Strict Teacher Also Had a Heart during Six-Decade Career

Article excerpt

Sister Mary Annella Tracy's story is one that will live forever in the halls of St. Edward High School in Elgin. With a stern demeanor, ruler in hand and flowing habit, Sister Annella was both feared and admired.

Mike Bimmerle, a physics teacher, said he is embarrassed now to think that as a child he detested her authoritative manner. Little did he know at the time Sister Annella would later get him a job at St. Edward.

The year after he was hired to teach chemistry, she confided to the head of the science department that Bimmerle was really a physics teacher - he just didn't know it yet.

"She was 100 percent right. She picked that up by listening to me teach the freshman class through a wall," Bimmerle said.

Michele Machowicz, a 20-year English teacher at St. Edward, will never forget the time Sister Annella put a stop to students bringing water guns to school.

One day a boy carrying his water gun met up with Sister Annella in the hallway. Teachers and students froze.

"She put it on the ground calmly and then smashed it into the ground with her foot. She turned around to me and just started laughing," Machowicz said.

She then had the student pick up the pieces and throw them away. "Everybody got the message. There were no more squirt guns," Machowicz said.

During WWII, the Defense Department asked Sister Annella to be part of a think tank that determined how many bullets, Band-Aids and other supplies would need to be shipped abroad to American soldiers. …