Craig Reubelt: Passionate language teacher with countless community relationships retires


Maria Shaughnessy

Craig Reubelt is known at Lab for his passion of teaching world languages and many relationships within the Lab community.

For Spanish teacher Craig Reubelt, relationships last far longer than a school year. He keeps in touch with his former students long after class ends. In fact, Mr. Reubelt is even in touch with his own former high school Spanish teacher, who is now 93. For Mr. Reubelt, that is not out of character.

Mr. Reubelt, who is retiring in June after teaching Spanish at the Laboratory Schools for 29 years, has channeled his passion for language and teaching into life, creating countless relationships along the way.

Mr. Reubelt has always been infatuated with the Spanish language.

“I’ve always been fascinated with the Spanish language since middle school, when I took my first class,” Mr. Reubelt said. 

After graduating from high school, Mr. Reubelt studied Spanish at the university level, ultimately earning a master’s degree at the University of Chicago. After graduate school, Mr. Reubelt spent years working as a translator, editor and writer for textbook companies. 

“I really didn’t like the corporate, textbook world,” Mr. Reubelt said. “I’m not good at sitting in an office all the time. I was bored, I wasn’t engaged — it wasn’t for me.”

Mr. Reubelt finally moved to the classroom, landing a teaching job at the City Colleges of Chicago. Soon after, Mr. Reubelt moved to Northern Illinois University and then, finally, Lab.

At Lab, Mr. Reubelt wasted no time getting involved in the community. In his early years at the school, Mr. Reubelt, who was teaching in the middle school, became the official faculty sponsor of Lab’s first gay-straight alliance.

“That was quite an honor, keeping in mind that back in the early/mid-’90s, things were quite different then,” Mr Reubelt said. “We were able to become a presence in the school — there was opposition in the school from faculty or student groups, but eventually, we became part of the fabric of the school over time.”

In and out of the classroom, Mr. Reubelt said that the relationships he forms with students are the most important and rewarding parts of the job.

“It’s the little things,” Mr. Reubelt said. “When students will take the time to reach out from the clear blue sky, it’s just one of the most rewarding things about our profession.”

According to Karina Escobedo, a junior in Mr. Reubelt’s advisory, Mr. Reubelt has formed these relationships through positivity, helpfulness and support.

Cole MacSwain, another student in his advisory, said Mr. Reubelt was supportive like no one else. 

he cared in a way I haven’t seen from any other teacher at Lab. He was genuinely invested in every one of his students’ success, and made sure he was there to help for everyone.

— Cole MacSwain

“He’s one of the most genuine and kindest people at Lab,” Cole said, “but most of all, he cared in a way I haven’t seen from any other teacher at Lab. He was genuinely invested in every one of his students’ success, and made sure he was there to help for everyone.”

Cole recalled moments in ninth grade, when Mr. Reubelt helped him through challenging moments.

“He helped me improve when no other teacher could — I didn’t get great grades freshman year and he believed in me when even I didn’t, and I improved a lot from there,” Cole said.

Looking back on his time at Lab, Mr. Reubelt said that the most important thing, at the end of the day, is the community of the school.

“Especially with everything going on now, the most important thing about the Lab was the sense of community. It’s changed — the school is so much bigger now — but we need to maintain that sense of community, of trust, of safety,” Mr. Reubelt said. “It’s not academic, is it. It’s staying connected, and not losing sight of what’s important.”

With a life at Lab defined by caring for others and a true passion for language, years from now, expect former students to stay in touch, perhaps even through Mr. Reubelt’s 93rd year too.