Constant change: Glen Rock’s progression


The Glen Rock rock is a staple of Glen Rock. Throughout its many years, the rock has remained stable and unchanging through Glen Rock’s progression.

A giant rock sits in the middle of the road.  It’s gray and it’s jagged. It is simply a gargantuan rock.  This rock sits in the middle of a road called Rock Road, and lining Rock Road are stores upon stores upon stores.  

With one’s back to the rock, a person can see the whole of the Glen Rock “Center of Town.”  Facing Rock Road, Glen Rock comes to life in its colorful and lively people. This Center of Town is the hub for all Glen Rockers.  It’s where all the kids go after school on Fridays and where all the adults go Saturday nights. It’s where the Christmas tree is lit and where city hall stands.  The Mainline station trains and the Boro Hall trains cross, whirring and whizzing by, bringing traffic to a screeching halt.

Once, the Center of Town was a little emptier.  To the left of the rock was a grocery store called the Grand Union.  Up ahead there was a big parking lot, a place where on Saturday nights teenagers would congregate to talk and laugh and hang around.

There was also a sweet shop and pharmacy where the kids would buy candy, and up even farther was a little diner called Marie’s Dinette.  Sometimes, the kids from Byrd Elementary School would walk into town for lunch and for a $1.99 they would get a drink, a meatball sub, and an order of french fries.

Going down that side of the street, there was a convenience store next to that diner, and even further along there was a gas station on the corner of Rock and Glen.  There was also a little coin shop that brought even more charm to the Center of Town.

The Center of Town then is not the one seen today.  The Grand Union is now a full CVS, in a complex with two restaurants and another shop.  The parking lot that was the hotspot for the high schoolers on the weekends is a full strip mall with stores and shops, and even a small dance studio.  

The pharmacy is still there.  It’s Rock Ridge Pharmacy, except now it’s much bigger.  Marie’s Dinette is a Dunkin’ Donuts, but the kids still go there to get treats and hot chocolates on cold days in Town.  

The gas station became a Starbucks, and the coin shop became John’s Boys; a pizzeria that would take hold in the hearts of all the Glen Rockers.

A lot changed in the time between the days of full meals for $1.99 to $5.00 frappuccinos at Starbucks, but Glen Rock is still Glen Rock.  The Center of Town is still the Center of Town. Glen Rock has grown and changed many different times and in many different ways in the last 30 years, in the physical town and in the people, and there are some people that have seen the change firsthand.  Through all of the ups and downs, the changes and constants, these through and through Glen Rockers have seen their town’s full metamorphoses.

These people have seen Glen Rock through the years, and have observed its aging as they aged themselves, seeing that there is truly no constant as constant as change.


From student to parent

Kilroy’s Wonder Market is the place to go for any last minute supermarket needs.  Everyone in Glen Rock knows that Kilroy’s is where people get any and all small shopping trips out of the way.  It’s where parents are on random weeknights, grabbing last minute snacks to feed their kids.

The Wonder Market is filled with aisles of produce, dairy, and snacks, and spread throughout those aisles is parent after parent.  Kara Stansel stands in one of those aisles, and she seems like any other mom in the store. Most people who saw her would think she belonged there just as much as all the Glen Rock parents belong there, but Stansel herself would never have guessed that she would one day be standing in Kilroy’s shopping for dinner ingredients.

Stansel never thought she would be a Kilroy’s mom.  She never thought she would drive a minivan. She never thought she would end up raising her children in the town she herself grew up in, yet Stansel does all of these things.

Kara Stansel sits in Starbucks in the center of town. Stansel has been living in Glen Rock since the Starbucks was a gas station.

Kara Stansel was born and raised in Glen Rock, and attended Glen Rock schools from the time she was in elementary school all the way to being part of the Glen Rock class of 1987.  

When she graduated, she attended Skidmore college, where she met her husband.  After college, the pair spent two years working in New York City before moving to England for two years.  Then, in 1996, Stansel and her husband made their way back to the states to settle down and raise a family.

When it came time to choose a town, it was actually Stansel’s husband who suggested Glen Rock to be the town where they would raise their children, and, though a high school Stansel never would have guessed it, that is where they ended up.

Kara Stansel and her family in 2017, from left to right, Kara, Caitlin, Tim, Griffin, and Carter.

Stansel has three children, Kaitlin, Carter, and Griffin.  She sees a lot of changes not just in the physical town of Glen Rock but in the people and the community.  

One aspect of Glen Rock society that has changed as she has grown up is the amount of money there is in Glen Rock.  Glen Rock is a much more affluent community than it used to be. The 2015 median household income is $155,221 which is already an increase by  0.39% from 2014.  Stansel believes that one thing that can account for this increase in income is the fact that, in most families, “the parents both work now,” which was “not the case” when Stansel was growing up.

Stansel sees this change as a byproduct of era and not the individual Glen Rock community itself; however, she sees specific changes among the Glen Rock people that aren’t always for the better.  

Stansel believes that Glen Rock is much more politically divided than it used to be.  She feels that, on the local level, politics should be more about unity than division.  As she has grown up in Glen Rock, she has seen her town become more and more divided, and Stansel finds this to be unnecessary.  She believes in Glen Rock being a community of like minded individuals who simply want to better the town.

“Everybody should work together to make Glen Rock a really cool place,”  Stansel said.

Though some of the changes in the community Stansel could do without, there is one aspect of the community that she loves that has remained constant.

When something negative happens in this town, everybody comes together to work it out.  When something or someone threatens the school or the children, the town mutually comes together in order to fix the problem.  Whenever there is a big issue in Glen Rock, it can be counted on that the whole town will join forces to ensure that Glen Rock remains a safe, fun, and friendly town.  

Kara Stansel poses for her student council portrait. Stansel was the student council president her senior year.

“I think people really care about each other.  When something not so great happens the town always comes together,” Stansel said.

Stansel also loves that Glen Rock is small and safe, so people can walk everywhere.

“I think as a kid we walked everywhere at night, and it wasn’t a big deal, and we felt safe.  And maybe our parents worried, but now even as a parent yes, you’re concerned, but I know it’s safe.  No one’s getting mugged,” Stansel said.

Stansel has seen the town itself change in multiple different ways, as well as seeing Glen Rock’s town within the town change: the high school.

According to, Glen Rock High School is the thirteenth best high school in the state as of 2018.  Stansel is thankful that her children are able to receive this stellar education, and knows that it has even  improved since she was a student at Glen Rock herself.

Kara Stansel laughs as yearbook editor in 1987.

“I have to say, the education that my kids got, it’s phenomenal.  Even, I think, better than what I got, and I had great teachers, but I look and see what you guys are doing, and it’s great,” Stansel said.  

The school’s schedule has also changed over the years, adopting the rotate-drop-one schedule that involves students dropping two of their eight classes a day.  Stansel said that she feels she would have loved this schedule as a student.

She also did not have access to a senior lounge as a senior at Glen Rock.  The seniors mostly would “hang out” in the courtyard, but even still the courtyard was much less nice than it is now.  Stansel also remembers the middle school and high school being much more cohesive. They had the same facilities, administrators, passing times, etc.  

One thing that has remained constant in the schools, however, are a couple of the teachers.  Stansel remembers having Mrs. Abbott and Mr. Bentzon, both teachers in the middle school, while a student there.  She also had Mrs. Barrett as her guidance counselor. Stansel actually has that in common with her children, as Kaitlin and Carter both have or had Mrs. Barrett as their guidance counselor as well.  

And, of course, the Glen Rock High School institution of Grad Ball was thriving in 1987 with Stansel’s theme being “Hooray for Hollywood.”

Though Glen Rock has changed a lot since Stansel was in high school, she feels that it has changed in an overall positive way.  

“I think Glen Rock, when I was growing up, was more the poor sister to Ridgewood.  And not anymore, not at all,” Stansel said. “I think if I had to choose between the two towns I think Glen Rock is a little bit friendlier place.”

Sometimes, when Kara Stansel goes to drop her children off at a friend’s house, she finds herself looking at a place that was once her friends house.  She remembers how it used to look all those years ago.  She remembers having her mom drop her off at a friends house.  Kara Stansel remembers all of these things, but she does not want to live in the past.  

Change is ongoing, and Stansel realizes that although Glen Rock is a place of nostalgia for her, she also must change with the town.  Stansel realizes that a lot of people in Glen Rock blame these “lifers” (people that have lived in Glen Rock their whole lives) for holding the town back, and Stansel does not want this reputation.  

Kara Stansel smiles for her senior photo.

“I did the Hoboken thing, and then lived in England for two years, so I think being a lifer feels like I’m still living in my parents basement,” Stansel joked.

She knows that things that worked in the 1980s and 90s are not going to work today, and, to keep this town as great as it is, the people do have to change and evolve with the times.

“I try to remember that change is good, and I think that’s hard.  I try to appreciate both sides,” Stansel said. “I admire and respect the past but realize things have to change.”


Teaching the next generation

The hallways buzz with the electricity of life.  Student after student files by, deliciously invested in continuing through the day, caring only of the “here” and “now.”  Chatter and laughter is rampant and the smell of books and paper filters through the halls. It is passing time at Glen Rock High School, but the year could be 1988 or 2018.  Heather Mcdermott was once one of these students, but now she is the teacher who watches them as they laugh through the halls.

When Mcdermott graduated high school in 1988, she was ready to go.  Already set to go to the Rutgers and NJIT joint program, Mcdermott walked out of Glen Rock High School saying “I am never coming back to this place.”  But, things sometimes have a way of changing for the better.

Mcdermott did not know what the future held for her after college until she received an unexpected call from her former principal at Glen Rock High School.  There was a job opening for a science teacher, and it was hers if she wanted it.

Mcdermott packed her bags and returned the place of which she said “I never thought I would come back.”  Mcdermott currently lives in Glen Rock with her three children, triplets, who are in fifth grade at Byrd Elementary School.  She has been teaching in Glen Rock for almost 20 years and has been living here for almost forty, though her residency was not consecutive.  She currently is the AP Environmental teacher at the high school.

Heather Mcdermott is currently the environmental science teacher at Glen Rock High School.

Heather Mcdermott has witnessed a lot of change over her last 20 years teaching in Glen Rock.  As a science teacher, one of the most impactful and positive changes for her was the addition of the science wing.  

“It’s a wonderful facility that we have right here,” said Mcdermott.  

The referendum to build the new wing passed while Mcdermott was a teacher, and the whole wing is drastically different than when Mcdermott was a student.  She remembers teaching in the old wing and having to deal with the outdated equipment and poor facilities. As the environmental teacher, she knows firsthand how horrible the old greenhouse facility was.  

“When we would go in and sow seeds in the greenhouse, we would come back the next day, and the chipmunks would get in and turn up all the seeds and eat the seeds.  So the seeds were all gone the next day,” Mcdermott recounts.

Though the old greenhouse was less than satisfactory, the current greenhouse is by far Mcdermott’s favorite room in the building.  It is state of the art and its own “classroom within the classroom.” Mcdermott walks next door to the greenhouse everyday to teach her students about botany and how to sow seeds and grow fruits and vegetables and run experiments.  Hearing Heather Mcdermott talk about her greenhouse is like hearing someone talk about their favorite book.

Though she has seen a lot of change in the school, Mcdermott feels a lot of the community aspects of Glen Rock has stayed the same.  She still can walk into the center of town, grab a bite to eat, head to the bank, walk around, say hello to people on the street, etc.  She enjoys the smallness of the town, and that fact has not changed since she was a student in high school. The smallness of Glen Rock has only added to the feeling of safety Heather Mcdermott feels on a day to day basis.  Growing up, she felt like the full community always had her back.

Heather Mcdermott poses for her yearbook photo as a junior in 1987.

“When I was growing up I felt very safe and very supported, and I knew if there were problems people would help you.  And I’ve seen people help my peers and my friends back in high school,” said Mcdermott.

Seeing the town grow and progress overtime has caused Mcdermott to be more involved in town events and issues.  She credits her involvement in the town to the fact that she has seen Glen Rock through the ages.

“Glen Rock runs pretty deep for me,” said Mcdermott.

Though the town itself has not changed much for Mcdermott, her perception of the town has changed.  As a high schooler, Heather Mcdermott yearned for the ability to branch out and pop the Glen Rock bubble.  She wanted to do more and see more, experiencing new places and meeting new people. Though once her imagination reached far beyond the borders of Glen Rock, her love and appreciation for Glen Rock is now rooted in the town.

Mcdermott knows that the community bond in Glen Rock is much stronger than in most towns.  She knows that when there is an issue among the town the community will pull together to try and resolve it.  When it came time to raise a family and decide where to spend her adult life, Mcdermott knew her home was in Glen Rock.

“I know the depth of the people in this town, and I know when something goes wrong, no matter what, people will be here to support each other, and that’s what I love about this town,” Mcdermott said.


Raising the next generation

Wendy Orseck dials the number she knows by heart into her home phone.  It’s a Friday, and she toys with the idea of going out. The phone rings and rings and rings until, finally, someone from the other end picks up.  

“Hi, it’s Wendy, who of my friends are in town tonight?” she asks as she decides what shirt to wear.  

Wendy sighs as she hears that barely anyone is at the parking lot today, and the person on the parking lot payphone she is talking to isn’t even someone she knows.  

Calling the parking lot was a regular occurrence for Wendy when she was 16, but now there is no payphone to call and no parking lot to hang out in.  That, along with so much else about Wendy, has changed.

Wendy Orseck smiles at Six Flags in 2013.

Wendy Orseck has lived in Glen Rock since she was five years old.  She attended the high school, graduating in 1987, and she proceeded to attend Springfield College in Massachusetts.  When she was ready to raise a family, Orseck was undecided about where she wanted to raise her children, but she never would have guessed where she would end up.  She would never have foreseen that the best house she could afford would be in the place where she herself was raised. She never would have believed that one day she would be dropping her children off at Byrd school in Glen Rock where she herself had been a student not so long ago.  Orseck never would have thought she would settle down in Glen Rock, but, like so many others, she found herself returning home to raise a family.


Wendy Orseck smiles for her senior photo.

When raising her family in Glen Rock, Orseck reentered the Glen Rock school system, but no longer as a student.  She restarted her trek as a parent in the system at Byrd Elementary School. Where she had attended. This was particularly strange for Orseck as “not much changed” since she was a student there.  

The high school, however, underwent so many changes since Orseck was a student there that, to her, it feels so much like a different school than the one she graduated from in 1987.  While she attended Glen Rock High School, there was no media center or computers that the students could access. There were no electives that exceeded the complexity of woodworking or home economics.  All in all, the options open to students at the high school were much more limited than they are now.

That being said, Orseck remembers loving the teachers and guidance counselors and overall having “a great high school experience.”  Orseck was also a cheerleader while in high school, which she credits for giving her the best high school memories.

Wendy Orseck as a Glen Rock cheerleader.

She remembers the annual “roast” of the football players, laughing with her friends and being a part of something bigger within the small Glen Rock high school.  

“I think that probably is my best memory.  It was so high school,” said Orseck.

Orseck’s sophomore daughter, Ana, is also a cheerleader at the high school.  Like her mother, Ana loves cheer and considers it one of the best parts of her high school experience.  Ana originally joined cheer because her mom had “loved the experience” and “thought it was amazing.”

Orseck and her daughter share a lot of similar thoughts about the town where they both grew up.  They both love the smallness of the town, but recognize that it can sometimes be annoying when everyone knows everyone.  Both love the town they were raised in and are happy they had the chance to live in such a wonderful town. Neither of them thought (or think) they would want to come back to Glen Rock to raise a family or settle down.  

Orseck even remembers saying in high school “I can’t wait to get out of this town,” but she has no regrets about staying in Glen Rock.  

“When I left, I thought I was leaving for good, and here I am,” said Orseck.

Another difference Orseck sees between her high school experience and her daughter’s is cohesion between grades.  She was lucky enough to be very close with her brother’s grade (the class two years older than her), but this was very rare.  She thinks Ana is lucky that she has friends from all different grades.

“Nobody really cares that you’re a freshman and you have a good friend that’s a junior or a senior, and I love that,” said Orseck.

Wendy Orseck poses with her two children, Max and Ana. Max is in 11th grade at Glen Rock High School while Ana is in 10th.

Some aspects of Glen Rock that have stayed the same since Orseck was a kid includes the safety of Glen Rock.  Orseck loves that she can walk anywhere in town and that there is an actual downtown area of Glen Rock. She also knows that people in Glen Rock look out for one another, so there is a constant feeling of comfort in the town.  

People in Glen Rock genuinely care about the goings on of the town.  When there is an issue, the town rallies to solve it, and everyone gets involved.  Wendy knows that “everybody in this town is pretty passionate,” and that is just one more aspect of Glen Rock that she loves.  

Though she never would have though Glen Rock would be where she spent her adult life, Wendy Orseck feels fortunate that this is the way her life worked out.  

“I think that as you grow up and mature a little bit more you realize how fortunate you are to grow up in a town like this and how fortunate you are if you can raise your children in a town like this,” said Orseck.

Though Orseck would consider leaving Glen Rock once her kids graduated high school, she knows she would be sad to go.  However, all things must change, and “it’s a progression.” The town has to have turnover and grow overtime, and Orseck knows that one day she may be a part of that change.

But, Orseck knows that no matter what, “I will always be a Glen Rocker, for sure.”

From student to teacher

The Glen Rock High School gymnasium has that unique smell of sweat, body odor, and sterile cleaning supplies that is a staple for most students who enter that gymnasium every day.  The floors are dirty and shiny, the bleachers are bright red and scraped, and the banners on the walls document the history of Glen Rock’s sports teams. For some students, this gym is merely a mandatory place they must visit each day, meaningless to them outside of the fact that gym is a requirement.  But Mike Escalante sees otherwise. He sees a room that he has known for more than 10 years as a student and as a teacher. The peculiar smells and the contradicting features are the marks of a home for Escalante.

Mike Escalante is a current gym teacher at Glen Rock High School.

He sometimes spends more than 10 hours a day in that gymnasium.  He does what any normal teacher does; he teaches classes, he eats his lunch, he hangs out with his colleagues.  He does everything one would expect from a high school gym teacher, except Mike Escalante hanging out with his colleagues is a little more unique than it seems.  

Back in 2009, when Escalante was a senior in high school, most of these people were not his friends but his teachers.  Mrs. Zimmerman, Mr. Kurz, and Mr. Fox are just three of Escalante’s many friends that he once knew only as his superiors.

“It’s definitely fun, having, or working with people that were my teachers, and you definitely see a different side of them of course,” said Escalante.

Escalante, affectionately called by most students “Mr. Esco,” is the youngest of the teachers that were formerly Glen Rock students.  Escalante was only away from Glen Rock for four years before returning right back to the place he just left.

“It was definitely unique because, when I started here, I was only four years removed from being a student.  Luckily, I’d like to think I was pretty well behaved in high school and didn’t push any buttons, upset any teachers,” joked Escalate.  

Mike Escalante poses with then coach and current coworker Mr. Kurz and a friend for student teacher day as a senior in 2009. Mr. Kurz was previously Escalante’s coach before becoming his coworker.

Escalante lived in Glen Rock from 1992 until 2009, when he left to attend school at Springfield College.  He began his Glen Rock teaching career as a substitute in the district when he came home from college for school breaks.  Fresh out of college, Escalante was not yet sure where life would take him. Would he be a football coach? If so, would he stay in Springfield?  Should he coach pro? Should he stick with teaching?

In 2013 Escalante received word that there was an opening to become a long-term substitute at Hamilton Elementary School in his hometown.  Young and willing to take a job wherever he could find one, Escalante returned to Glen Rock. Until then, substituting was merely a way to make money while away from school, but teaching at Hamilton convinced the young Escalante that teaching was something he could genuinely see himself pursuing.  

Though Escalante only left Glen Rock for four years, lots changed in his short time away.  The differences between 2009 and 2018 spill out of Escalante’s mouth in a steady stream of renovations, schedule changes, and added security measures.  The science wing was added, the schedule is now rotate-drop one, and a nice security greeter says hello every morning as Escalante walks through the door.  Just nine years ago, Escalante had to trek from the school to a trailer outside everyday for media arts classes, and now there is an entire beautiful art wing just waiting to be enjoyed by the new era of Glen Rock students.

Mike Escalante as senior in 2009 poses for his yearbook photo.

The fields Escalante frequented as a young man are no longer there, replaced by turf and artificial grass.  The peeling snack stand that sits up on a hill is the only relic of the field he once knew. The hill upon which it sits was not even a hill; the field use to simply be on that same level.

But change, to Escalante, is never a bad thing.

“Certainly I understand some things in town change, and change is always ongoing, so I’m okay with change when some of those changes happen,” he said.  

There is one aspect of the school that remains the same for Escalante, and what it is should come as no surprise.  Through all the years and all of the stages of life he has walked through it, Mr. Escalante’s gymnasium remains the same.  

“The gym, in my eyes, really hasn’t changed at all since I even graduated here.  And certainly being in the gym, I definitely feel at home as someone who taught phys ed and always enjoyed coming to phys ed class.  I almost don’t even think about it, it’s just like a part of my daily life, and I’m so used to being here. But of course it’s one of my favorite places to be,” Escalante said.  

Escalante has learned and seen a lot as a Glen Rock teacher, but there is always a part of him that remembers what it was like to be one of the students walking through the crowded hallways of Glen Rock High School, letting the wave of students carry him along in their current of excitement and hope for whatever might happen next.

He remembers being a senior, stepping out onto the football field all those nights, squinting at the lights and smiling at the adoring fans.  He remembers making it to the state championship and losing, and he remembers how supportive of the team the whole town of Glen Rock was from beginning of the season to end.  

Mike Escalante runs down Giants Stadium as captain of the Panthers his senior year.

No matter where he lives, no matter what he is doing, regardless of age or time or place, Mike Escalante remembers that Glen Rock is his home.  He knows that anyone who has lived here for a substantial amount of time, regardless of whether they ever leave the town, considers Glen Rock a home.  For Escalante and so many others, this will never change.

“I love the Glen Rock community.  I feel so fortunate that I grew up in such a unique town.  I’ve had great experiences elsewhere in my four years in Springfield, but I know, you guys hear a lot, but there’s not too many places that are like the Glen Rock community.  It’s a special place.”



Anyone that has been to John’s Boy pizzeria on a Friday afternoon knows that it is a jungle.  Frenzied teens are packed wall to wall, clawing their way to the front just to get a slice of pizza.  Kids take over every surface, the entryway, the wooden booths, by the gumball machines. There is a certain saucy smell that wafts from the building, unique only to John’s, and the smell surrounds the chaos of crazed middle schoolers, wrapping the scene in a cushion of dough and happiness.  This scene has not changed 30 years, and Friday afternoons at John’s Boy remain a staple of the GRHS student’s experience.

Through years of crazed students begging for pizza, John’s Boy has remained a constant in Glen Rock.  John’s Boy has been serving students since 1983, and every person in Glen Rock knows that John’s Boy is a special place.

When asked about important places in town, every person interviewed responded without thought: John’s Boy.  Though times have changed, John’s Boy has remained a constant in all these people’s lives, and even now, as adults, they still return back to the same pizzeria.  

“Jon’s Boys definitely comes to mind first…immediately.  I had dinner with my brother and mom and Coach Kurz at Jon’s Boys this past Saturday, and I’ve been going there since I can remember,” said Mike Escalante.  “John’s Boy definitely sticks out.”

People like Orseck and Stansel even remember when John’s Boy was owned by John himself, and Umberto, the current proprietor, was just an employee who was dating the owner’s daughter.  Orseck remembers how many people went to John’s Boys after school, just like they do now. She recalls how the store would “just be packed with high school students.”

Umberto stands behind the counter in John’s Boy Pizzeria. He is the current owner of the restaurant. John’s Boy has been in Glen Rock since 1983 and is a staple of Glen Rock lifestyle.

Stansel remembers how nice John always was to the kids, the same way Umberto is now, saying  “Umberto’s father in-law, John, was really nice to the kids, like Umberto, and let them hang out there.”

Mcdermott, too knows how much John’s Boy means to the people of Glen Rock.  “It’s kind of a home base for us,” said Mcdermott.

Through all the changes that have come to Glen Rock, through every change of store, every new media center or courtyard, and every new technology, there are places in Glen Rock like John’s Boy that tie the past and the future together.  They remain constants in Glen Rock, a town that, though home to many consistencies, is a town of progress and change.