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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.