I graduated from North Park University, and my first teaching job was at Fenwick High School. I taught at Fenwick for a couple of years, and then I taught in Pilsen for a year. Then I went to grad school. Then I went back to Fenwick. Because I had graduated from North Park, I knew Von Steuben. A good friend of mine lived on Spaulding, and he said that he had done some tutoring at Von and had always kind of felt a really good vibe about the school. So I interviewed at Von and and my first year there was 1993 - 1994, so I've been at Von for, I guess about 29 years now.
We bought the house in 1996. There was a realtor in the neighborhood who said, “You know, it's really, really amazing to walk to work.” And so that was just kind of an added bonus. It's great. It's an 8-minute commute. I always think it's kind of interesting when I cross Foster, if I can cross without breaking my stride. Sometimes I ride my bike, just put in the back in the classroom, and then it's about a three minute ride.
Our children went to North Park preschool and so there were a lot of families that we kind of got to know through them. And then all of our children went to Peterson and so we were part of the Peterson community. I got to know families through that. It's a lot of kids who've gone through that little preschool over the years, and when I walk home from school, that preschool is usually getting out, so there I see kids running around in the playground and then I see parents coming out and it's almost timeless. It's kind of a circle of life kind of thing, you know?
My dad was an architect and when I was in college I worked for a professor at North Park. They lived up on the North Shore and they used to have me come up on Saturdays and they would just make a list of things that needed to be done in their house. And so I would, you know, do this project, this project, this project and then I would do the next. And I just got more and more brave . . . trying bigger things.
[My father] designed the addition to our house . . . and I was kind of the general contractor for that. We did all of that. And then, as I've gotten older now, I've taken on more little projects like the the bench you're sitting on. [My wife] Judy usually finds something online and then she says, "Can you make this?" And I'm like, OK sure, I'll give it a shot.
James Edstrom was interviewed by a neighbor in June of 2022.
When I coached soccer [at Von Steuben], I used to recruit North Park soccer players to help me as assistants. I coached the guys team for a number of years, then I coached the women's team and for a couple of years I coached both. Another coach from the neighborhood was Lloy Johnston. We coached the women’s team together at Von.
We won the City Championship in ‘95. And so there are some young ladies from the neighborhood who played on that team. They played AYSO at Peterson Park. So I see their parents [around the neighborhood] from time to time, and I see some players every once in a while. Yeah, so it's kind of fun to see that, but the women who won that City championship are now in their 40s. One of them --- Rachel Bramley --- is now a teacher at Peterson Elementary.