The end of a JHOP era
After 35 years, Mr. Sakiotis says goodbye.
BY SOPHIE OJDANIC
J.Hop Times Editor
When Mr. Sakiotis first got to John Hopkins Middle School, he wanted to teach history.
It hadn’t happened yet.
That’s an exaggeration, of course. Still, 35 years at one school is an amazing feat.
When he started teaching, Ronald Reagan was President, gas was $1.19 a gallon, and JHMS was a collection of one-story buildings called 16th Street Middle School. The No. 1 song on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in September, 1980?
Upside Down by Diana Ross.
In his teaching career at Hopkins/16th Street,
Mr. Sakiotis has:
• Taught about 4,600 students
• Eaten about 6,300 cafeteria lunches.
(And lived to tell about it.)
• Taught about 37,800 classes in subjects ranging from technology and TV production to industrial arts, power mechanics, metal and wood working, printing, drafting, photography, math, and science. (What’s left? Dance?)
Consider this: an eighth-grader Mr. Sakiotis taught back in 1980 is now 49 years old. Very few teachers stay at one school for 20 years, let alone 35. But John Hopkins is lucky.
Besides Mr. Sakiotis, JHMS has several veteran teachers, including Ms. Packard, Ms. Payne, and Mr. Butts.
Mr. Chambers, a math teacher at JHMS, says he remembers seeing Mr. Sakiotis in the hallways back when he was a student.
After attending Lakewood High School and the University of West Florida in Pensacola,
Mr. Sakiotis came back to Pinellas County. “I asked who needs an industrial arts teacher?’’ he explained. “I interviewed at Gibbs, but the principal stood me up. I interviewed here, and the principal at the time, John Singletary, offered me the job.’’
Mr. Singletary was the first of eight principals Mr. Sakiotis worked with.
He almost left John Hopkins once. There was an opening at Lakewood that looked intriguing.
“But it didn’t pan out the way I wanted,’’ Mr. Sakiotis said.
So how does someone put in 35 years at the same middle school? “I’m project oriented,’’ Mr. Sakiotis answered. “I work on something until it’s done. And this job is never done. There’s never a completion. It just keeps going.”
Have students changed over the years? Mr. Sakiotis doesn’t think so. “They really haven’t,’’ he said. “There are just a different set of problems every year.’’
Mr. Sakiotis has some advice to teachers just starting out. “Patience,’’ he said. “Too many teachers overreact to situations. Middle school children react and say things without thinking. You should not take it to heart.”
Ms. Payne and Ms. Packard both had the same one-word description of Mr. Sakiotis. “Irreplaceable”.
“We’ve been working together for 30 years,’’ Ms. Payne said. “I know he’s made a huge impact on kid’s lives. He’s a dear friend and I’m going to miss him a lot.”
Mr. Florio, the magnet coordinator and seventh grade assistant principal, explained that Mr. Sakiotis is “a bridge from our glorious past to the possibilities of the future. He’s meant everything to this school. He has a calm, reassuring consistency.”
Mr. Sakiotis is always one of the first to arrive at school, and always one of the last to leave.
He’s just as likely to be filming a drama performance as a basketball game. And his skills extend far beyond the classroom.
Mr. Florio had been trying to fix the head-
light on his car for several hours. Mr. Sakiotis fixed it “in under five minutes.” Mr. Florio said. He also fixed Ms. Packard’s lawnmower.
“You can always count on him,” Ms. Packard said. “He’s the voice of reason. You just can’t replace him.”
After June 4, for the first time in 35 years, there won’t be a white Ford F-150 pickup truck in the front parking lot. The Morning Show will be produced by someone else.
And John Hopkins Middle School won’t be the same.