School's out forever
The students won’t be the only ones leaving Chugiak High this week.
The last day of the 2012-13 school year is today (May 23), while tomorrow is the last day for teachers — marking the end of three longtime teachers’ careers. Robin Pekrul, Andy Sullivan and Jon Schroeder have been working at CHS for a combined 83 years.
Here’s a look at each long tenured educator:
After teaching in Australia for seven years, Pekrul visited her sister in Alaska in 1982. She never left. Pekrul worked at the now defunct Anchorage Times and JCPenney before getting hired by the Anchorage School District.
Nearly her entire ASD career — more than 31 years — was spent at Chugiak. She taught English most of that time and has been a special education teacher the past six years.
Originally from Spokane, Wash., Pekrul said Alaska reminded her of Australia. Aside from the climate, both regions have friendly populations and large, untouched portions of land.
“We have almost an Outback attitude in Alaska,” she said.
Pekrul starting teaching at a young age. While in elementary school, she taught violin to younger students. After she was hired at Chugiak High, Pekrul knew she found her school.
“I never considered going any place else,” she said.
Pekrul said she plans to spend her retirement traveling and wants to write a television script. Her students, her room and Friday breakfast with staff rank among the things Pekrul will miss most.
“Leaving is bittersweet for me,” she said.
Twenty-seven of Sullivan’s 30 years working for ASD were spent at Chugiak High. He recently stepped down as the school’s science department chair.
Sullivan took his first education class just for fun as an undergraduate. Then, he pursued an education degree and taught in Minnesota for three years before moving to Alaska.
Sullivan visited Alaska often with his wife, Alice, a West High graduate. They now live in Peters Creek, which allows Sullivan to ride his bike to work — weather-permitting, of course.
Sullivan also served as coach of Chugiak’s swim team for 15 years.
Sullivan said he has fond memories of his decades at Chugiak.
“It’s been a really great place to work,” he said.
His fellow faculty members are one reason.
“It’s a good group of people,” he said. “I’ll miss a lot of them.”
Sullivan said he plans to travel to the Lower 48 and “spend a little more time doing the things I’m not able to do.”
Schroeder student taught at Chugiak in 1984. He was hired full time in 1988 and has spent his entire 25-year career at CHS.
After graduating from college, Schroeder turned down job offers in Montana in order to return to Alaska.
“This is where I wanted to be,” he said.
Schroeder, whose mom taught junior high, said he was drawn to teaching in college. He taught English for 10 years and has been a physical education teacher for 15.
Schroeder also dedicated much of his time to after-school activities. Since 1985, he has coached Chugiak’s C and JV football teams, flag football, girls C team basketball, boys JV basketball, boys varsity basketball, girls varsity basketball and track and field. Schroeder also served as the school’s athletic director for three years.
In 1989, Schroeder guided the Mustangs to a boys basketball region title and won a state title in 2003 with the girls program.
He also won back-to-back flag football Cook Inlet Conference championships in 2006 and 2007.
“I got to coach a lot of great kids,” Schroeder said. “The thing I’ll probably miss the most is the relationships you make coaching.”
Schroeder’s immediate plan is to fly out of state on a one-way ticket Friday, May 24.
When they first started teaching, Pekrul, Sullivan and Schroeder were all drawn to Chugiak for the same reason — it’s tight-knit faculty.
“It was a real family atmosphere,” Schroeder said. “We did stuff as a faculty every weekend.”
The school was full of likeminded teachers, Pekrul said.
“Everyone was on the same wavelength,” she said.
While the staff has changed over the years, Sullivan said, their love of the school hasn’t.
“They don’t want to leave Chugiak,” he said.