Profile: Gayle Kocab

Profile Gayle Kocab web■ BY SUE ERWIN

If you live on the island and ever had to deal with a pest issue, you’ve probably had to call Statewide Pest Control. And chances are, you may have spoken with Gale Kocab, who would have helped you schedule a service technician to help deal with the problem.

Gayle has been a scheduler at Statewide Pest Control on the island for more than ten years.

She grew up in Shaker Heights, Ohio, a suburb just outside Cleveland. She attended Cleveland State College and studied literature, and went on to earn her master’s degree at the college after earning her four-year degree. She taught high school language arts for Cleveland City schools for 32 years after graduating.

“My last ten years there, I spent teaching in the detention hall for the city. It was referred to as ‘junior jail’ by some of the kids at the school. People thought I was crazy for taking that job. I was in a position where a pencil was a weapon. There were two big security guards stationed just outside the classroom door every day,” Gayle said.

She said she enjoyed the position because it was like getting back to the basics of teaching. Many of the kids had a rough upbringing, and this was sort of like a safe haven for them. She said she felt she was making a lot more progress with them in that setting rather than teaching in a regular classroom full of distractions.

“These were high school students, so we knew we wouldn’t have their full attention on a Friday, because all they were thinking about was the weekend. And then they were tired on Mondays … so that left us three days to work with them,” she said. The students knew they were not in there because they did something good, and they knew Gayle knew that, too.

She said the sad part was seeing the same kids coming through the system again and again, not making any positive progress in their lives. “You could throw the curriculum out the window, because most of them actually had trouble reading. So we had to start at some very early levels of teaching. We really had to gear our lesson plans for nonreaders and then begin to teach the basic skills of reading and comprehension.” Gayle said she’ll never forget the day when a 7-year-old child walked into the detention classroom from the intake unit. She recalled how very unusual it was for a student so young to be in detention. Most of the students she had were just under 18 years old, and when they turned 18 they were placed in the custody of the county or state. She remembers the older kids enjoying a series of graphics books by RL Stine called “Goosebumps.” They liked reading poetry as well, which surprised her. “It was really amazing to see these teenagers get excited about reading.”

Gayle’s husband, Ken, taught at East High School in Cleveland for more than 30 years. The two met at a fraternity party when they were in college. Ken taught students who were at a higher level and were more focused on planning their futures. Gayle said Ken would frequently see her students on campus wearing jumpsuit uniforms, and they’d come up to him and say “Hi, Mr. K.” “I think he must have wondered what the environment was like in my classroom,” she said. During her career, Gayle said she taught everything from advanced placement students to “sweat hogs.” She said she never felt threatened, even though she knew one particular kid was charged with something horrific. Soon after that, the district closed down the high school she was working at, because the student population had diminished so much. “It was a good ten years – it really was – I really enjoyed it. It was a good way to end my career,” Gayle said.

After their teaching days were finished, Gayle and Ken moved to Rotonda West. They just celebrated 46 years of marriage in June. She said the secret to a successful marriage is, “you just have to learn to ignore each other once in a while.” The Kocabs enjoy traveling as often as possible and recently took a Viking cruise to Paris. They are planning another cruise in Germany (from Munich to Budapest, Hungary) in 2017. They relocated to this area when a friend of Ken’s moved to Rotonda. “Ken was ready to move, and we came down to see the area and decided to have a house built in Rotonda in 2006.”

Gayle said she has enjoyed working for Statewide on the island for the past decade. After moving here, she saw an advertisement in the Boca Beacon and answered it regarding a part-time position. “I know a lot more about bugs now than I ever thought I would,” she said with a smile. She also enjoys the slower, relaxing pace of working in Boca Grande. “Plus, it gets me out of the house and helps keep my mind active. There is only so much time you can spend at home each day without going stir crazy.”

The Kocabs are part owners of Englewood Antiques on Dearborn Street. They started collecting antiques in Ohio, and now they work in the Englewood store a couple of days per week. They also do antique shows in the area, including ones planned in Sarasota, Bradenton and West Palm Beach. “We take our little show on the road, because we don’t expect many collectors to come and shop on West Dearborn Street.” Gayle said they mostly sell “Americana” collectors’ items. They have learned that furniture doesn’t seem to sell very well in Florida. “People want things they can fit into a suitcase. Toys, maps, paper items and books all sell very well. Kids are not really into true antiques anymore, they want keepsakes or things from World War II,” she said. Gayle said many people often bring items to her at the store, and she also finds unique things at estate sales. She said things that don’t sell well are glassware, stemware and china. “People aren’t taking the time to set up beautifully decorated tables anymore – I guess many have become just too busy to bother with it.”

Gayle’s youngest daughter, Lyndsay, 33, inherited a love for antiques and currently sells them in Shaker Heights, Ohio. She is also a part-time art teacher and has a five-year-old daughter, Aubrey. Their oldest daughter, Lara, 36, is a graphic designer in Chicago. The couple has two rescued pugs: Percy, 8 and Tank, 12. They also have a black male cat named Oden.

Gayle and Ken are planning to participate in a “Christmas in July” antique show planned for this Saturday, July 16 and Sunday, July 17 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Sarasota Municipal Auditorium, located at 801 N. Tamiami Trail near the Van Wezel Performing Arts Center. Stop by their booth and say hello if you are looking to shop for some early antique Christmas gifts this weekend.