Not one person, not even Doris Fiotakis herself, would have predicted she would become a teacher. After 39 years of teaching at the Weston school district, Ms. Fiotakis, who is retiring at the end of the school year, still can’t believe it.
“I never ever in my wildest dreams believed I would be teaching for this long,” she said. “Nobody I grew up with imagined I would ever become a teacher because I was a pain in the rear as a student,” Ms. Fiotakis said with a laugh.
She grew up in Louisville, Ky., and attended an all-girls high school before majoring in opera at Georgetown University.
After graduating, she went on to perform in theaters and nightclubs for 20 years. “I had been singing since I was five years old, so going into performing was fairly natural,” she said.
But her performing days came to a close once her children were born, as she grew tired of traveling and wanted to settle down. It was because of her children that she was led down the path to teaching.
Ms. Fiotakis became involved in the PTA program at her children’s school in Queens, N.Y. The school was involved in an early experiment called “paired” schooling, where two nearby schools that had black and white populations would combine.
Ms. Fiotakis volunteered to tutor students from Haiti, saying, “It was a great experience.” However, as a volunteer, she wasn’t making as big a difference as she wanted. “I didn’t like the way the schools were run, so the mayor of New York, John Lindsay, suggested I become a teacher if I really wanted to do something about it,” she said.
So, that’s exactly what she did.
Ms. Fiotakis taught in New York for three years, teaching music and fourth grade at a kindergarten through grade six school.
When she wasn’t thrilled with the intermediate school her children would be attending, she had a decision on her hands. She debated whether to send her children to private school, but in the end, she moved her family to Connecticut.
“I wanted to come back to the country. I had lived in New York for years and was tired of it,” she said.
Her first job in Weston was teaching music in the middle school. Soon after, she was called upon to implement a program for “gifted” children called “Odyssey of the Minds.” In 1984, she began teaching theater at Weston High School as well as the talented and gifted program.
Ms. Fiotakis continued to rise through the ranks in Weston as she became the chairman of the English Department and head of the Fine and Performing Arts Department. Her title would later change to curriculum instructional leader.
Although performing was out of the picture, she became involved in producing theater and helping young performers improve. “I enjoyed all the applause when I was performing but I found that I really enjoyed helping young performers realize their potential. It was in so many ways much more gratifying to see them develop and grow,” Ms. Fiotakis said.
Her favorite memories of her long tenure in Weston are the students. “There have been so many marvelous, wonderful kids. I learn so much from my students and I think that is what has kept me in the field,” she said.
Ms. Fiotakis also expressed how much of an instrumental role the parents have played. “The one thing that has always been great about Weston is the support of the parents. Coming from New York where you rarely saw the parents, Weston has so much parental support,” she said.
When asked if there is a show that she is more proud of than others, she said, “People ask me that all the time and it’s so hard to say.” However, one of her favorites is The King and I, done in 1991, because that is a show she did with a group of K through 12 students.
“I literally had little ones [students] playing the little kids. It was a big show and had a lot of students in it,” she siad.
Another proud accomplishment for Ms. Fiotakis is when she and a former English teacher started a program called “Dialogues.”
“We took his creative writing students who worked a lot with plays and then the Company [theater group] kids would mount them. It was student directed and student produced.”
Now, however, nearly 40 years of teaching, Ms. Fiotakis has decided to it call it quits.
She plans to spend some “selflish time” to write, read, garden and do something different with her life.
“I’m ready,” she said with no reservations. “Thirty-nine years is a lot of time to be doing the same thing.” She has no hesitations about retirement but will miss the students.
“I have some terrific memories,” she said.