The Student news source for West Shore Junior/Senior High School

The Roar

The Student news source for West Shore Junior/Senior High School

The Roar

The Student news source for West Shore Junior/Senior High School

The Roar

Heading West

Last two original teachers to retire after 26 years of service
Aaron Murphy
Physical Education teacher Nicole Anagnostis instructs her fifth-period students how to play Kan Jam, a flying disc game, on April 25.

As Advanced Placement history teacher Kirk Murphy daydreams about his future — sitting on his porch, drinking coffee, and admiring mountains — he finishes grading the last essay of his entire teaching career.

“I think I just graded my last essay, and I was like, ‘Wow, That’s huge!’” he said.

Murphy is one of the last two original teachers at West Shore. He transferred from Southwest Middle School in 1998 when West Shore was founded.

“I started the school, and I was here on day one,” Murphy said. “The first year, I taught eighth-grade American history full-time. Then I moved up to ninth grade the next year, then tenth, and finally eleventh. So there were unfortunate kids who had me four years in a row because the school was so small and growing.”

Murphy noticed the drastic changes in the student body throughout his 26 years at West Shore.

“The original seventh-grade class is kind of like Voldemort, he who shall not be named,” he said. “A lot of those kids should not have been here. As we got a better reputation, the kids who came here knew more about what to expect, so gradually West Shore has gotten better over the years.”

Physical Education teacher Nicole Anagnostis, the other original teacher retiring this year, said Murphy’s sentiment about the positive change in students is accurate.

“We had a class called Personal Fitness that we tried to give to eighth graders, but they were not mature enough to handle the curriculum,” she said. “Now, when I sometimes cover other teachers’ classes and I walk in there, everyone is quiet and they get up and do their work and do everything they are supposed to.”

Murphy said he took on responsibility and pressure to help build the community.

“When I first started teaching AP classes, it was a lot of work,” Murphy said. “My wife would say all she would ever see is the back of my head when I was at home because I was always bent down grading papers, reading a book or doing something.”

Similarly, said she Anagnostis has worked “tirelessly” to improve the school despite the pressure it put on her family.

“In my second year, I became the first athletic director for high school,” she said. “I was teaching, coaching, hosting student government, being the athletic director and raising kids. It was very difficult doing everything, especially because I was a single mother. When the kids were old enough to come here, my brother would always say, ‘What’s a better place to grow up than in a high school gym?’”

Furthermore, Anagnostis’ said her creative thinking and hard work turned a frustrating situation into one of the school’s most beloved traditions.

“Back then, standardized testing was called the FCAT, which only went until tenth grade,” she said. “But the superintendent wanted the eleventh and twelfth graders to be at school. So, I invented Wildcat Challenge so that the kids would be here.”

Murphy is retiring a year before he will get his Social Security benefits, but he said now is the right time to go.

“I have my 35 years in, and I’m not getting any younger,” he said. “I thought about extending, but every time I think about it, we get this new mandate or law coming down from the state legislature. That reinforces why I’m leaving. The nonsense has pushed me over the edge.”

Anagnostis also plans to retire early but for different reasons.

“I’m usually able to make groups happen and give students choices and requirements when they need it, but it’s been getting harder to get that to happen,” she said. “Maybe it’s just because I’m getting old, so the students are growing disconnected from me.”

In retirement, Murphy plans to move with his wife to Las Cruces, New Mexico.

“My children live in Dallas and Los Angeles, so right in the middle is New Mexico,” he said. “Colorado would be nice, but it’s too expensive. We like the environment in New Mexico. I want to move somewhere where I can see the mountains so I can sit out on the porch in the morning with a cup of coffee and admire them.”

Murphy said he is excited to immerse himself in his new community, just as he has done for the past 26 years at West Shore.

“There are two downtowns, an old downtown called Mesilla, which is like St. Augustine, and a modern downtown with a huge courtyard, splash pad, good restaurants, museums and culture,” he said. “At some point, we will go to the Roswell Alien Fest in July. There is also a place close by called Hatch, which is famous for its peppers. We are looking forward to new ways of cooking with new spices. There are also a few theaters there, so I could get back into theater if I wanted.”

Similarly, Anagnostis plans to move out west to Redondo Beach, California. She said she will find a job outside of education before she retires.

“My kids live out in California, so I’m going to move out there,” Anagnostis said. “People say it’s expensive to live out there, but it’s getting expensive to live here. I was a personal trainer and I’ve worked at gyms, so that would be something that would be easy to get into. I just don’t want to be in charge of 50 kids an hour anymore.”

Both teachers were department heads, but they have tried preparing their successors.

“Coach Austin Downie is doing really great, and he takes well to suggestions,” Anagnostis said. “Coach Jenny Pazderak taught elementary school and was a substitute here, so it was great training her. For my last year, I thought it would be good to give Coach Pazderak the department head so that if she needed any advice, I would still be here.”

Murphy said he is confident in the next generation of West Shore teachers.

“It’s not like I’m the school or the school is me,” he said. “Mrs. Athena Pietrzak will be the new history department head, and I have all the faith in the world in her. Mrs. Katherine Graham will be taking over AP World. While she will be new, and it will take a few years for her to get on her feet, I think she will do a fantastic job. Let’s face it, I’m an old fart. I’ve been doing this forever. She will have energy that I wouldn’t have.”

More to Discover
About the Contributor
Aaron Murphy
Aaron Murphy, Sports Editor
Hi. My name is Aaron Murphy. I'm a senior, and this is my second year on the "Roar". I’ve been on the soccer team for five years, and I'm also on varsity track and cross country. I love history and politics, and I strive to bring a unique perspective to the "Roar".