A passionate and compassionate educator

LINDA “LIN” RAKERS Sept. 19, 1947-Nov. 1, 2020

Rakers at her retirement party, 2007.
A few years ago, Linda “Lin” Rakers of Springfield told her friend Barb Lestikow that she planned to go sky diving. “That was Lin,” explains Lestikow. “She always had a zest for life, and when she was determined to do something, she did it.”

Another friend, Harriet Arkley, tells of the time years ago when she and Rakers played racquetball. “We were pretty competitive, but when Lin was pregnant, she didn’t play as hard. When the pregnancy went longer than was in her plan, she called me up and asked me to play a game. We did, and that night she delivered. Lin was always very strong, physically and emotionally, and always very determined to get something accomplished.”

Rakers accomplished much in her years in education. Growing up in Taylorville, she always knew she wanted to be a teacher.

After earning her bachelor’s degree at Illinois State University (ISU), she accepted her first teaching assignment in Peoria where she taught third grade. After five years there, she came to Springfield, taught elementary grades, became a reading specialist, and then went on to be a well-respected principal.

She served as principal at three schools: Withrow, Fairview and Blackhawk. While teaching, she earned her master’s degree at ISU, and even though it wasn’t required to get a Ph.D. to become a principal, Rakers – again with her determination – completed the program at Southern Illinois University.

Several women who started teaching in Springfield around the same time and then became principals formed a strong bond that has lasted for decades. They called themselves the Yah Yahs and spent many good times together, maybe going to a spa for a weekend, having dinner at someone’s house, shopping, golfing etc. Former Springfield District 186 superintendent, Diane Rutledge, says, “Lin was always the light in the room – effervescent and fun-loving.”

The group not only spent many hours together socially but also professionally, attending conferences, helping each other work on issues facing them in their roles as principals, and developing their leadership skills.

Lestikow says, “It didn’t matter what we might be discussing, Lin would always turn to the topic of her family. She was an amazing educator, but what first comes to my mind is her love for life all centered around people. I think of her as a wife, mother, grandmother and friend.”

For over 20 years, Rakers fought leukemia. Many had no idea. Even her friends rarely heard her mention it. And they didn’t ask. Arkley says, “No one would have known of her illness; she was always beautiful and vibrant.” The friends all knew she wanted to live a normal life and didn’t want to dwell on the illness. To them, it was her choice if she wanted to bring it up.

Nancy Waters grew up in Taylorville and lived only a block away from Lin. Their paths crossed once again when Waters was teaching at Fairview and Rakers became the principal. Waters says, “Lin was passionate about her job and compassionate about students. She expected a lot from us and gave us a lot, was always upbeat, making faculty meetings and school assemblies fun. She was respected for her leadership and always stayed up on teaching practices. It was common to find a note on your desk from her with just a simple message of encouragement.”

Rakers was active physically, playing racquetball and golf and running marathons. She participated in community work, through the Junior League of Springfield and as a deacon of First Presbyterian Church.

Rakers retired in 2002, along with many others in the Yah Yah group, and found a new interest. She became a painter, mainly in watercolors. She loved animals and often painted dogs and cats. Her work was often exhibited in galleries in Florida, where she and her husband, Dick, had moved. Turtles and lizards interested her; in fact, one of the groups listed for donations in her memory is the Sea Turtle Conservancy.

People recently posted comments about Rakers on Facebook: “respected,” “outstanding in many wonderful ways,” “compassionate to anyone and everyone she touched.” She always had a smile on her face and a warm welcome to all she met. She cared deeply about children and creating strong educational opportunities for both students and teachers.

Rutledge says, “Lin’s light is a pretty hard one to dim!”

Cinda Ackerman Klickna was a teacher and union activist during the time Rakers was a principal and had the greatest respect for her, as well as the other women quoted in the story. In 2020 over 60 educators from the Springfield area died. Several of them had been Klickna’s teachers or colleagues. Lin Rakers represents the incredible talents of so many educators who have served our area.

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