Posted on: April 14, 2022 Posted by: Glacier Staff Comments: 0

Photo courtesy of Eric DeVillez

Eric DeVillez loves spending time with his wife, Beth, and their sons Lawson, 10, and Cole, 6.

By Omar Shalabi, JRN 111 Student

Eric DeVillez is the type of person who, in the same sentence, will make a joke, make a self-deprecating comment, curse, digress, then digress, then digress…and then teach you something you will never forget.

“I do this job because I want to help people,” says DeVillez, who teaches composition and literature at Moraine Valley. “I want to be generous with anything that I have, be it time, be it money, be it possessions, be it experience. So, yeah I think if there’s to be any kind of legacy, it’s the legacy of generosity. And by that I don’t mean money. [I mean] in any other way to help people rise and see themselves become the best versions of themselves. And that includes my sons, that includes someone sitting in a bridge section—whatever, man!”

With his mind a conveyor belt of knowledge and wisdom, DeVillez casually but effectively reforms your perspective on everything, all the time.

In the classroom, DeVillez puts students at ease by humanizing anything strange or difficult. His outlook on life seems to be that it’s crucial to share something natural and real with somebody who needs to hear it. If for nothing else, a good laugh. This ability to get philosophical while keeping it real stems from an upbringing that brought together both white-collar and blue-collar influences.

“Man, I liked to ride bikes, I liked to get into trouble, I liked sneaking off into the woods with my friends and smoking cigarettes, I liked to play sports, you know?” he says. “In high school, I was just as happy to sit down and read poetry as I was to go smoke a cigarette in the bathroom. Knowing I was going to get caught. But trying not to get caught. So, it was just a good mixed background.”

DeVillez has been teaching at Moraine Valley for 19 years, after receiving a bachelor’s degree from Illinois State University and a master of fine arts from Roosevelt University. His story began here in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, where for more than 30 years, his father, Randy, also taught composition and literature at Moraine.

His parents divorced when he was 6, so he had to figure things out in his own way, finding his own identity.

The divorce “clearly had a huge effect on our family–my sister, myself,” he says. “It just rocked the way that…I don’t know, that moral independence and belief in yourself that everything’s going to be all right. And it colored the way I saw everything.”

After the divorce, DeVillez’s father married a psychologist and lived a white-collar lifestyle. On the other side, his mother, who worked a customer service job at 3M, married a tool and die maker.

“It gave me an opportunity to see the world through different lenses,” he said. “So rather than miring myself in the pity of that situation, I just said, ‘Man, get over yourself.’ And I had the opportunity to see different kinds of life.”

From his stepfather, he learned how to work with his hands, which, he says, “I value incredibly to this day. I think it made me a better writer and writing instructor.”

His relationship with his own father—who taught at Moraine almost from the time the college began—was more strained. Randy DeVillez passed away in 2013.

 “This is going to sound arrogant, but it’s true: I’m twice the writing instructor my dad ever was,” DeVillez said. “If he was still around, I’d like to be able to tell him that. And I think he’d probably know it and be proud of that.”

But there are always two sides of a story, and DeVillez truly finds the importance in knowing and addressing the truth. He acknowledges that while his blue-collar upbringing instilled great values in him, his white-collar lifestyle also had its benefits.

“Having the opportunity to grow up in that household where the dinner table conversation was writing and psychology, I learned how not to be psychoanalyzed.” But, he says, “I needed to hear some of that [stuff] when I was a kid, from when my stepmother would try to psychoanalyze me at the dinner table—‘cause she was right!”

Maybe it’s this diverse upbringing that gave DeVillez his compassion, appreciation of differences. and ability to put students at ease. In addition to teaching classes, DeVillez works with students who come into the Speaking and Writing Center.

Big personality, warm, friendly, great sense of humor, very much a part of students’ success.”

Margaret Tenerelli, describing Eric DeVillez

“Big personality, warm, friendly, great sense of humor, very much a part of students’ success,” is how Margaret Tenerelli, one of the center’s administrative assistants, describes him. “He’s got a great rapport with students. There’s no one that is concerned with approaching him. He’s very open. He makes you feel like he really cares about you and what you have to say.”

DeVillez stands out to colleagues as well as students for his ability to listen intently and actively.

“I really appreciate his approach in the classroom–he talks a lot about asking questions and cultivating curiosity, which are things he practices in his teaching and in his relationships with colleagues,” says Tish Hayes, information literacy librarian. “He always asks really good questions!”

Through his unorthodox method of teaching, DeVillez brings his students closer to not only the content, but to just being better people.

“He’s generous with his time in supporting students as they develop their writing,” Hayes said, “and I also watch him teach how to tie a tie.”

His down-to-earth caring personality shines through most in the classroom. Ashley Boos, a student in his honors COM 102 class, says, “He’s very open, and he’s very welcoming to students to help them share their ideas. Yeah, he’s a really good teacher.”

When they say he’s down to earth, they aren’t kidding. Outside of the office, that’s literally true. With a perfectly shaven head, a mountain-man beard, and a G-7 vocal range, he could go out as a lumberjack for Halloween, but it’d just be him going for a stroll. He looks forward to the day he can indulge his outdoorsman alter ego fully.

“Once I’m done doing this, I’m going to disappear into the woods, buy a fishing boat and not talk to people,” he jokes.

He even married into a hunting family—his wife, Beth’s family goes deer hunting every year. Coincidence? And he enjoys passing on his love of nature to his two sons, Lawson, 10, and Cole, 6.

“I fish, I hunt, I read, I write, and I try to do all those things with my boys when they’re able and interested,” he said. “I want to foster that connection with them.”

He planted 120 trees on his property–to hide from his neighbors, he says. He thinks of each one of them like they’re human beings: “I even take it personally when one of those trees dies!”

That’s the theme of his life: Eric DeVillez cares. About his students, about his family, about nature. His passion shines through in his electric demeanor, his unfiltered but filtered tongue, and his pure desire to be of service and guidance to those who need it.

“I get so pissed off when a student says that I don’t care,” he says. “You can say whatever you want, but as soon as you say I don’t care, I get mad.”