In a full-page Suffolk Times advertisement last week, it appeared that popular history teacher Ron McEvoy was saying goodbye to Greenport School. But fear not, Mr. McEvoy will still be walking the corridors of the stately old school, if a bit less often. He’ll be returning in September to teach two Regents classes.
There was a panic that went through the student body when last week’s ad appeared, school board president Tina Volinski said.
“It’s a win-win situation,” the 66-year-old teacher said about his decision to teach part-time. Had he not officially retired, a very good teacher, not eligible for retirement, would have lost her job, he said. The deal he reached with Superintendent Michael Comanda keeps both that teacher and Mr. McEvoy in the building, while affording him more time off to travel with his wife, Sue, play with his four grandchildren, and still remain a part of the Greenport School community where he has been a dominant force for 42 years.
“It would have been hard to just stop,” he said. “I’d be lost.”
In addition to his years in Greenport, he also spent two years teaching at Sacred Heart School. And he never considered moving from a teaching position to an administrative job, he said.
“There’s too much joy in the classroom,” he said. “We had a lot of fun.”
That’s because if you walked into Mr. Mac’s classroom he wasn’t just spouting dates and facts. Many times he was even dressed in costume, spinning tales about some historical figure or event.
“These kids should be knowing the fun of learning,” Mr. McEvoy said. “You’re on the stage every day and you’ve got a captive audience.” Looking back on school yearbooks, while other teachers were all “properly” dressed in business attire, Mr. McEvoy was in costume.
“Every time I took a risk, it paid off,” Mr. McEvoy said about his non-traditional teaching style.
“It’s not just a job,” he said. “You’re into the community.” But getting into the community required proving to students that while he lives in Riverhead, his heart truly does bleed Porter purple. He wasn’t about to leave campus every day as soon as the bell rang.
“They want you to prove that you really care” and that means participating in extra-curricular activities, he said. “When you spend time after school with kids, the kids know you have a commitment,” he said.
His most important job through the years has been to encourage students to reach their full potential, he said.
“Kids don’t think they have the talents they have,” he said.
He did once briefly leave teaching, the result of a fiscal layoff, and quickly landed a job selling insurance.
“I was very, very successful at it and I hated it,” he said.
What’s special about Greenport for Mr. McEvoy is “the energy you get from the kids.” Serving as emcee for the school’s annual Greenport Idol program that honors his long-time friend, the late Dr. Dennis Claire, Mr. McEvoy said he loved seeing students who never performed before getting up on stage.
His advice to young teachers is to “never give up on any kid” and to bring a lot of energy to the classroom.
Teaching is uplifting, he said.