HARRISONBURG — Michael King didn’t expect to get a teaching job right out of college. After graduating from James Madison University, continued commitment to ROTC took him across the country and into the 1982-83 school year.
He had studied physical education while at JMU and the plan was to be a teacher, but because he wasn’t able to start at the beginning of the school year, he had resigned himself to working for a year in a gym teaching gymnastics.
King was in Indiana when he got the call from Keister Elementary School, saying that they had an opening and wanted him to start, even if it meant starting a little later in the school year.
“It was a good fit and they allowed me to come in several weeks late in the year because of ROTC,” King said. “It was meant to be for sure.”
Fast forward 37 years and King is no longer at Keister Elementary School, but he’s still with Harrisonburg City Public Schools and is officially the division’s longest-serving employee.
King stayed at Keister for seven years before teaching at the newly opened Thomas Harrison Middle School for two years. From there, King taught at Spotswood for two years, until Stone Spring Elementary School opened. He’s been there ever since and now also serves as the division’s health and P.E. coordinator.
King never thought about going to another school division. He said he always lucked out when it came to teaching peers and he always got along with his fellow P.E. teacher. King also said the support of the school division at the building and central office level was an aspect that kept him there.
Eventually King met his wife and they started a family. Both sides of their families are located in the Valley and they decided to put down roots.
“We knew this was the place we needed to be,” he said.
King has seen a lot of changes over the years, particularly in the areas of standardized testing and technology.
But he said the biggest change has been the demand on teachers. He also said that he feels the school division is much stronger than it was when he first started.
“We’ve gotten better at educating kids,” he said.
As an elementary school P.E. teacher, King doesn’t have just 20 students or so a year. He teaches the entire school. At an average of 400 students, and 37 years, plus the coaching he did at the high school level, King estimates that he has taught between 15,000 and 20,000 students.
“It’s a crazy number,” King said.
Because he teaches elementary school, he’s now on to teaching his third generation of students — the kids of kids of kids.
While he describes retirement as a “window that’s getting closer,” it isn’t a window he’s looking out quite yet.
“I still enjoy the job I do, it has many benefits and rewards,” King said. “It’s one year at a time, but as long as i enjoy the job, I’ll keep doing it.”