Working With the Ones They Love: A Profile of Married GCHS Staff

Grayslake Central has a long history of married staff members. Let’s meet some of GCHS’ current married staff members.

Dan and Tracey Landry in 1999. This photo was included with a 1999 RAMPAGE article titled, “Marriages in the workplace.” It was captioned, “History teachers Dan and Tracey Landry work at GCHS together and have been married for almost a year.” (Scanned from Page 5 of the February 1999 RAMPAGE Issue)

Married staff have been a staple of Grayslake Central High School for the past two decades. Despite long-held assumptions that married people who work together, don’t stay together, GCHS has been a welcoming environment for married staff members. The school currently employs five married couples, one of which is Principal Dan Landry and District 127 Assist. Superintendent, Dr. Tracey Landry.

Interestingly, in the Landry’s first year as teachers – 1994 to 1995 – a married couple made up the administrative team, much like they do now. Elizabeth McDonald was the principal and Dr. John McDonald, her husband, was GCHS Director.

As the workplace has changed from 1994 to now, so too have workplace relationships. From recently wed couples to the time-tested ones, their stories show how they have addressed professional challenges to balance their responsibilities to their profession and each other.


Nicholas & Stacy Custodio


Numeracy interventionists Stacy Custodio (Left) and Nicholas Custodio (Right) form a heart for Valentine’s Day in January 2023. (Ian Cunningham)

Math interventionists Nicholas Custodio and Stacy Custodio met each other at McHenry High School in the summer of 2012.

“[Nicholas] was already a math teacher at McHenry High School. And I interviewed there for a math teaching position. So he was actually one of the teachers that was in on my interview, but I didn’t know him at the time,” said Stacy Custodio.

After she was hired as a math teacher at McHenry, the Custodios began dating in September of the 2012 school year, and were married on June 9, 2018 in Lincolnshire, Illinois.

In the spring of 2014, Stacy Custodio interviewed for a math teacher position and JV cheer coach position at Grayslake Central. She got the job and started at GCHS in the fall of that year. In the fall of 2021, Nicholas Custodio left McHenry after 13 years, and began working as a math interventionist alongside his wife at Grayslake Central.

“We were concerned that working together would be disruptive to our relationship, knowing that she’s built a reputation here, and I didn’t want to come in and tarnish that…and we wanted to have our own identity. So we’ve talked about it a lot, prior to me actually seriously applying for the position,” said Nicholas Custodio.

The Custodios have expressed their commitment to establishing boundaries at work to maintain their professional relationships and reputations. After one year together at Central, the couple have navigated potential challenges to discover a healthy balance in their relationship, both at work and at home. They are able to support each other through professional stressors, share fun school activities, and enjoy the same days off of school together.

In 2021, the Custodios welcomed their first child, Niko, whom they have taken with to some school activities like soccer games, cheer practices and the homecoming parade.

“There are times where our overlapping schedules are nice. If we have the same spring break, we have the same days off. That is always really nice. But just when we have to be at the same things at the same time, that’s challenging,” said Stacy Custodio.

They have found some challenges balancing after school coaching responsibilities and childcare, but have found effective ways to cope with competing demands, including driving separately to school and communicating about childcare responsibilities.


Jeff Barry & Victoria Lobb


English teachers Victoria Lobb (Left) and Jeff Barry (Right) in January 2023. (Ian Cunningham)

English teachers Jeff Barry and Victoria Lobb began working at GCHS in 2006 and 2008, respectively. After kindling a connection at work, the two started dating and married soon after in 2015. They invited the entire GCHS English Department to their wedding and employed fellow English teacher Maureen Ritter as their wedding coordinator.

“We see them not just as colleagues, but as our real friends. They helped us set up for our wedding. Mrs. Ritter was the…wedding coordinator for our wedding, and Mrs. [Jennifer] Naes, who works in the library, read a poem at our wedding,” said Lobb.

Barry and Lobb have found a tight-knit community of friends within their department whom they enjoy socializing with outside of school. Shared work-friends have been an important part of their social circles throughout their marriage.

The two have found ways to keep their personal and professional lives separate. After being married, Lobb decided it would be best to remain teaching under her maiden name, but legally changed it to Barry after being married. The two have drawn other boundaries in-school which aim to respect each other’s professional roles.

Like the Custodios, Barry and Lobb have found it challenging to obtain childcare for their five year old daughter, Sadie, and one year old son, Arthur.

“It’s tricky. We both start very early…When you have two teachers, daycares don’t always open [early enough]. The daycare start time is 8am. So obviously, we can’t do that. We live half an hour away. So we’re automatically having to get extra early care, which we’ll probably have to continue through elementary school,” said Lobb.

Barry and Lobb have found ways to enjoy the school community with their two kids, Sadie and Arthur.

“We were able to take our little ones to Homecoming…Sadie likes coming to the Homecoming parade. And we’re looking forward to taking Arthur next year,” said Barry.

Despite the challenges, Barry and Lobb have enjoyed GCHS’ school community.

“We both feel at home at Grayslake. And it’s the students and our teacher colleagues, who are really our friends that keep us here too, and make coming to work really easy every day. It’s a really comfortable, loving environment,” said Lobb.


Abbey & Dan Erlenbaugh


Special educator Dan Erlenbaugh (Above) and Asst. Athletic Director Abbey Erlenbaugh (Below) show off their fun personalities in January 2023. (Ian Cunningham)

In 2008, Assist. Athletic Director, Abbey Erlenbaugh, and Special Educator, Dan Erlenbaugh, met each other for the first time in the big gym hallway before a volleyball practice they would both end up coaching.

It was Abbey Erlenbaugh’s third year at GCHS and Dan Erlenbaugh’s first, after moving from a head boys volleyball coach position at Buffalo Grove High School to the GCHS freshman girls team. The two coached the freshman girls together for the 2008 season.

“We started coaching together and we became friends. And at the time, I was in a relationship with somebody else. And [he] was too…We were friends, but our [players] actually thought we were dating the whole season…[but] we weren’t,” continued Abbey Erlenbaugh, “Then shortly after the season finished, we did start dating.”

After dating for a few years the Erlenbaughs got married in December of 2012. After coaching the girls freshman volleyball team together for a few years, the Erlenbaughs decided they should announce their engagement to the entire volleyball program.

Abbey Erlenbaugh recalled, “I kind of hid my ring most of [that] day because we wanted to tell the volleyball program first, before we started telling [other students]. So Coach Janczak and Cach Doll pretended, [and] told the program, ‘[You are] all in trouble for something [and that you] need to meet in the gym right after school at 3 o’clock. Be on time. We have to talk about something.’ And then we told them we got engaged, and they all celebrated. It was really sweet. But Claudia, specifically, our former coach, was bawling and she was so excited…That’s a good memory.”

Beyond sharing their engagement with colleagues and their athletes, the Erlenbaughs have found many ways to share each other’s professional successes.

“It’s awesome that I can be here to support, watching his team, you know, not only as the AAD, but as his wife and supporting him. And sometimes the kids are here too and it’s like a whole family adventure. So yeah, I think there are way more positives that outweigh some of the struggles that we sometimes have,” said Abbey Erlenbaugh.

While there have been a lot of good times, some difficulties arose early-on in their workplace relationship.

“I can only think there’s only one time where I think we got into a professional argument where we didn’t see eye-to-eye,” said Abbey Erlenbaugh.

Navigating challenges as they appear have been a small price to pay for the benefits the Erlenbaughs have found at GCHS.

“It’s like we have our best friend at work. When we need something or [are] having a bad day, we pick each other up. We’ve got each other’s back,” said Erlenbaugh.


Heather & Kevin O’Connor


Psychology, sociology teacher Heather O’Connor (Left) and biology teacher Kevin O’Connor in January 2023. (Ian Cunningham)

Psychology and sociology teacher Heather O’Connor and biology teacher Kevin O’Connor met each other before they started working at GCHS in 2003 and 2000, respectively. In the fall of Heather O’Connor’s first year at GCHS, the O’Connors were married. They will celebrate their twentieth wedding anniversary this year in October.

Heather O’Connor began her teaching career at Fenton High School, in Bensenville, Illinois. After meeting each other, the O’Connors were living together at a halfway point between Kevin O’Connor’s job in Grayslake and Heather O’Connor’s job in Bensenville. Looking for a way to live closer to their jobs, Heather O’Connor applied to GCHS in 2003 when a psychology teacher position opened up. The two have worked together at GCHS ever since.

Throughout their time at Central they have found a lot of positives in working together.

“[We] share the same joys and challenges, [which] are more easily relatable. We can relate to each other a lot more because we know kind of how the system [works] and everything,” said Heather O’Connor.

While there is a lot of connectedness that comes from working in the same building, the two expressed that it might look different if they worked in the same department.

“It’s so nice to have that separation. [We] have a little circle of people that we [both] intermix with, but still at the same time, we have separate circles too. Which is nice,” said Heather O’Connor.

The O’Connors have found advantages to working in the same building, including enhanced understanding of each other’s work-related stressors.

“He’s a lot more logical, [while I’m] a lot more emotional. So it’s nice to kind of have that balance where, you know, he can help me see things [differently] when I get really nervous about new experiences at work, and everything, he can kind of talk me down,” said Heather O’Connor.

Kevin O’Connor continued, “Because if it’s something that is not so positive, then it’s not like…somebody’s coming from a completely outside, different perspective. Which can be helpful sometimes. But yeah, I think generally, it’s positive, though.”

Over the years, the O’Connors have enjoyed the opportunity to get to know their students and keep up with them after graduation in some cases.

“I think some of our great memories are, like, sharing those joys. We have [had] students in common that have impacted us in some ways…Now we have met with former students for coffee and things like that after they’ve graduated,” said Heather O’Connor.


Dan & Tracey Landry


Asst. Superintendent Dr. Tracey Landry (Right) and GCHS Principal Dan Landry (Left) in January 2023. (Ian Cunningham)

Dan Landry and Tracey Landry began working at GCHS in the spring of 1995 and fall of 1994, respectively. Both were hired as history teachers and worked alongside each other in the Social Studies Department.

“So we both taught social studies. And we worked together that whole next semester. And went out for the first time in September of the next school year. So ‘95,” said Tracey Landry.

After dating for just over two years, the Landrys were married in December of 1997. The two continued working with each other on the same teaching team in the Social Studies Department for a few years after being married.

“Back then…we were on the same team until [she] started [teaching economics]; we were on the World History team…We did planning in the summer…So we did talk about work…I mean now, if she wants to talk to me about work [I’ll say], ‘You know where my calendar is,’” said Dan Landry.

Throughout the last 25 years, the Landrys have worked in the same district, but with changing roles. Dan Landry worked his way up to GCHS building administration, while Tracey Landry worked at Grayslake North High School, and made her way up to GNHS administration, then District 127 administration.

“Our careers kind of went parallel, but different. So for six years, I worked at North. So we didn’t really interact that much, at all, professionally, for about six years. Then, when I moved back here to be in the district office, we’ll see each other more often in meetings and things like that,” said Tracey Landry.

The Landrys in January 2023. (Ian Cunningham)
Dan and Tracey Landry in 1999. (Scanned from Page 5 of the February 1999 RAMPAGE Issue)

As the Landry’s professional roles changed, so too did their professional boundaries. Or, as Tracey Landry put it, separating “church and state.”

“We have children, we have things that happen outside of here; we sort of have two lives that we live together, a professional life, and our personal life,” said Tracey Landry.

Like many other staff couples, having children wasn’t always easy to balance with professional responsibilities for the Landrys.

“So during that time, when our kids were the youngest…She was teaching, I was a dean. What I used to say is, ‘I wake up, and I feel like I’m late for work,’ because there was just so much to do. So we created a plan where we would drop off, and we would just contact each other about pickup depending on what our responsibilities were after school,” said Dan Landry.

Although there have been challenges along the way, all five GCHS staff couples have found ways to cope with them, making working with a significant other all that more rewarding.

“There are a lot of us [married couples], and there have historically been a lot of people who are married in this school district…and I think it can be done,” continued Dan Landry, “Teaching is a wonderful career to share that experience with someone that you love.”