Tag Archives: Jim Honeycutt

Hallelujah! Enjoy Today’s Holiday Gift.

Santa has his elves. The Staples High School music department has Jim Honeycutt.

Though he retired in 2016, the video production teacher returned this month to coordinate video coverage of the Candlelight Concert.

Now — with help from Mike Phillis, Kevin Maxwell and 6 mics hung around the auditorium — Candlelight fans around the globe can enjoy the 78th annual show.

Highlights include the traditional “Welcome Yule” and “Sing We Noel” processional, in slightly different staging; a superb orchestral arrangement of “Stille Nacht”; a lovely vocal version of “O Tannenbaum”; a clever original production number, and of course the finale: the “Hallelujah Chorus,” complete with hundreds of musicians and many alumni.

Merry Christmas! Unwrap this gift carefully. It’s precious!

Emma Cataldo: Thriller Tackles Anti-Semitism

Emma Cataldo’s parents and grandparents encouraged her to get involved with photography, and other arts.

She got a camcorder, and began making short films in her backyard. With her camera, she took photos at favorite spots: Longshore, Burying Hill beach, the Saugatuck River.

Emma was just 8 years old.

As a freshman at Staples High School, she was assigned to TV Production class. She was one of only 3 girls — and hated it.

But her parents encouraged her to stick with it. She ended up loving the class so much — and Narrative Film too — that the Media Lab became her second home.

Teachers Mike Zito and Jim Honeycutt Emma encouraged her strongly. She spent several semesters doing independent studies in cinematography and screenwriting.

Zito inspired Emma to enter film competitions, beginning as a sophomore. She placed well at the state level.

Honeycutt gave her the chance to film school and community events, as well as commercials and short films for local businesses. She built a strong portfolio. Here’s a director’s reel from high school:

She also discovered a passion for post-production work. Emma hopes to pursue that as a career.

Emma’s mentors encouraged her to apply to the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts — a film school with a 5% acceptance rate.

She got in. Now — entering 2nd semester of her junior year — she is double majoring in cinema and media studies, and film and TV production.

Emma has worked on student films, and interned in post-production at NBC Universal’s Syfy and E! Networks, during school years and summers.

At USC she has established herself primarily as an editor and colorist. Recently, her friend Evan Siegel — director and co-writer of “Ivver” — pitched that film to her.

Emma Cataldo, doing what she loves.

A psychological thriller about the horrors of anti-Semitism, “Ivver” is close to Siegel’s heart: He faced prejudice and hatred growing up Jewish in Texas.

Emma grew up in a Christian family. But, she says, she learned a great deal of Jewish history in middle and high school.

At Staples she took classes like “Mythology and Bible Studies,” which included the Old and New Testaments. She was exposed to Jewish culture through talks by Holocaust survivors, and books like Elie Wiesel’s “Night.”

Many friends were Jewish too.

After the Pittsburgh synagogue shootings this fall, Emma knew this was a project she wanted to take on.

The story follows a high school history teacher who suddenly faces the aggressive prejudice of his students and colleagues, once they find out he is Jewish.

Like Emma, many of the team working on the film are not Jewish. Still, she says, it resonates with all of them.

“When it comes to social issues, we believe the most important thing we can do is start productive conversations,” Emma says.

“Anti-Semitism is still around. Yet for some reason it is often left out of the conversation about social reform.”

With a diverse crew from many backgrounds, they hope to raise awareness of the continuing threat of anti-Semitism around the globe.

She calls the film “heartbreaking. But the message needs to be heard at a time like this.”

Emma and her fellow students have assembled a strong cast and crew. They’ve scouted locations. Now all they need is funding.

This is the time of year when we’re all asked to contribute to many worthy causes. This sure is one of them. Emma hopes you’ll check out the video below — and if you can, click this link to contribute.

Honoring Our Vets: Y’s Men Who Were There

In 2002, Bruce Allen and Jack Schwartz contacted Jim Honeycutt.

Members of the very active, wide-ranging Y’s Men retirees’ group, they asked the Staples High School media instructor for help with a project.

Both had served in the military during World War II. They wanted to produce a video, filled with memories and reflections of 18 WWII combat veterans. Already, the ranks of service members from that war were thinnning.

His father was in the navy. Honeycutt was happy to help.

Plaques, memorials and a statue fill Westport’s Veterans Green, across from Town Hall.

As he interviewed the nearly 2 dozen veterans, Honeycutt was stunned. One man had waved at a low-flying airplane. The pilot waved back. Then he torpedoed a battleship in Pearl Harbor.

Schwartz himself bombed Japan, at the same time an atomic bomb was dropped to the north. He saw the sky filled with colors.

“The stories are so important to remember,” Honeycutt says.

So earlier this year — now retired from teaching — he took the DVD, re-edited it, and uploaded the finished product to his personal YouTube channel.

There’s almost 3 hours of content. As Veterans Day approaches, Honeycutt invites “06880” readers to honor all who served America by hearing their stories. Just click below.


Youth Concert Excites, Inspires And Awes

For decades, the Youth Concert has been a wintertime highlight — for performers and audiences alike.

Over 200 Staples High School students present a multimedia, interdisciplinary thematic show for every Westport 3rd through 6th grader.

Elementary and middle school music teachers prepare their students well. Their kids are engaged and excited.

Many of the Staples musicians on stage remember well their own excitement, sitting in the audience a few years earlier. For some, it sparked their passion for music and the arts.

This year’s theme was “Global Cultures.” And — for the first time ever — there was an encore performance at night, for parents.

Jim Honeycutt — who retired 2 years ago as a Media Lab video production teacher — loves the Youth Concert. He came back this year to tape the evening show.

He produced 2 videos. One includes the multimedia video shown above the performing musicians, on a screen. The other is without it.

Enjoy either (or both). You’ll be amazed at the talents of our high school students.

And — like their young audiences — inspired by the power of music.

(Staples’ Youth Concert musicians were led by Adele Valovich [orchestra], Nick Mariconda [band] and Luke Rosenberg [vocal].)

Today’s Extra-Special Holiday Gift

Santa has his elves. The Staples High School music department has Jim Honeycutt.

Though he retired in 2016, the video production teacher returned this month to coordinate video coverage of the Candlelight Concert.

Now — with help from audio production instructor Geno Heiter and consultant Mike Phillis — Candlelight fans around the globe can enjoy the 77th annual show.

Highlights include:

  • “Sing We Noel” is at 8:35.
  • Luke Rosenberg’s choral groups (15:45 27:35, and 36:00).
  • Adele Valovich’s symphonic orchestra (46:40).
  • Nick Mariconda’s symphonic band (59:15).
  • Don Rickenback’s production number (01:20:00).
  • The rousing “Hallelujah Chorus” (01:34:10).

Unwrap this gift carefully. It’s very precious!


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.