West Shore celebrates 20 years of excellence

Auston Gonzalez, Editor in chief

The year is 1998. New teacher Kirk Murphy roams the halls of the school preparing to teach his first class. With no students above ninth grade, the campus remains fairly quiet as a variety of thoughts flow through the minds of kids and staff members alike, wondering what to expect from a newly opened West Shore. Twenty years later, the school has won three National Blue Ribbon awards, has been named the No. 1 public high school in Florida twice and won two state championships in soccer.

Murphy, a social studies teacher, remains as one of the five original staff members on campus. He said there have been dramatic changes to the school during the past two decades.

“Well the biggest changes are the new buildings,” Murphy said. “Specifically the science building and the auditorium. I’ve gone through three principals, Dr. [Rita] Galbraith being the first. We have also added in so many different classes and teachers. For the first several years of West Shore because of what I was teaching, you didn’t get out of the school without having me at least one time. Over the first few years I had some kids three or more times.”

In addition to Murphy, Terri Friend in information systems services as well as physical education teachers Bonnie Bettis, Nicole Anagnostis and Greg Eller remain from original staff members.

Anagnostis said the school was able to accelerate from simply an idea to a high-achieving community.

“The school of choice was merely an innovative concept developed by a small group of veteran educators and administrators called the Daring Dozen,” she said. “I had never opened a school before and I remember being at our original faculty meeting the summer before we opened. We all met to give our professional input for things like our school’s Mission Statement, department policies and procedures and to offer ideas about how to make West Shore a community like other schools. Having my professional input heard and valued was super special.”

According to Bettis, the school’s athletic programs are among the most major changes since its opening.

“The school over the past 20 years has evolved quite a bit,” she said. “In the beginning, West Shore’s athletic program was very weak. As a whole, the level of athletes has improved and our varsity sports programs are more competitive. We’re unique because we are a lottery-based school and still produce competitive sports teams. We not only attract high-achieving academic students, but athletic ones as well.”

In addition to the familiar faces of the original staff members, seven new teachers have joined the school’s staff this year.

English teacher Kelly Lamb said she’s excited to get started.

“I’m looking forward to the many great school years to come,” she said. “Like every year, I’m really hoping to make a difference with my students.”

Lamb said she believes there are noticeable contrasts in teaching here when compared to her last assignment.

“With being a new teacher, I haven’t really taught at many different schools,” Lamb said. “However, after teaching at Cocoa High School for the past four years, I have noticed some differences with being here. The parent involvement and support here at this school is something I’ve never experienced before. It is very reassuring to know that the parents are involved and very willing to help with anything. Sometimes adjusting to a new school can be difficult, even for the teachers. However, the staff here have been amazing at welcoming me and making sure I have everything I need in order to have a great year.”

Physics teacher Andrew Madden said he has a positive outlook for the year.

“So far, so good,” Madden said. “My expectations for the year are one; that my students will achieve their level of success in my classes, two; that students will be able to adapt to different ways of approaching different topics, situations, ideas, and three; that I will grow professional relationships with both students and staff, and that doing so will help elevate West Shore to even higher levels of achievement.”

Anagnostis said she believes there are important attributes that have maintained consistency, making the school unique from others.

“To this day, West Shore remains a special place compared to other schools, not because we have state of the art facilities obviously, but because of the people,” she said. “Nevertheless, through all these years, West Shore has been able to retain a spirit and a culture where our mission, ‘Excellence Achieved,’ is still alive and well. That’s the best part about working here.”

Despite the number of various changes seen since 1998, Murphy considers the school, as well as his teaching experience a success.

“We have gone from an unknown entity,” Murphy said, “to one of the best schools in the state and in the country. I am very proud to have been here for the last 20 years. I can honestly say I would not still be teaching if it wasn’t for West Shore.”