Faculty Alumni reflect on how they came back to Lab

Amanda Cassel

Amanda Cassel, Assistant Editor

For them, it wasn’t about reliving their high school years. It was about pursuing their passion when the timing was right.

“It was sort of timing,” Susanne Baum said.

“It was a stroke of luck and good timing,” Tom Piane said.

“The timing was just really beautiful,” Priyanka Rupani said.

Ms. Baum, Mr. Piane and Ms. Rupani all went to U-High for high school and are now pursuing their professional careers in the same halls.


Ms. Baum- A member of the sisterhood

Ms. Baum graduated from U-High in 1987 a hard-working student and a swimmer.

“If you asked someone what I was like in high school, they probably would have told you I was really shy and quiet.”

She went to Bryn Mawr college and found her voice.

“I think the sisterhood of Bryn Mawr built off of the sisterhood I had on the swim team at Lab,” Ms. Baum explained.

After college, Ms. Baum spent a year in Spain and met her husband Oscar Rebollo. They moved back to Chicago together, and Ms. Baum found a job getting foreign books for the University of Chicago’s bookstore.

“And then by a stroke of luck, one of my old teachers, Randall Fowler, was the chair at the time,” Ms. Baum said. “He saw my resume, and I got the part-time job teaching French and Spanish at Lab.”

Eventually, that part-time job turned into full-time, and Ms. Baum has been teaching at Lab since.

“It was timing that got me here,” Ms. Baum said with a smile, “but it was you, the students, that kept me here.”


Mr. Piane- A team player

Mr. Piane graduated from U-High in 1992 as an athlete, a “lifer” and on his way to Ripon College.

“Lab meant a lot to me. Both of my parents worked here, and I had grown up here, but I was excited to see what the world had for me,” Mr. Piane explained.

Just like in high school, Mr. Piane played baseball and soccer while he got his degree in physical education and sports medicine. He then spent time student teaching and received his diploma.

“From there I just needed a job,” Mr. Piane said. “There was this long-term subbing job at Lab, and I got it, and I’ve loved it ever since.”

When Mr. Piane came back, several of his teachers were still teaching at Lab.

“It was definitely weird at first, but eventually I gained their respect and they saw me as a professional,” Mr. Piane said.

After his year subbing, a full-time P.E. position opened up and he got the job.

“I mean, I always wanted to teach and coach, so really, I had close to my dream job,” Mr. Piane said.

Looking back on high school, Mr. Piane explained how he was a good student but was focused on athletics. He said that as much as he worked hard and pushed himself, he wasn’t going to beat himself up if he didn’t get an A.

“You know sports were my thing, and if you told any of my classmates that’s what I do, they wouldn’t be surprised. They would be like, ‘Oh, that makes sense,’” Mr. Piane said.


Ms. Rupani- An activist

Ms. Rupani wasn’t a lifer, but that didn’t make her any less of a Labby.

“I really took advantage of every opportunity I possibly could,” Ms. Rupani said. “And I think that got me working really hard which has helped me every step of the way.”

After U-High, Ms. Rupani went to Northwestern and studied economics and comparative race studies.

“I was really driven by the AFAM class I took at Lab,” Ms. Rupani said referring to her African-American history class. “I just loved it.”

Graduating full of excitement, Ms. Rupani headed for Philadelphia to partner with Teach for America, a non-profit organization to help build future leaders through academics.

She taught both math and African-American history.

“It was this full-circle moment, I learned and loved AFAM and now I was in I think one of the only cities that requires all students to take AFAM. I was living the dream,” Ms. Rupani said.

Once she had her master’s from University of Pennsylvania, she continued on to live and work in Baltimore.

“I pretty much had the same job I have now, and then life just kind of brought me to Chicago.”

As Ms. Rupani was coming to Lab, the diversity, equity and inclusion opened up.

“I was only at Lab for high school and there was this culture that was like ‘oh, you’re not a lifer,’” Ms. Rupani said. “And there was this kind of social ethos that excluded me from the community so its funny that I ended up back here.”

Ms. Rupani has had a very smooth transition from student to professional.

“The really nice thing is that no one lets who I was in high school dictate who I am or what I can become,” Ms. Rupani said.