A long-time John Bowne High School physical education teacher is hanging up his whistle and putting away his gym shorts.
Chris Englisis, who has been teaching in New York City high schools for more than 32 years, is retiring after this academic year, and the school honored him in a ceremony on Tuesday by naming its gym the Christopher Englisis Strength Conditioning and Fitness Center.
Englisis, 58, is known throughout the school by students and faculty members for fundraising to pay for new equipment for the school gym. Over 15 years, the veteran teacher raised more than $180,000 for equipment, which includes donations from the New York Sports Club.
“He just wanted to provide for the school,” senior Andrei Grant said. “As a teacher, he’s great. He’s hilarious, too. It’s kind of sad to see him leave. It sucks that everyone else won’t be able to take his classes.”
Englisis has been teaching at John Bowne since 1997. Before that he was a football coach and physical education teacher at various city schools around Brooklyn and Queens. Some of his former students have become professional NFL players and wrestlers, including former WWE superstar Tazz.
Because of his background, when he landed in John Bowne he founded the school’s annual after-school fitness and weight lifting competition so kids would be motivated to work out and rewarded for their hard work.
But the Flushing school only had a few old and worn workout machines. So after the first competition, Englisis treated the gym as his “baby,” selling pretzel snacks, water and shirts in the school, year after year to pay for new workout equipment. He even mopped and vacuumed the room himself after school.
Today, the gym is packed with about 55 workout machines and looks like a mini New York Sports Club.
“It’s a blessing for the kids and for him,” said Englisis’ brother John. “For him to give himself so they can benefit is phenomenal. And this is an ongoing thing that will benefit all these kids this year, next year and years after that.”
The remaining physical education teachers promised to continue the annual competition and fundraise for new equipment when necessary. Students and faculty are sorry to see him go, but Englisis believes that he’s done all he can for the school.
“There’s nothing more to do. This is the time to go,” Englisis said. “It’s kind of hard to give it up to somebody else, but you’ve got to know when to stop.”