Long time physical education teacher,
Arthur Iworsley, honored at West Elementary
Andover Townsman, Andover, MA
May 12, 2011
Simon says, Celebrate 'Iworsley Day'
West El. honors gym teacher retiring after 43 years
By Dustin Luca
West Elementary School kicked off Earth Week last week by honoring and commemorating one of the school's longest running teachers — and recyclers — with song, dance and turkey gobbles.
Nearing the end to his 43-year career with Andover Public Schools, gym teacher Arthur Iworsley sat in a full tuxedo as students and staff celebrated "Iworsley Day" in two half-hour-long school assemblies last Friday, May 6. In the assemblies, students who were dressed similar to Iworsley performed skits emphasizing recycling and demonstrating how much Iworsley has impacted their lives.
Iworsley is known throughout the school for his practices, perhaps his preaching, of the importance of recycling. He drives a smart car to school every day, a fact that came up frequently in the skits. Throughout the presentations, students pretending to be Iworsley repeatedly informed each other that plastic bottles take 700 years to break down in a landfill.
"I never realized how much I stressed recycling and conserving energy," Iworsley said with a quiet laugh moments after the final assembly.
The reason for wearing a tuxedo to school was merely a matter of identification, though it did get him some interesting comments, he said.
"I was told they were going to dress up as me, so the thought in my mind was if everybody dresses up as Mr. I, how would you know who Mr. I is?" Iworsley said. "So what I did is, I dressed with the tux on."
Elizabeth Roos, West Elementary School principal, said Iworsley will be greatly missed.
"Every day, literally, he counts to the beginning of the year," Roos said. "Most teachers count to the end of the year, but he counts to the beginning. He will say, '98 days until I see you again.' I have worked with him for 20 years, and he has always said that. He is a real class act."
Kyla Sullivan and Chris Nyhan, both 11-year-old fifth graders at the school, said they will miss him when they start middle school next year.
"He's a great phys. ed. teacher," Chris said, adding that one of his favorite things about Iworsley is the games they played during gym. "He means a lot (to the school)."
"We've learned you should always be respectful to other kids and that you can do a lot from learning P.E.," Kyla said. "He's done so much for us."
Both students also specifically mentioned the Iworsley "turkey game." In the game, students make up three teams — Pilgrims, Indians and turkeys — and the Pilgrims and Indians, on the count of three turkey gobbles, hunt the turkeys with soft rubber balls. One skit performed by teachers reenacted a part of the game.
In his time at the school, Iworsley has also raised $350,000 for the American Heart Association, including $15,000 this year. He said he contributes to the American Heart Association because of how everybody, including the students, will be affected by heart disease in some way through family and friends.
He has found grants for the school every year so that, for the last 10 years, the school hasn't used "a single penny" of town money to buy gym equipment, he said.
Iworsley's retirement comes at what he recognized as a bittersweet time for him both at West Elementary and in the district itself. Earlier this month, Iworsley was honored by the Massachusetts Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (MAHPERD) as Elementary School Teacher of the Year for his service to the school community.
"To go out on top, it's like (being at) the top of your game and you are retiring," Iworsley said. "What else is there?"
Meanwhile, Iworsley's wife, High Plain Elementary School fourth-grade teacher Kathy Iworsley, will also retire at the end of the school year after 40 years of teaching in Andover.
To wrap up each of the school's two assemblies, the school's student council performed a version of "Take Me Out To The Ball Game" with new words honoring Iworsley and his contributions to the school. Two of Iworsley's colleagues role-played in a skit with one acting as Iworsley and another as a student at the school. The skit ended with a short game of Simon Says, where the auditorium was asked to stand and then told they had played the shortest game of Simon Says ever, because Simon didn't tell them to stand.
The joke, punctuated each time by an auditorium of students laughing in defeat, was a nod to a similar stunt Iworsley himself pulled last week when he received MAHPERD's award before an audience of 120, including around 20 current and previous colleagues of his.
"When I was ending my speech, everybody there was sitting," Iworsley said. He told them they were going to play a quick game of Simon Says, and he asked them to all stand up, which they did. "Everybody is standing in this room of 120 people. I said, 'That was the quickest game of Simon Says. I only wanted a standing ovation.'"