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All in 220: Steve Underwood

All in 220: Steve Underwood from Barrington 220 School District on Vimeo.


As the longtime head of the print shop at Barrington High School, Steve Underwood lives by the motto Just send it. We’ll make it happen. You name the print job, and he’s willing to go the extra mile to do it. In fact, the thumbs-up emoji has become his trademark email response, along with his smiley face doodle on the envelopes and boxes he uses to deliver print jobs.  

“My dad will be 92 years old this summer. He always used to tell me to be the best at what I do, even if it seems insignificant to some people,” Underwood said. “I just like people being satisfied with what I do. If something goes wrong, it takes me like a month to get over it!”

This is the mentality Underwood operates under each day, more than 30 years after starting the BHS print shop. He’ll come in early, stay late, and even come in on his days off to make sure a print job gets done. Musical programs. Certificates. Standardized tests. End-of-year memory books. They all start with Steve and his print shop team. 

“I have never met Steve in person, but he works tirelessly to get our copies to us at a superhuman speed,” said Kim Sitzberger, Extended Resource Teacher at Barbara B. Rose Elementary. “His turnaround rate is truly phenomenal. He is patient, extremely thorough, and always so positive. Whenever I see his signature smiley face on a manila envelope, I know my copies have arrived.”

Journey to Barrington 220 

Underwood grew up in Chicago’s historic Kenwood neighborhood, just a few blocks from the Obama family home. After graduating from Kenwood High School, his first job was driving tow trucks around the city for AAA and Amaco Motor Club. After a few years, his sister, who worked for the Chicago-based Alzheimer’s Association, notified Underwood that the organization was looking for a handyman. “They had three mid-size copiers and so I just started helping out by making copies when they asked me,” Underwood said. “The machines would always break down, so I had to start doing my own maintenance.”

And so began his career in printing and copying. After the Alzheimer’s Association, he worked in a similar capacity for the National Safety Council and Pitney Bowes, a global shipping and mailing company. In the early 90s he and his wife, Jeneen Smith-Underwood, were living in Elgin and she spotted a job opportunity. Barrington High School was starting its own print shop. 

“I saw the job posting and thought it matched his skill set, so I encouraged him to look into the position. The rest is history!” said Jeneen, who has worked at BHS as a Student Services Assistant since 2014.

Favorite Part of the Job 

More than 30 years later, Underwood is still leading the print shop, but the job and the equipment he uses have evolved quite a bit. “The biggest change has been going from 85% copying and 15% digital printing to 15% copying and 85% digital printing,” Underwood said. “People used to send us hard copies of documents and we would just make copies. Now we’re printing programs, tests, and more.” 

His favorite part of the job is knowing that he’s having a positive impact on the educational experience for students. “Sometimes I’ll get requests from some of our vision itinerists because they need to have something blown up for a student who is sight impaired. If their class is working on a workbook, we blow up the whole book and bind it and so the student can read it,” Underwood said. 

A Lasting Impact

Beyond the evolution of print shop technology through the years, as one of the longest-running district employees, Underwood has also seen many students and staff members come and go. His dedication to his work has remained steadfast and most importantly, so has his positive, can-do attitude. 

"I first met Steve Underwood when I was a student at BHS,” said BHS Principal Steve McWilliams, who graduated from BHS in 1993. “I can tell you that he has not changed one bit. He is still just as kind and authentic as 30 years ago. His genuine interest in the happiness and well-being of others is evident in all that he does for Barrington High School, Barrington 220, and our community as a whole."