WEST RIDGE — On what was supposed to be Mather High School special education teacher Kevin Conway's last day, he's instead getting "hugs, fist-bumps and high-fives" as word spreads his job was spared from cuts at the last minute thanks to the school's principal.
"The students and staff here have been so supportive this last week," Conway said. "I can't really put it into words how they have made me feel."
Conway, who teaches five special education classes at Mather and also coaches cross-country, was told last week that Chicago Public Schools had denied the school's appeal against proposed cuts to its special education department.
Friday was supposed to be Conway's last day.
Mather's Principal Chris Jones said after being denied his appeal twice by CPS, he was told by the administration to find money elsewhere if he wanted to keep Conway's position. So that's exactly what he did, he said.
Before knowing Conway's job was saved, one student at Mather told DNAinfo, "He made a huge impact on everyone here at my school.
"Mather may just be losing a teacher, but we students are losing a friend, a mentor, a role model. We're losing a person who has made a difference in our lives, this especially true for certain students. He was someone we could always go to no matter what, he's someone who cared."
Special education teacher Zach Alukos echoed that sentiment: "What we would be losing is much bigger than just a teacher."
On Thursday, Conway said his principal informed him that he would get to keep his job, though the funds would come from within Mather and not be restored by CPS.
Conway said the swelling of support has been "humbling," but he's just ready to get back to business as usual: teaching the students of Mather High School.
"Every day, each passing period, I received a hug or handshake or words of encouragement," he said.
For more neighborhood news, listen to DNAinfo Radio here: