“It was a good ride. We did it all.” - Ted Willis
What were some things that made being at Foote special?
Both Ted and Annie remarked that referees always enjoyed coming to Foote School. Our students were known for showing excellent sportsmanship and the referees' calls were not criticized. Ted and Annie never cut students from a sports team and instead felt that everyone who wanted to play a sport should be able to. In gym class, Ted has never believed in having kids choose teams publicly, in a way that certain kids were picked last. Ted used the limited gym budget to purchase gymnastics equipment that was a big part of the curriculum. He even made some of the equipment himself! He remembers always needing more mats. Annie recalls that Ted was very “economical” with his budget and did not buy much! The Foote trampoline was a hand-me-down from the Calabresi family. The gym mats were made of horsehair! Throughout their Foote careers, Annie and Ted did not have a lunch break as Lower school and Upper School (now called Middle School) had lunch at different times meaning that gym teachers had no time to stop for lunch. In addition to teaching all day, both Annie and Ted coached in the afternoons.
What are some favorite or vivid memories from your time working together?
Ted and Annie shared a “cubby hole” office in the old gym. In the Early days of their time teaching together Foote students changed into blue one-piece uniforms for gym class. Ted recruited wonderful student teachers from Southern Connecticut State University who served as an excellent source for learning new games. Some favorite gym games were: poison ball, crab soccer in the hallway, pirates, castles, floor hockey, kickball basketball. “Lost in Space” played on gymnastics equipment was a particular favorite in the Lower School. Bus rides to away games were a huge part of the Foote athletic experience. Both Ted and Annie remember that kids loved singing on the bus! Once, around 1978, Ted and Annie had a certain mishap at Rumsey Hall in Washington Depot, CT. They took three teams consisting of intramural players, comprised mostly of the 5th and 6th grade, on two buses and several cars to Rumsey Hall for winter sports matches. By the time the games were over it was dark outside and it was quite confusing getting on the buses and in cars. Several students were left behind! Fortunately the students were fed and well cared for by Rumsey Hall and Ted returned to pick them up and return them home. At one point, Foote athletics ran summer camps and the soccer camp was very popular.
How did you end up teaching at Foote?
Ted served on the Foote faculty from 1970-2013 and continues to substitute teach at Foote today. He has worked for heads of school Frank Perrine through Carol Maoz. Frank Perrine hired Ted on the spot and nicknamed him “The Commissioner.” Ted and his wife, Lois, have two children who both attended Foote, Cynthia ’87 and Curtis ’91. Annie served on the Foote faculty from 1972-1992. Annie’s husband Eli was president of the Foote School Association board from 1965-1968 and served on the board of directors from 1963-1970. Annie and Eli had a long and deep involvement with the Foote community. Of their six children, five attended Foote: Susan Clark Love ’66, Rob Clark ’68, Dody Clark Chadwick ‘73, Annie Clark ’76, and Will Clark ’79. The Clarks moved from Woodbridge, CT and the Woodbridge schools system when Eli became head of Silliman College at Yale. Their oldest son, Charlie, was already too old to attend Foote. Annie even knew and remembers Mrs. Churchill quite well!
What are some things that have stayed the same at Foote and what has changed?
Field Day has changed. It used to be divided by division into two separate events. The Lower School events were on the Canner Street field and the Upper School events were on the Highland Street field. Now it is an all-school event. Lower School Field Day was more of a demonstration initially: Ted would bring the gymnastics horse and other equipment to the field and have students demonstrate for the assembled parents. Ted says, “I didn’t fudge anything!” when it came to which team won field day. Annie retorted, “--much!” Both Ted and Annie agree that they would no longer play dodgeball and that physical education class philosophy has changed over the years. Many things that would now be considered hazing were then considered part of growing up. Foote’s participation in the annual Bement School Field Hockey Jamboree is a wonderful tradition that was spearheaded by Annie. The Annie Clark Sportsmanship Award is given annually to the team that demonstrates the best sportsmanship at the Bement School Field Hockey Jamboree. Annie felt that there should be a sportsmanship award given out each year, so Foote purchased the original trophy that is still awarded to the winner. Girls sports have come a long way since the time when Annie and Ted started at Foote. The girls soccer team was new in the 1980s and there are many more offerings for girls. Ted notes that current Foote athletic director Brad McGuire does a great job! (Ted hired both Brad and Colleen Murphy, who are two of the three current physical education teachers.)
Editor’s Note: it was a pleasure to observe the wonderful dynamic that still exists between Foote colleagues Annie Clark and Ted Willis. From their animated conversation you could tell how much teaching and coaching at Foote meant to them, and how much they mean to each other. We certainly know how much they mean to all of us!