|John Spore, who graduated from Father Ryan High School and then taught there for 44 years, was honored by the faculty and staff during a luncheon on Friday, Aug. 7. John Spore laughs during a presentation at Father Ryan on Aug. 7 during a staff luncheon where he was honored for his 44 years of service to the school. Photos by Andy Telli
When John Spore started his career as an educator, he looked to his aunt, Clara Haddox, for inspiration. “She taught at Peabody College for 42 years,” Spore said. “My major goal that I set is that I wanted to teach at one place longer than she did.”
Spore reached his goal. He will retire later this month after serving Father Ryan High School for 44 years as one of its most highly regarded, well-respected, longest tenured faculty members in the school’s history.
His colleagues and friends on the faculty and staff at the school celebrated his contributions at a luncheon in his honor on Aug. 7. He will continue working at Ryan in the office until Aug. 31, when he officially retires.
Spore graduated from Ryan in 1964, then returned as a teacher in the fall of 1970, before moving full-time into the administrative office in 1984.
“As someone who is not from Nashville, and who’s not a Father Ryan alum, John was very welcoming and really helpful,” said Jim McIntyre, President of Father Ryan. “I would say (that he is) loving, compassionate, dedicated, loyal, he is also a ‘can-do’ person – there really wasn’t anything that he couldn’t get accomplished.”
When Spore began at Ryan as a student in the fall of 1960, the school was far different than it is today. “It was an all-boys school. Our class was the first one to have 100 people in it to graduate,” he recalls, compared to the 224 members of the Class of 2015 who graduated in the spring.
Many of the faculty at Ryan in the 1960s were priests, Spore noted. “It seems like almost all of them taught for a couple years while they were associate pastors,” he said. “Monsignor Hitchcock was the principal, and you didn’t mess with him. You didn’t mess with many of the priests either. There were not a whole lot of disciplinary problems in the classroom.”
Spore was originally offered a position to teach English, but instead took a job that allowed him to teach economics and American history. There was only one economics class and lots of students who wanted to take the course, Spore recalled. An average class size of 32 students didn’t bother him at all; in fact, he told those working in the scheduling office, “If I’m going to perform as a teacher, I want a full house, so put them in there. Just make sure I get enough desks.”
For those in the faculty who have known Spore and become close to him, it is clear that he cares about the school and its continued success, even if it means accepting his own shortcomings with humor. “I think one of the keys to my success is that I can laugh at myself. If you can’t laugh at yourself, you’re in trouble.”
“It’s been said over and over, there’s not anything you need done that John won’t jump in and do,” added Father Ryan Principal Paul Davis. “The ultimate team player, he didn’t worry about ‘Hey, that’s not in my job description.’ That’s what he’s done for the 44 years he’s been at Father Ryan, and probably him being that way has served as an example to all of us to do the same thing.”
|Academic Dean and Vice Principal Sara Hayes presented Spore with a painting that features all the words his colleagues used to describe him.
In his 44 years, Spore has held a host of jobs at the school. As an administrator, he served as Director of Admissions and Director of Academic Counseling.
He also served as the school’s athletic trainer, which earned him the nickname “Doc,” and as assistant athletic director for two years under Athletic Director Bill Derrick. He performed many jobs that most people never knew to be in his repertoire, including: serving as a member of Diocesan Calendar Committee; fixing telephone and intercom/bell systems; coordinating diocesan teacher in-service workshops at Ryan; driving the team bus for the football and wrestling teams; collecting entrance gate money and working in concessions at Ryan athletic events.
Asked about the school’s impact on his life, Spore says, “You get to see people come through it, you get to see their children come through it, now I’m seeing grandchildren come through it. So I guess you feel like you’re part of the family.”
Over the course of 44 years, Spore has seen many changes at Father Ryan, including the integration of the school’s athletic teams in the 1960s. “The biggest change I’ve seen is that you hold kids responsible. They’re responsible for their own actions, whether good or bad. There’s freedom with that, but there’s also consequences with it.”
He also noted the increasing presence of alumni returning to teach, such as Davis and mathematics teacher and head basketball coach Doug Bontrager, who both graduated from Ryan in 1981.
C.A. Williams, a world history teacher at Ryan and longtime co-worker and friend of Spore, said, “He’s far more than an individual I work with … he’s my best friend. He has the most gracious, loving heart of anybody that I know. He takes care of business, he keeps the place running, he’s awesome.”
“The image that I will always have in my mind about John Spore is him walking our students at Baccalaureate across the bridge” on campus, said McIntyre. “It’s going to be a unique experience for us this year, while we’re waiting for Baccalaureate to begin. I always wait across the bridge for him to bring the students, and I’ve always seen him there.”
Spore’s retirement from working at Father Ryan will not keep him away from the school for long. He will still work concessions and entrance gates at many athletics events in the immediate future. He will also experience the “graduation present” of a lifetime in the summer 2016 when he joins a group of Father Ryan teachers on a trip to New Zealand, Australia and Hawaii.