Each year, The Out-of-Door Academy recognizes long-time employees for their dedication and service to our school. This year Martha Gulascy, Linda Vasilaki, Laura Murphy, Kathy Dozier, and Shelley Stone were honored at opening meetings for reaching career milestones of 20, 30 and 35 years at ODA.
This year, Head of School Mr. David Mahler spoke about five special faculty and staff members whose years of service to The Out-of-Door Academy add up to 145 years. He shared humorous anecdotes and moving stories about each of these revered members of our community.
“Martha Gulácsy, Kathy Dozier, Laura Murphy, Shelley Stone, and Linda Vasilaki have changed countless lives during their tenures at Out-of-Door,” said David Mahler. “Their 145 years of collective service is an inspiration to our entire school community.”
After teaching English at Out-of-Door for 20 years, Mrs. Martha Gulácsy is an exceptional educator, and as ODA’s chorus teacher, her joy in sharing her love of song is unmatched. Mrs. Gulácsy forms strong bonds with her students, and they regularly come back to visit her after moving up to the Uihlein Campus. “When I see former students whom I have taught, and they share that they still remember their parts of speech jingles or other pithy tidbits I taught them in writing, I feel gratified,” she said.
Ms. Kathy Dozier is a force to be reckoned with. Her boundless energy and enthusiasm for her students hasn’t dwindled one iota in the 30 years she has taught at ODA. Without Ms. Dozier, the Middle School wouldn’t have a 50s Dance featuring pastel poodle skirts, annual coffeehouse-style poetry readings, or live re-enactments of “Fahrenheit 451”. “I want students to be inquisitive, to question, and to be the best that they can possibly be,” she says. “Each summer, I look for ways to enhance or to change what or how I teach, so that it is always fun and exciting and helps to keep alive my passion for teaching.”
Mrs. Laura Murphy started as a teacher and held many positions on the Siesta Key Campus including Head of Lower School before taking on the role of Director of Lower School Admissions and Alumni Relations. Now in her 30th year at ODA, Mrs. Murphy said, “I came to ODA as a teacher, never expecting my path to follow the one that it has. I am constantly given opportunities to grow at Out-of-Door. Every change has been unexpected and embraced.”
Mrs. Shelly Stone came to ODA 30 years ago after answering a job posted by Coach Mike Young. The amazing math teacher consistently supports her students through her challenging classes and helps build their confidence and a sense of community, both in and out of the classroom. “The students, administration, and my peers are the best! Whenever I run into a student while with my husband, he is always so impressed and realizes why ODA is so special to me. I also love the traditions: Convocation, Homecoming, Thunder Fun Day, and Senior Rock.”
After 35 years of teaching music at Out-of-Door, Dr. Linda Vasilaki has become an integral part of the Lower School music program. Working with students from pre-K through fifth grade, Dr. Vasilaki has not only shaped the music program at ODA, but has instilled a love of music in her young students that has often become a life-long passion. “When I started working at ODA, there was no instrumental program and no Encore or Prime Time program. People said that it wouldn't "fly"...but I tried them as pilot programs, and by word of mouth, our program has grown into what it is today!” said Dr. Vasilaki. “I strive to instill a love of music in my students. I believe that they all have the ability and the potential to develop it to a very high degree.”
These five dedicated team members’ time at Out-of-Door totals 145 years. As an educational institution celebrating its 95th anniversary, we are so thankful for these fine faculty and staff members who have dedicated their lifelong careers to bettering the lives of children.