Kulhowvick to retire after 47 years at MUMS
MIDDLEBURY — George Kulhowvick was an intimidating force on the football field during his high school and college years. He’d just as soon run you over as go around you to get into the end zone.
It’s a far cry from the classroom persona that “Mr. K” exudes in his Middlebury Union Middle School social studies class. While he practices some of the leadership principles he learned on the football field, Kulhowvick is known for being a fun-loving guy with a genuine interest in the subject matter he’s teaching.
Kulhowvick joined the MUMS faculty in 1971, back when the 26th Amendment to the Constitution lowered the voting age from 21 to 18. Richard M. Nixon was president. The U.S. was steadily pulling its troops out of Vietnam. Intel released the world’s first microprocessor, ushering in the digital age. A Dodge Charger sold for $3,579, and “All in the Family” was the top-rated TV show.
Kulhowvick, now 68, grew up in Torrington, Conn., where his parents ran a small grocery store. He and his four siblings all worked at the store at one time or another.
“They worked their entire lives building up that business,” Kulhowvick said. “Their total motivation was (their children). They gave us all the opportunity to go to college. We were not rich people.”
Knowing the sacrifices his parents were making, Kulhowvick wanted to make sure he didn’t let them down. He put a lot of effort into his studies, and into his favorite sport — football. He parlayed a successful high school football career into a starting position on the Norwich University varsity squad — as a sophomore.
And Kulhowvick paid instant dividends. As a running back he scored three touchdowns in his first game. His 34 career TDs is still tied for second all-time for Norwich. He’s a member of the Norwich University Athletic Hall of Fame.
“(Football) has always been something that’s given me opportunities and advantages,” said Kulhowvick, who would go on to coach that sport (stints as assistant and head coach), along with basketball and baseball, at Middlebury-area schools.
He was fortunate to spend time with legendary Vermont coaches, leaders who inspired him to pursue a teaching career. Among them were Joe Sabol and Roland “Lefty” Lyford, Norwich’s head football and basketball coaches, respectively.
Lyford helped Kulhowvick land his first coaching gig — for JV basketball at Northfield High School — while he was still a student at Norwich.
“Lefty had faith in me and knew I would do a good job because I had a good work ethic,” Kulhowvick said.
Sabol helped him land his teaching and coaching positions at MUMS, and Kulhowvick said he learned from both men to use positive reinforcement to get young people to give their best effort.
“Both Joe and lefty had many teaching talents, but the one I admired most was their ability to motivate students,” Kulhowvick said .
Little did Kulhowvick know that his first teaching job out of college would become his dream job that would command his devotion and enthusiasm for almost a half century.
At one point, he’d considered teaching physical education. He tried it out as a student-teacher, but didn’t like it.
“I found it repetitive; I wasn’t challenged,” he recalled.
He found himself drawn to history and social studies.
“I found I cold talk today’s events and connect them to the past,” Kulhowvick said. “I found it so interesting.”
Fortunately, MUMS was looking for a social studies teacher at around the same time Kulhowvick graduated from Norwich. His Bachelor of Science degree in history qualified him for a teaching certificate. He would later earn a Masters degree in education from Castleton State College.
“The rest of the story is, ‘I’m here,’” he said with a smile.
It’s been a long, fruitful and interesting story, as Kulhowvick has been part of big changes in how and where education has been delivered at MUMS.
When he arrived back in 1971, MUMS and MUHS were located in the same building on Charles Avenue. The in the early 1990s Addison Central voters approved a bond to repair the Charles Avenue building exclusively for MUHS and move MUMS into a new structure off Middle Road.
It was clear to students that “Mr. K” really enjoyed the subject matter he was teaching.
Former MUMS social studies teacher Mary Goodale talked to the Independent back in 2015 about some of the innovative teaching methods she, Kulhowvick and Peter Brakeley brought to the social studies program. She recalled 8th-grade classes occasionally convening at the Cornwall Congregational Church for role-playing, in costume, for a mock debate among 18th-century Torreys, Radicals or Moderates.
“It’s really the team approach here,” Goodale said at the time. “It’s been a great department to work with. We trade materials around all the time. Pete and George couldn’t have been any greater.”
Kulhowvick said social studies plays into students’ inherent interest in current events.
“The kids today really want to know what’s going on — even the political stuff,” he said, noting the age of smart phones and instant data. “I use that as a motivation. ‘How did we get to where we are right now? What is a Republican? What is a Democrat? Why do they feel the way they do, and what’s the political spectrum all about?”
Kulhowvick somewhat regrets leaving on the cusp of a major educational transition in the ACSD, as it switches over to the International Baccalaureate program. The program, he noted, emphasizes “concept teaching,” which he believes he and many colleagues have been putting into practice in classrooms for years.
If he were starting his teaching career today, it’s safe to say Kulhowvick would have taken full advantage of the latest technology. But he did the best he could with the tools he was given. During the 1970s, he’d rent educational films from a company to show to his classes. Those films would sometimes take a month to arrive at the school and break while being shown.
As he leaves, the technology has almost become overwhelming. There are iPads in every class and quality educational materials are only a couple of key strokes away.
“In today’s teaching world a teacher would not be able to do their job without some high-tech computer,” he said. “Our grading system is computerized. We take attendance with our computers. We have to check our email two or three times a day. I now have a phone in my room and I have to check it for messages.”
But Kulhowvick cautioned that technology has its negative aspects. He believes some students are becoming too immersed in their phones, computers and video games, to the point where they’re becoming too sedentary.
He’s proud of the many students — at least two generations of some local families — who’ve come through his classes.
Kulhowvick recalled a former student who visited his classroom after earning a degree at Yale. He was away from the classroom, so the young woman left him a note giving him thanks for teaching her the “SQ3R” method of note-taking while she was a middle schooler. The SQ3R method stands for survey, question, read, recite, and review.
His students have included two-time Olympian Doug Lewis and Dennis Burnham, who now owns a construction business. Colleague Jan Broderson is a former student of his, as are MUMS math teachers Pam Quinn and Katie Ford.
MUMS administrative assistants Shelley Harrison and Kandy Kinney also took social studies with Mr. K. One of his best friends, Derek Bartlett and his wife, were both in his class.
“It’s very rewarding for me to look back and be able to say I was a part of their education,” Kulhowvick said.
Now it’s time for Kulhowvick to be rewarded for his dedication. He’ll be joining in retirement his wife, Linda Kulhowvick, who’s also a member of the exclusive club of educators who’ve served four-plus decades in Addison County schools. She retired last year after having served 44 years as a kindergarten teacher at Beeman Elementary School in New Haven.
The couple will now have more time to travel, pursue hobbies and play gleefully with their two grandsons, Liam and Owen.
He’ll miss the students, parents and colleagues he’s cultivated as friends during his long career.
“It has been absolutely wonderful to work in a school where the community provides so much support to the teachers and also for our educational programs,” he said.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed working as a teacher at MUMS and I have been privileged to work with many excellent and professional educators. My colleagues realize that we must teach in a nurturing environment that recognizes the diversity of our students. Here at MUMS the emphasis is always on providing students with the important tools and skills to help them to be successful. It has been my pleasure to teach in a school where the teachers challenge the students to reach their highest potential. The people of this community are lucky to have some of the best and the brightest teachers for their children.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].
George Kulhowvick is among several long serving Addison Central School District teachers who’ll be retiring this year. They include:
• Salisbury Community School Interventionist Diane Benware, with 40 years of service.
• Shoreham Elementary School teacher Patricia Bolger, with 40 years in the district.
• Susan Sears, who’s taught 39 years at Cornwall’s Bingham Memorial School.
• Sally Mailloux, a speech language pathologist of 36 years at Mary Hogan Elementary.
• MUMS English teacher Garreth Parizo, with 35 years in the district.
• Lisa Beck, 34 years as a teacher at Bingham Memorial.
• Susan Hornbeck, 33 years as a teacher at the Salisbury Community School.
• Paul Scaramucci, 33 years as an MUHS science teacher.
• Barbara Karle, 32 years with the Library/Media department at MUMS.
• Wesley McKee, Mary Hogan Elementary guidance educator, 31 years.
• Kathryn Purcell, Mary Hogan Elementary special educator, 31 years.
• Donna MacKenzie, Mary Hogan Elementary interventionist, 30 years.
• Sandra Hall, Mary Hogan Elementary special educator, 29 years.
• Phyllis Laliberte, Mary Hogan Elementary teacher, 28 years.
• Xaveria Atkins, guidance educator at the Salisbury and Shoreham schools, 27 years.
• Wendy Whaley-Sauder, guidance educator at the Cornwall, Ripton and Weybridge Schools, 27 years.
• Christine Jenkins, art teacher at the Salisbury and Ripton schools, 22 years.
• Cheryl Junkins, Mary Hogan Elementary special educator, 20 years.
• Jane Shephard, Mary Hogan Elementary educator, 20 years.
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