The bad news for Dixonites: Kelsey Polte is leaving them for another school district.
The good news is two-fold: She's realizing her dream, and her destination isn't a competing district. Not even close, actually.
After one school year as the Duchesses' volleyball coach and a math teacher at Reagan Middle School, Polte accepted a job teaching middle-school math at The Sheikh Zayed Academy in Abu Dhabi.
"It was actually a very difficult decision," Polte said. "My players made it the hardest decision I've made, just thinking about them and how much they've grown. They developed so much as athletes and as people last season. But in the long run, I had to look at where I wanted to be."
Polte is a Hall High School graduate and a former all-conference player at the University of St. Francis. She has worked with Teach Away Inc., a recruiting service that places teachers overseas, since earning her degree in 2010. One of Teach Away's stipulations is that teachers must have 2 years' experience.
Polte's one condition was teaching the middle-school level.
"I wanted to stay there," Polte said. "I love that they're still young, but they're growing into their independence."
After a phone interview and an in-person interview with the academy's principal in Chicago about a month and a half ago, Polte was offered the job and given 2 weeks to make a decision.
"I made it on the last day," Polte said.
Her first day is Aug. 25 and plans to leave around Aug. 20.
On Tuesday, the night before her resignation letter was accepted at the school board meeting, Polte broke the news to her players in a team meeting.
Sophomore Amy Rotella admitted the tears came fast.
"We're all kind of concerned about what's going to happen," she said. "She had such an impact on us. But we're really happy for her."
Rotella, also plays club volleyball for Polte in Sterling. Her mom, Nicole Miller, is also anxious.
"It's very stressful. It's like starting all over again," Miller said. "For a lot of these players, it's a crucial time."
Junior Kari Wolfe said Polte was helpful in reaching out to coaches at prospective colleges.
"I think she really impacted all of us in a wonderful way," Wolfe said. "We all know that she's doing what she's doing to help herself, and we support her.
"We just hope that she'll come back and see us."
Polte said it will happen. Among the benefits detailed in her 2-year contract is a paid-for round-trip flight every year. She also said the financial benefits were ample.
The bug to teach overseas bit during her sophomore year in college, when a family trip took her to London, as well as a 2-week safari in Africa. While she hoped to teach in Europe, the opportunity was in the capital of the United Arab Emirates.
Her research revealed that Abu Dhabi is a modern city. Its population is nearly 1 million and on the rise. Less than an hour's drive away is Dubai, another fast-rising city.
The academy's curriculum is parallel to that here in the United States.
"I can't wait to immerse myself in a new culture," Polte said. "I'm still wrapping my brain around it."
So are her players. But whenever they miss their coach, they can remember team dinners and coachable moments, like when Polte gave Rotella some pointers on her armswing a couple of weeks ago.
"I just have to remember it, and remember where I learned it," Rotella said.
Alma maters: Hall High School, Class of 2006; University of St. Francis, 2010
Achievements as a player: All-Chicagoland College Athletic Conference as a junior…USF single-season assist record-holder (1,893 in 2007)…led Hall in assists (994) and aces (83) during run to fourth-place at 2005 Class 1A state tournament
FYI: Daughter of Laurie Polte, who coached Hall to 1996 and '97 1A state torunaments