Tag Archives: Jim Honeycutt

Staples Staff Graduates Friday, Too

This Friday, over 400 seniors graduate from Staples High School.

But they’re not the only ones leaving.

An all-star cast of educators follows them out the North Avenue doors. That happens every year, of course — but this spring’s retirements seem more in number, and deeper in longevity, breadth, impact and legend than most.

I asked this very important group of men and women to reflect on their careers in education. Not all wanted such a public send-off. But here are the insights of those who agreed to share. 

Alice Addicks, grade level assistant, jack-of-all-trades

I got into education because of an awesome PE teacher in high school who I admired and wanted to emulate.

Alice Addicks

Alice Addicks

I stayed in education because I love it. I actually realized that I did have an impact on students.

Substitute teaching and coaching got me to Staples. I just plain loved being here, so I did my best to stay.

The best advice I’ve ever been given was to love what you choose to do in life, because you’re probably going to be doing it for a long time. I’ve coached, taught and worked with young people since 1961, so I guess I made a good choice.

I will most definitely miss the people with whom I work, and the students. But I will not miss getting up with the birds every morning.

I plan on volunteering to teach some exercise classes at the Senior Center, will continue to help with scoring, timing, etc. for Staples sports, would love to volunteer at the Humane Scoiety, and do a little traveling to visit friends and my daughter in Oregon.

Denise Honeycutt, guidance

Bewteen a really cool younger uncle who was a teacher, and the passion I developed for Spanish, I decided to get into education.

My first job, at Long Lots Junior High School, was a great experience. I worked for Joe Koeller, Dan Sullivan and Elspeth Doenges — all top-notch administrators. And it was there that I met Jim Honeycutt — ’nuff said!

I came to Staples in 1983, the year 9th grade was added. I taught all levels, from beginning to AP.

When I was transferred to middle school due to declining enrollment, I went back to school. While at Staples, several of my students had said I would make a good guidance counselor. So that’s what I did.

After several years of graduate work, a baby and a sabbatical, I was hired as a counselor at Coleytown Middle School. I worked there for 4 years, before returning to Staples in 1999. It was wonderful to return.

I will never forget 2 years later, 9/11. I stayed in school with my colleagues in guidance, and principal Gloria Rakovic, late into the evening until we heard that all of our students’ parents were safe. Then we hugged and went home.. It was the saddest day ever.

Westport has been very good to me. It’s been a fantastic career, and lots of fun. I learn something new every day.

I will miss the kids the most. They energize me, and keep me young. And I will miss seeing my friends. Hopefully that part will continue.

Next, I hope to take care of myself, spend time with family, and be a good nonna to my grandchildren.

Jim and Denise Honeycutt

Jim and Denise Honeycutt

Jim Honeycutt, Media Lab

After graduating from Fairfield University in 1970, I became a rock star — for 3 years, anyway. While on the road with my band Repairs, I had an epiphany: I was not going to be the next Elvis.

So I contacted my friend Richard Heggie, who worked at Bedford Junior High. He suggested I try teaching, because I was comfortable performing and seemed to like kids.

I subbed in Westport. After graduate school and lots of jobs in local restaurants, I landed a part-time teaching job at Coleytown Junior High.

I love teaching, because I have been able to grow and do different things over 30 years. I began as a social studies teacher. I got into teaching computers, which I did from about 1984 to the late ’90s. Then I realized media was going digital, and moved into library media. For the last 15 years, Mike Zito and I have run the Media Lab, and developed the program at Staples.

I love the kids and staff here. It was and is a great place to work.

I’ll miss working with Staples Players. I shot 50 of David Roth’s shows, and created DVDs of every one. I’ll also miss the music department, one of Staples’ unrecognized gems.

I do love this place. Although I believe in my heart and soul that it is time for me to go, it will be hard to say goodbye to the best job in the world, the best kids in the world, and the best staff in the world. I love the staff so much, I married one of them.

I may be 67, but I’m a young 67. I still run on the Fairfield University track. I go to the Edge every day. I hike every summer in the High Sierra. As Gloria Rakovic said, I still have some snap left in my garter.

So I’m going to get another job this fall. The Trumbull Apple store would like me to work as a “creative,” teaching people how to use all their cool products. I’m looking into a couple of library jobs too. I’ll be back to work in September!

Ed Huydic, guidance

I knew I wanted to be an educator from the time I was a high school sophomore. I enjoyed studying history, had 2 great teachers, and my older brother — my role model — was a teacher.

I stayed in education because of the environment, my colleagues and the students.

Ed Huydic

Ed Huydic

My master’s degree from Columbia, along with a good interview, got me into Staples and Westport. Staying for 40 years was a combination of good fortune, my passion for the learning environment, and strong relationships that I built over many years.

Cutting down the nets as coach of the girls basketball state championship team in 1995 is an individual moment that will forever live strong with me. Also, in the early years of my career, legendary teachers showed the way. As teacher union president (200-2010), I helped shepherd an era of growth.

I’m also proud of former students. Twice in the last 35 years, for example, I heard from a woman. First she told me she was a professor of anthropology at Penn, and that my class spurred her love for the subject. The other day, she told me she is now in Washington DC, starting her own school.

People may not know that I’m a coordinator in New York City for the annual Global March for Elephants and Rhinos.

I will miss everything about my work at Staples. It has been the center of my professional experience for 40 years. The memories made as a coach, the friendships forged with so many colleagues, and the day to day work as a teacher and counselor have helped me stay “forever young.”


Karyn Morgan, assistant principal

I attended a small elementary school in New York state. We had a regional program for special needs students. Every day a boy was bullied. I couldn’t take it, so i became his protector. I walked him to his classroom (in the basement!), and got to know the special ed teacher and kids. At 8 years old I decided to become a special ed teacher.

Karyn Morgan

Karyn Morgan

In the late 1990s, when I was teaching in Bridgeport, Staples had an opening for special ed coordinator. I believed I could impact more kids if I had the opportunity to work with teachers.

The kids, teachers and administrators kept me here. Westport’s commitment to education sealed the deal for me.

I will never forget being told there was a scholarship being given in my name to help a student in need.

Best advice I’ve gotten: “Make friends with the custodian!” Little-known fact: Denise Honeycutt and I graduated high school together.

I’ll miss the day to day contact with the kids and my Staples family. But I look forward to sleeping past 5 a.m.

Christina Richardson, English

I had a phenomenal English and drama teacher in high school. I though I could maybe inspire others the way he inspired me.

Christina Richardson

Christina Richardson

I taught initially out of college, but wanted to see the world. So I worked for an airline, a cruise line and a travel agency. I always knew I would return to teaching, so when my children were in middle school, I went back.

There had been virtually no hiring at Staples for years, but all of a sudden a number of English teachers retired. One dropped out at the last minute, so there was an opening.

The students, the courses I got to teach, and the colleagues kept me here.

I’ll never forget one year, on the first day of AP Literature, virtually all the students had been in other classes of mine. They all rose and applauded my entrance.

I won’t miss all the new prescriptives coming down from the government, most prescribed by people who know nothing about education.

I already have 2 major trips lined up, to Eastern Europe and South America. I look forward to enjoying my grandchildren, performing and directing in community theater, and rescuing dogs.

Mike Zito, Media Lab

I was performing a science show for kids, called Bubblerific. I was making a connection with them, but after an hour I was gone. I wanted to make more long-term connections.

Education is the most rewarding thing I’ve done. When I taught elementary school, I felt good about the community feel in my classroom. In the upper grades, it’s wonderful to see kids get passionate about something. I enjoy being able to help guide and facilitate that passion.

Mike Zito

Mike Zito

Honeycutt got me to Staples. We first met in the ’70s. We talked about working together for a while. He pulled the strings to get me to Coleytown Middle School, then pulled them again to get me to Staples.

I’m very proud of what Jim and I have created in the Media Lab. When I came here I was thrilled to see that even kids I had worried might fall through the cracks had found a place somewhere at Staples. Whether sports, art, theater, curriculum areas, after-school clubs, there are excellent programs throughout, and a place for everyone to call home. I’m humbled and proud that Jim and I were able to create one of those.

I’ve been blessed in many ways. But in the 43 years I’ve been doing radio, the most rewarding time I’ve spent on the air was with Wyatt Davis, “The Wymaster.” I’ll always cherish having a small part in making that happen.

Here at Staples, I did a show called “Coaches’ Corner,” with an adult host. My administrator asked if a kid couldn’t do it instead. I said I didn’t see how. Then Eric Gallanty joined WWPT and Staples Television Network. I realized the imposed limits I was unconsciously putting on students needed to be shattered.

My wife and I bought a house in Austin. We’ll start a new adventure there right after graduation. I’m getting the band back together, performing my bubble show again — I’ll be coming full circle.

“Good Morning” Goodbye

Staples High School teachers Jim Honeycutt and Mike Zito invented the school’s Media Lab.

From their funky studios near the cafeteria, the duo taught thousands of students — and oversaw WWPT-FM, the Staples Television Network, a recording studio and much more.

“Good Morning Staples” is one small part of what they’ve done. But since its first broadcast in 2001, the thrice-weekly TV show has had an outsized influence on the school.

Yesterday’s “Good Morning Staples” broadcast was the last of the school year — and their last ever. Both Honeycutt and Zito retire this month.

The 24-minute video offers just a tiny sampling of the work their kids did. It’s a tribute to Staples students’ spectacular energy, dedication, talent and energy.

Which, of course, was unlocked, nurtured and nourished by 2 very special teachers.

Alisan Porter’s Exclusive “Voice”

Last month, “06880” broke the story about former Staples student Alisan Porter’s upcoming appearance on “The Voice.” Her haunting rendition of “Blue Bayou” earned raves from the notoriously hard-to-please judges.

But it took the enterprising journalists at our local high school to snag an exclusive interview with her.

Students working with instructor Jim Honeycutt on the superb “Good Morning Staples” TV show conducted a bi-coastal interview with the woman who — less than 2 decades ago — was a high school student herself. (Okay, one who had already played “Curly Sue” in the movie of the same name.)

Click below for the segment with interviewer Gavin Berger, broadcast earlier today:

More Candlelight News: Video On YouTube, Concerts Livestreamed

If you can’t get enough of Staples High School’s Candlelight Concerts — and if you don’t mind one more “06880” post about them — read on:

You can watch last weekend’s 75th anniversary broadcast 2015 by clicking here. The student-run telecast was led by Justin Schwebel and Cooper Boardman.

Meanwhile, WWPT-FM will air 20 Candlelight Concert CDs — plus 2 old-time, student-produced radio dramas  (“It’s A Wonderful Life” and “A Christmas Carol”) from now through New Years. If you’re in the area, tune in to 90.3. If you’re anywhere else on the planet, click here for the live stream.

Candlelight: The gift to the town that keeps on giving.

(Special thanks to Jim Honeycutt, Staples’ Media Lab teacher who makes all this amazing stuff happen.)

A collage of Candlelight Concert album and CD covers, through the ages.

A collage of Candlelight Concert album and CD covers, through the ages.


Zito And Honeycutt Grab Radio Gold

It’s a good thing the Staples Media Lab is big. There’s room for TV production classes, a radio station and recording studio, plus plenty of high-tech equipment and offices.

Teachers and students need all that space to make magic. And, to store all the trophies they win for their work.

The latest hardware was handed out last weekend at North Central College in Naperville, Illinois. As usual, Staples won several John Drury Awards — the country’s top honors for excellence in high school radio broadcasting.

But this year was extra special. Jim Honeycutt and Mike Zito were named Co-Faculty Advisors of the Year. It’s the 1st time a school has had 2 honorees — and it came just a few months before both legends retire.

The pair were cited for their long service to WWPT-FM; their cutting-edge work, and their contributions to the school and community. Nominating letters of support poured in from Staples athletic director Marty Lisevick, citing the duo’s work in creating robust sports coverage; assistant principal James Farnen, attesting to their dynamic classroom environment, and past and present students, describing the instructors’ sometimes life-changing impact.

Mike Zito and Jim Honeycutt (rear) stand with WWPT-FM's Jack Caldwell and Cooper Boardman -- and some Drury Award trophies. Behind them is a mural -- painted by Staples art students -- on the wall outside the Media Lab.

Mike Zito and Jim Honeycutt (rear) stand with WWPT-FM’s Jack Caldwell and Cooper Boardman (and some Drury Award trophies). Behind them is a mural — painted by Staples art students — on the wall outside the Media Lab.

Sunday’s awards ceremony was emotional, Zito admits. He and Honeycutt have known one each other since the 1970s — when neither was yet teaching.

Honeycutt was a musician, who built the sound system for Barnaby’s in Bridgeport. Zito was the DJ there.

“We were in and out of each other’s lives for years,” Zito says. “Then we had the good fortune of establishing the media department at Staples.”

He arrived at the high school 14 years ago, from Coleytown Middle School. Honeycutt — formerly a Long Lots Middle School social studies and Staples computer teacher — had already moved into TV, radio and recording instruction.

WWPT- FM has won many Drury Awards. In 2011, it was named best high school station in the US.

WWPT- FM has won many Drury Awards. In 2011, it was named best high school station in the US.

The Media Lab now encompasses WWPT-FM and the Staples Television Network — both after-school activities — and classes in TV, radio, film, audio production and graphics.

Broadcast coverage includes live sports events, Staples Players’ shows, Candlelight and other concerts, graduation, even elections.

“On Back to School Night and when we talk to 8th grade parents, we like to say that there are many ways kids can find their place at Staples,” Zito says. “Some do it in arts, athletics or science. Others find a home here.”

For he and Honeycutt, being honored for helping students feel comfortable — and discover a new passion, perhaps even their life’s work — is “a real nice cap to our own careers.”

But the teachers are just as proud of the other Drury Awards won last weekend.

Cooper Boardman, Adam Kaplan and Zach Edelman were honored for Best Sports Play-by-Play radio broadcast. It was not even a Staples game — the trio earned kudos for their work on the girls basketball state finals (Wilton vs. South Windsor) at Mohegan Sun.

Boardman arranged that coverage on one day’s notice.

Boardman, Edelman and Jacob Bonn came in 2nd, in the same category, for their broadcast of the Trumbull-Stamford FCIAC basketball championship.

In addition, Boardman placed 2nd (Best Sportstalk Program) for his interview of ESPN personality Jonathan Coachman; Boardman, Edelman and Bonn took 3rd for Best Sportscast (“WWPT Sports Update”). Jack Caldwell was a national finalist for his Sportstalk interview with hockey goaltender Mike Liut.


But wait! There’s more!

Honeycutt’s Audio class and David Roth’s Theater 3 class took both 1st and 2nd place for “Best Radio Drama – Adaptation.” They were cited for parts I and II of “A Christmas Carol.”

Finally, WWPT was runnerup for Best Radio Station in the country. It’s the 6th consecutive year the FM outlet was either 1st, 2nd or 3rd.

It was quite a weekend for WWPT, and their advisors. So what’s ahead for the duo, once they retire in June?

Honeycutt will enjoy his grandchildren, who live nearby.

Zito and his wife head to Austin, Texas. “It’s a great music town,” he notes. “I hope to get into radio there.”

He will not win any more Drury Awards. But SXSW — watch out!

To watch the award-winning live radio adaptation of “A Christmas Carol,” click below.



For Your Viewing Pleasure

There’s a lot to see and hear in Westport. No one can do it all.

But if you missed 2 recent Staples High School-related events, YouTube can help.

A couple of weeks ago, the music department presented a fantastic concert: “The Art of Folk Music.” One audience member said “it equaled or surpassed many a NYC production.”

To hear Luke Rosenberg’s superb choral groups, click below:

Last week, David Roth’s Theater 3 acting class and Jim Honeycutt’s audio production class collaborated on a WWPT-FM live radio broadcast of “Dracula.” It was just like 1939: the Orson Welles Mercury Theater original script, period commercials, sound effects, the challenge of conveying a story completely with actors’ voices and sound effects.

The media lab shot the show. Here you go:


If “Jingle Bell Rock” Makes You Want To Set Your Hair On Fire…

… and you seriously think about moving to North Korea every time you hear “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer”: Help is at hand.

From now through Christmas, WWPT-FM is broadcasting 20 hours of Candlelight concerts. The newest is last week’s. The oldest stretches back 50 years.

To avoid “Hallelujah Chorus” overload, after every 3 Candlelights ‘PT runs this year’s Players/audio production broadcast of “It’s A Wonderful Life.”

A collage of Candlelight Concert album and CD covers. The 1964 and '66 concerts are in the top row, starting at left.

A collage of Candlelight Concert album and CD covers. The 1964 and ’66 concerts are in the top row, starting at left.

This is not the 1st time the Staples radio station has provided a holiday listening treasure. But new this year are the old 1964, ’65 and ’66 Candlelight Concerts.

Media production instructor Jim Honeycutt digitized, edited and exported Barbara Sherburne’s vinyl records of those 3 performances. There are 17 Candlelights in the rotation: The 3 from the ’60s, then 2001 through 2014.

WWPT-FM can be heard locally at 90.3 FM. But the livestream is available everywhere. Just click on www.wwptfm.com, then go to “Listen Live” and “Click here to access the district stream.”

If you want to actually see the 2014 Candlelight concert — and you’re a Cablevision customer in Westport — it’s on Channel 78 nightly at 7:30.

And here’s a gift for out-of-towners: “It’s A Wonderful Life” is now on YouTube, too. Just click below.

Happy holidays — from George Bailey, Jim Honeycutt, WWPT and Staples to you!


“It’s A Wonderful Life” Indeed!

Take out your earbuds. Move over, Spotify. You’re so old school, iTunes.

Staples students are embracing a cutting-edge new technology: radio.

But not just any radio: a 1940s-style radio drama.

WWPT_logoTomorrow (Friday, December 19, 11 a.m.), Jim Honeycutt’s Audio Production class and David Roth’s Theater 3 Acting class collaborate on a radio broadcast of “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

They’ll use the original 1947 script — including advertisements from that long-ago time.

Two years ago, a similar WWPT-FM production won 1st and 2nd place awards in the John Drury national high school radio competition. Check it out:

It’s a phenomenal event — and a great undertaking. High school students incorporate live drama skills, sound effects and radio production into an entertaining, uplifting performance.

You can hear it locally on 90.3 FM. Or — in a modern twist unavailable during the Truman administration — you can listen to the livestream anywhere in the world. Just click on www.wwptfm.com, then go to “Listen Live” and “Click here to access the district stream.”

It is indeed a wonderful life!

Claudine Brantley: A Filmmaker To Watch

In the wake of Westport’s selection as Connecticut’s “Fan Favorite Town of the Year,” plenty of praise was heaped on 3 elementary school girls. They conceived the idea for a promotional video touting the contest, then starred in what ultimately pushed our town to the top.

No one’s talking about Claudine Brantley, who filmed and edited the video.

That’s fine with her. Claudine, who graduated from Staples last June, calls her young colleagues “enthusiastic, adorable and very easy to work with.” They came up with the locations highlighted in the video, and “starred” in it.

But Claudine’s very professional work should not go unnoticed. And her back story deserves to be told.

Born in Georgia and raised in New London, Connecticut, Claudine came to Westport in the middle of sophomore year. Her mother wanted to provide better opportunities for Claudine and her brother Malik, and made considerable sacrifices to get here.

Claudine Brantly

Claudine Brantley

Claudine quickly got involved in the school. She joined the literary magazine Soundings, and the Gay-Straight Alliance. She found a job shelving books at the Westport Library.

And — through a Staples course called Narrative Film — she discovered a passion for video.

“I really like being able to tell stories visually,” Claudine says. “You have so many interactions, and ways to create a vision of something.”

Instructor Jim Honeycutt ranks Claudine with “Staples Hall of Fame filmmakers” like Adam Marcus, Luke Greenfield and Daryl Wein. “The only difference is that she is not in Hollywood — yet,” he says.

He calls her work “unlike most student films. They are intensely personal and profound.”

Claudine cajoles Staples Players into acting in her films. She scours the internet to find people to do voiceovers. Her sound tracks are “ethereal and haunting,” Honeycutt says.

She finds extraordinary royalty-free music to use legally. It sounds like it was written just for her, Honeycutt adds.

Her films “An Interloping Dream” and “Abraham” have been selected for the 2014 All American High School Film Festival.

“Claudine works incredibly hard at developing her craft,” Honeycutt says. “She is very devoted and serious. She has a wonderful heart, and a willingness to fight.”

That heart was on display when she agreed to help 3 Westport girls fulfill their “fan favorite” dream.

“I’m impressed with how involved those kids were, and how at a young age they had such love for their town,” Claudine says.

She credits them with helping her learn more about Westport.

Clearly, Claudine has learned plenty on her own. Now a freshman film and photography major at Parsons The New School for Design, she hopes to focus on documentaries.

In the years to come, she’ll no doubt make films far more important than the one that earned Westport its “fan favorite” honor.

And, no doubt, they’ll make Claudine Brantley a “fan favorite” in the video world.

(A collection of films by Claudine Brantley is available on YouTube.)



Kelsey Shockey Will Happily Make Your Day

Kelsey Shockey has had a tough life. But she may be the happiest girl ever to graduate from Staples.

Kelsey Shockey handled a camera at the 2012 graduation. Today, she gets her own diploma.

Kelsey Shockey handled a camera at the 2012 graduation. Today, she gets her own diploma.

The senior — who earns her diploma a few hours from now (and is a state finalist tennis player) — always has a smile. She makes each day brighter, for everyone.

Her “Happy Tips” on the “Good Morning Staples” TV show are legendary.

Last night, she took joy one step further.

She spoke at baccalaureate — and capped off her speech with a video. Produced with Jim Honeycutt and Mike Zito, it shows a variety of Staples folks singing, dancing, heading soccer balls (!), and generally being happy, all to the tune of Pharrell Williams’ song of the same name.

There are appearances by students, teachers, coaches, custodians, paraprofessionals, cafeteria ladies — even principal John Dodig and superintendent of schools Elliott Landon show up.

Staples is a high-pressure, high-stakes place. But it’s also a school filled with people who care — and who genuinely want every student to feel welcome and loved. And to be happy.

Check out the video. Kelsey Shockey will make you smile. As she has done every day, for 4 years, at the school she graduates from today.

(Click to be taken directly to YouTube.)

(Every year, Jim Honeycutt produces a 2-DVD set graduation package. It includes baccalaureate, graduation, the best of “Good Morning Staples,” Homecoming, highlights of proms, plays, concerts — you name it. Ordering details will be available next week at the Staples High School home page.)