BRATTLEBORO -- Luke Croxton and Mia McGorry, the new physical education teachers at Brattleboro Union High School, both grew up in Connecticut; both say they are enjoying the close community in Brattleboro.
Croxton grew up in Groton and graduated from Fitch High School, which had about twice as many students as BUHS, while McGorry grew up in West Haven.
"I knew I wanted to teach in a school that had a strong community base," she commented. "Growing up in West Haven, although it was great because I was exposed to a variety of different cultures, I didn't feel that strong community connection that I do here.
"When I first came here, my first impression was how approachable everyone was. As a first-year teacher it was important to me," she went on. "Everyone knew where my office was, and people from every single department came to ask how everything was going, and told me that if I needed anything I could come to them."
Croxton, who was hired late in the summer, had a similar experience.
"Everyone was so nice to me," he said. "Everyone had such a big smile and everyone was so helpful -- I got hired two weeks before school started, so it was a lot of changes happening really fast, and I really appreciated how everyone was checking in on me and making sure everything was going smoothly."
Both he and McGorry teach P.E. 1, which is mostly for freshmen; Croxton teaches the boys and McGorry the girls. Both also teach P.E. 2, which is co-ed, and Fitness Club, which focuses on health-related fitness. McGorry also teaches Adapted P.E., a modified class, and she said she is hoping it will grow.
"In the past it's been only a couple students, but I've actually invited more students to join that class," she said. "Students with special needs come to my class; all my classes are about inclusion, so though the students have different needs and I have specific activities for them, we do group activities as well because P.E. can be so important socially."
In addition to their teaching, both engage with students after school. Croxton coaches football.
"I'm the assistant freshman coach, but they have me help coach at all levels," he said. "I was approached about helping with track, because I have a background in track, but I'm still settling in so I don't know. I love sports, so I'll probably be coaching in other areas."
He has been involved with sports since he was very young.
"Sports were a huge part of my life growing up," he recalled. "I played sports as much as I could and they were my favorite part of the school day. As I got older, my first job was working at a summer camp, and I loved working with kids and seeing kids succeed through sports and activity. That showed me early on that teaching P.E. would be a great career choice for me.
"I went to Endicott College in Beverley, Mass., " he continued. "I chose Endicott because they had a phys. ed. program, and I could play football there. After I graduated, I got a job teaching elementary P.E. in my hometown. I spent one year teaching in Groton, and had the opportunity to teach at a high school here in Brattleboro, and took the opportunity."
McGorry, who graduated from Keene State College, also earned certification to teach P.E. in kindergarten through Grade 12.
"I was fortunate to have two great student-teaching experiences," she said. "My first, at Chesterfield School, introduced me to many new P.E. games for students of all skill levels. My second, at Monadnock High School, helped me hone management and organization."
Like Croxton, McGorry loved sports as a child, and realized how helpful they were.
"I grew up loving sports, always going outside with my parents and my sister. I participated in many team sports, including cross country, track, swimming, diving, and softball," she recalled. "I realized that physical activity helped me maintain good grades in my academic classes. Being active helps manage stress and builds discipline. I wanted to have other people experience the same feelings that I get from phys ed.
"I just started a volleyball league. What I love about the league is that any student can join; there are no tryouts," she went on. "I've had a lot of students approach me, hoping to have more after-school activities that are not competitive, but more fun, so I decided to start the league."
She said that her favorite part of the job is "just seeing my students every single day. I'm trying to make a positive environment for them, so they want to come to school and want to learn, and I enjoy helping students gain that feeling."
Croxton, too, especially enjoys being around BUHS students.
"The best part of the job is building relationships with students and faculty," he said. "Coming from an elementary school, it's refreshing to have conversations with students, and I've appreciated their sense of humor."
He looks almost young enough to be a student himself, and that can be an issue.
"The most challenging thing for me is that I look so young, and to be able to have a strong relationship with the students but also setting that line," he noted. "I told them the first day, ‘I'm a young teacher. I'd like this to be a fun, exciting class, where you can come and talk to me any time, but the first thing is respect. I'll treat you with respect, and hopefully it goes both ways.'"
He said that he appreciated the responsibility he and McGorry were given.
"I was the only elementary P.E. teacher at my elementary school of 500 students, so I was able to pretty much build my own curriculum there," he commented. "With myself and Mia both new this year, we've been handed the curriculum here to make it our own. So both places have allowed me to put a lot of input into the program, which is nice."
For her part, McGorry said that her transition to BUHS has been fairly smooth.
"The biggest challenge has been finding a good pizza restaurant," she noted. She welcomes suggestions.
Maggie Cassidy teaches French at Brattleboro Union High School.