For the last 18 years, John Bowne High School gym teacher and weight-lifting instructor Chris Englisis created a legacy of giving back to the school he loves.
On Tuesday, it was the students and staff giving back to him as he nears retirement in June.
Prior to the start of the school’s 16th annual weight-lifting competition, first organized by Englisis in 1999, the tearyeyed teacher was honored with a retirement ceremony in the form of a plaque and banner presentation, speeches and the naming of the weight room in his honor.
Too overcome with emotion to speak at length to the crowd of around 60 students and staff, Englisis said after the ceremony he can feel it’s time to retire.
“They made me an offer I couldn’t refuse,” Englisis joked. “But no, I have great kids. It’s just time to go.”
During the ceremony, fellow physical education teacher Richard Levinson fittingly presented Englisis with a commemorative shirt as he talked about his colleague’s caring nature.
“Words cannot express how I feel about him,” Levinson told the audience. “He’s the kind of guy who would give you the shirt off his back.”
Specifically, it’s dozens of weight-lifting machines that Englisis, who doesn’t have children of his own, has given to the school over the years.
In 1999, he sought to replace the handful of older machines in the weight room. When he broached the idea to school administrators, he was told the machines he sought were too expensive for the school to afford.
That’s when the Brooklyn native took matters into his own hands by opening a pretzel stand within the school.
While the salty snacks may have been his signature seller, the teacher sold shirts, water bottles and granola bars among other items in order to raise money to buy various new weight-lifting machines over the years.
To date, Englisis raised around $180,000 through his pretzel stand, with a donation of about $30,000 worth of machines coming from the New York Sports Club in 2000.
The school’s athletic director, Desiree Alloggiamento, believes the students would not have such opportunities to train and compete if it weren’t for Englisis.
“We would not have that room if it wasn’t for him,” Alloggiamento told the crowd. “I can’t even begin to tell you the hard work he put in. We want to honor him today.”
Bowne sophomore John Criollo was one of the many students to attend the ceremony and to rave about Englisis’ impact on the student body.
“He’s a good teacher. He inspires all the students here,” Criollo said. “I have class with him. He tells me what to do and how to lift all of the weights properly.”
Englisis’ older brother, John, even made an appearance at the ceremony, reducing his retiring sibling to tears when they embraced after being presented with a commemorative banner.
“It’s very touching,” the elder Englisis said. “Not too many people get that opportunity to be recognized. Baby brother done good.”