Richard Anton Chakolis, Sr. is an educator who enjoys his career. Throughout his 51 years teaching, he has worked with at-risk students and diverse groups of various ability. Said Chakolis, “I get up every morning and am excited to go to work. Maybe just some type of encouragement — some positive comment — may help to turn someone’s life around.” Chakolis, holds a master’s degree in special education and another in social studies education.
“It seems like about once every week I run into a former student and they thank me for my work. You cannot beat that feeling! It is like winning the lottery over and over.” After teaching 30 years in Minneapolis, Chakolis moved to Hopkins High School’s Alternative Program in the fall of 1996. He has been there for 21 years.
Does he have secrets to his teaching success? Yes, as he explained, “Each student starts with an A grade, they just have to keep it. I call their house to let the parents and family members know that they are doing an excellent job in class. Students are expected to do all the work. I use other students to peer tutor [and] I give positive oral compliments in front of the class.”
Besides being an educator, Chakolis has an extensive background in athletics. He was proud to say, “Many people also recognize me from my coaching career. I coached wrestling for 30 years.” As coach, he was awarded “Coach of the Year” for five years and was inducted in the Minnesota Hall of Fame. In addition to wrestling, he has coached football, cross country, and track.
What makes him happy? “My family and my job make me so happy. I have been married for 44 years to my angel, Francine. She comes down from heaven every day to help make my life complete. She has had multiple medical problems, but her struggle inspires so many people in our family and in the community.”
Besides loving his wife, Chakolis has no problem gushing about his children and grandchildren. “[We] have four superstar children — all college graduates: Tonda, Ronda, and twins Richard Jr. (Happy) and Fawnda. We have seven gifts from God, our grandchildren Dejahne, Cameron, Jasmine, Janessa, Dlayla, [and] Richard III (RJ).”
“I use [Francine’s] story to inspire the students that I teach, extending them hope that they can graduate — that they can have a productive and rewarding life. [Francine] picked cotton as a young girl, dropped out of high school in ninth grade because of family problems, got her GED and became a college professor at Augsburg College [for 28 years].”
The future looks bright for Chakolis. “I plan to teach for at least another five years — God willing. I am so lucky to have such a great family and such a rewarding job.”
Well, according to his academic and recreational background, the Twin Cities community is lucky to have Chakolis, too.
Brandi D. Phillips welcomes comments and questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.