It started as a way to help his struggling son learn how to read. But one man’s mission…turned into something much more than that. Rob Shindler is now a crusader for adult literacy. He’s one of Chicago’s Very Own.
“Count Dracula says I want to suck your bl, what is the first sound in blood?”
Energetic…“Slow it down!” Lively…
Those words may come to mind when describing Rob Shindler’s teaching style.
But those words alone don’t do him any justice. His conviction to help others learn, as well as an inspiring backstory, make Shindler’s class a unique and unforgettable experience.
“Rob, I like his class because he’s always happy, and if you’re sad, he’s never down.”
“The rule is you never separate twins. And what are twins? Two consonants together.”
Shindler is one of the star volunteers at Literacy Chicago where he teaches dozens of adults fighting illiteracy, a learning disorder effecting 32 million adults in the United States.
Hard to believe, but he never had dreams of being an instructor. The man without a teaching background got involved at the school, for one very special reason. It all started with a phone call from his son Oliver’s pre-school teacher.
“He just wasn’t moving like the other students. He had difficulty pronouncing all the letters.” Shindler was devastated.
“And in the blink of an eye, I had this teacher that I just met a month ago, saying my son was going to have to be in special ed, and maybe college wasn’t going to be for him.”
Shindler did everything he could to help his struggling son, but he felt it just wasn’t enough.
“Everyone else was moving forward, and I got stuck in quicksand, I just couldn’t do anything to help him.” Desperate for guidance and looking for answers, Shindler went to Literacy Chicago.
“And then I found this place. This church, this temple, that is Literacy Chicago.”
It was there, where he began teaching illiterate adults. And Shindler, an attorney with no previous teaching experience, used his newly acquired skills to help is son.
“At the beginning he would look at me like his father was crazy. But what was working here, started working there.”
“Arrrg! Because if you do it in a silly way, you’re going to remember it.”
When you walk into Shindler's classroom you can feel the energy, inspiration, and mutual respect.
“He comes real, with love, with care, just a good person, good teacher, good tutor.”
“He has a good attitude, he shows you how to sound words out, break them down, he’s a great person to be around.
Shindler took his passion for literacy a giant step forward, writing a book about his experiences, titled “Hot Dogs and Hamburgers.”
“It tells about our journey, from me helping our son, to me being introduced to these adults, who I was able to help. “
Despite his success, Shindler remains humble, and remembers the days where his only mission was to help his son. And his respect and admiration for his classroom of adults, eager to learn, remains strong.
"I don’t know these people. At the beginning they didn’t mean anything to me. Now I won’t miss a Wednesday at this place for anything in the world." Rob Shindler, he's one of Chicago's Very Own.
You may be wondering what ever became of Rob Shindler’s son, Oliver.
Well – we have good news. Oliver – now a high school student – is reading at his grade level. He has plans to go to college, and wants to be an attorney, just like his dad.