”

Ms. Taylor’s dedication to her job comes from a deep care for her students. Throughout her time at Lab, Ms. Taylor has earned a reputation as a supportive and beloved mentor for students of all ages.

“I mean, she’s a stellar teacher,” Ms. Greene said. “Very consistent. I don’t think there’s ever a time where a kid could say, ‘She, she wasn’t fair to me. She let this kid do that,’ because she’s 100% fair. She just possesses the qualities of a perfect teacher.

Ms. Greene added that Ms. Taylor earned extra certifications so she could teach CPR and lifeguards and to support student mental health.

Seeing kids be successful. I guess that’s the most rewarding thing to me — when someone’s struggling to learn a skill and then they get it or they get better at it.”

— Diane Taylor

Ms. Taylor has brought her love for the outdoors to her P.E. classes, too. 

“My personal philosophy is to stay active. I am,” Ms. Taylor said. “If you don’t use it, you lose it. So I am trying to teach my students that, and I’m trying to live that out myself because I know how fragile life can be and how important your health is.”

As for life after Lab, Ms. Taylor said she has bought a property in Oklahoma and plans to spend more time indulging her love for the outdoors with her family.

“Diane is very much an outdoor person,” Ms. Greene said. “That’s someone who in her free time, she is not the go-to-the-mall type person. She likes to go to the forest preserve and climb a rock wall. Her and her husband, Joel, love outdoor activities. The camping and all of that and canoeing and caving.”

Reflecting on more than three decades teaching physical education, health and wellness, Ms. Taylor said the most rewarding part of teaching has been seeing her students gain experience, overcome obstacles and learn new skills.

“I just have a tremendous amount of fun experiences and stories, you know, and just times of laughing with kids,” Ms. Taylor said. “Seeing kids be successful. I guess that’s the most rewarding thing to me — when someone’s struggling to learn a skill and then they get it or they get better at it.”