Coach Flaherty Retires: It’s The End Of An Era At The Alva School

By: James Kennedy

When the Alva School let out for summer on the last day of May, Coach Michael Flaherty, a long-time Physical Education teacher, hung up his whistle for the final time. He and five of his six siblings were called to teach, following in their father’s footsteps. His extraordinary career started 42 years ago, in 1982, following his fortuitous arrival in Florida from Massachusetts.

Now, and to the regret of many, he’s decided to move on.

Coach Flaherty is retiring from teaching, leaving behind a legacy of excellence and service to the school and several generations of students. During his time in physical education for young people, he taught thousands of elementary school students the basics for healthy and active living. He mentored them in teamwork and perseverance to be their best.

Alva was his first teaching job, and while he split some time with other schools, the school remained his teaching home until his last day in public education. The Alva School was the fortunate beneficiary of his own perseverance in a long and commendable career, and it provided him with a personal education of sorts in return.

Although he had applied for a vacant classroom teaching position, the school principal picked him to serve as the Physical Education teacher after another newly hired educator decided the job wasn’t right for her. Undaunted, he also volunteered on that first day to do anything else the overwhelmed administrator needed doing. He was promptly sent to supervise the student drop-off, where he learned that Alva was not like the small New England town where he grew up. A mother and her children rode up on three horses to start the school day. He had thought he was ready for small-town life in rural Florida, he recounts now, but this? His parents were in disbelief when he described his first day to them over the phone.

Turns out, that unusual drop-off was the start of a cross-generational career at the Alva School.

There, on the north bank of the Caloosahatchee River, he found himself teaching the children and grandchildren of some of his earliest students. The pleasure he’s taken in shaping such a career is not likely to end anytime soon, he acknowledges. Of the many great things about teaching, he especially loves it when his students have returned to say hello — or when they call, write, or even email to share memories and tell him how they’re doing.

As Coach Flaherty embarks on a new chapter, our community, including myself as a former student and resident of Alva, want to express our deep gratitude for his dedicated service to the Alva School. We are truly thankful for his commitment and positive impact on our lives. We wish him the best in his retirement and encourage him to take a well-deserved lap to celebrate his achievements. Teaching is a gift, he believes, often reminding his colleagues, some of his former students, of this singular truth: “You get what you give.”

Good Luck, Coach! Now, take a lap.

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