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The Wire

Veteran Teacher Mr. Filie to Retire After More Than 30 Years of Teaching

Mr.+Filie+and+fellow+retiree+Ms.+McGuckin+hold+up+a+copy+of+2024s+Pendragon.+This+is+Mr.+Filies+30th+year+publishing+Pendragon.
Mr. Filie and fellow retiree Ms. McGuckin hold up a copy of 2024’s Pendragon. This is Mr. Filie’s 30th year publishing Pendragon.

Long time English teacher Mr. Filie will be retiring following the 2024 school year. Mr. Filie has been teaching for 34 years, with much of his career at Monroe-Woodbury. He started his career at the former high school, now Monroe-Woodbury Middle School, and taught at the current Monroe-Woodbury High School the first day it opened.

Mr. Filie’s route to education wasn’t always straightforward. He began college as an English major, a subject that he excelled at.

Initially, Mr. Filie explained that he was “not an inspired student, not a great student. I didn’t get mature about it until my third year practically.” 

During his time in college, he chose to explore education, following in his father’s footsteps as a teacher. 

Mr. Filie began his career substituting at Monroe-Woodbury, before taking on leave replacements at Minisink Valley. Eventually, he returned to Monroe-Woodbury for good.

He currently teaches AP language and composition, creative writing, and student author seminar. In total, he’s taught fifteen courses and piloted seven, such as world literature and student author seminar.

He advises the school’s literary magazine “Pendragon”, which in March 2024 received a rank of Excellence from the National Council of Teachers of English.

“He’s influenced a lot of kids, including me. I’m sad, but I’m glad he’ll be able to rest,” said Kate Medvedeva, a junior and “Pendragon” member.  

This summer, Mr. Filie will plan the rest of his retirement. To continue his efforts in education, he would like to explore creating curriculum materials, a task he enjoys.

Students, like Dorian Tomaras and Hailey Lanari have had Mr. Filie as a teacher through electives and classes for many years and wish him well in his retirement.

“It’s very complex and nuanced. On the one hand, I hope he’s going to enjoy his time, and be free of stress and stuff like that,” said Tomaras, “I’m also devastated because he’s been such a safe haven for me.”

“Filie has spent his career going above and beyond for his students, so I’m glad he’s going to focus on himself,” said Lanari. “I feel incredibly grateful to have had him for the past two years. He’s had a profound impact on me and I can’t say enough positive things about him.”

Mr. Filie still loves teaching a lot, but chose to retire for a combination of reasons.

“I would’ve stood to basically lose a significant benefit if I didn’t retire this year. So, I feel a little bit coerced by that, like some of the decision was taken out of my hands by that,” said Mr. Filie.

The New York State Teachers’ Retirement System decides retirement benefits based on age, years of service, final average salary, and tier of membership. At 58 years old and nearly 34 years of teaching, Mr. Filie is past the general retirement age of 55 for people in his tier.

“I kept going because I like what I’m doing a lot, in fact, I still do,” said Mr. Filie.

Mr. Filie also feels that physical wear and tear has started to reach him. 

“I’m dealing with some, not serious health stuff, but serious enough so that it’s making me really uncomfortable a lot of the time, and there’s no room to address that, the way that I do this job,” Mr. Filie said.

I’m not really the kind of person who counts days. There’s a lot of people who when they see you and know you’re on that last year, are like, ‘Oh, I bet you’re counting the days.’ Like you somehow can’t wait, and that’s not where I’m at. It’s very bittersweet to me.

— Mr. Filie

As a teacher, it’s difficult for Mr. Filie to take time off to attend doctors’ and physical therapists’ appointments.

“He’s a really good teacher, and I wish I had him senior year,” said Anya Malhotra, a junior and “Pendragon” member.

“Pendragon” and Mr. Filie’s courses won’t be left out to dry. The decision on who will take over isn’t official yet, but potential teachers have been collaborating with Mr. Filie by visiting classes in preparation.

“I’m not really the kind of person who counts days. There’s a lot of people who when they see you and know you’re on that last year, are like, ‘Oh, I bet you’re counting the days.’ Like you somehow can’t wait, and that’s not where I’m at. It’s very bittersweet to me,” said Mr. Filie. “The idea of not being able to sit down with someone like you and have a conversation like this bothers me. That’s something I will miss tremendously.”

Not only will Mr. Filie miss interacting with students and reading their writing, but interacting with his colleagues as well.

“We mesh so well in that [prep] room that it does become like a little family unit almost. It’s always been that way in that room. Missing them is something I’m really worried about,” he said. 

One of those people who is part of that family unit is English teacher Mr. Hodges. He attended Monroe-Woodbury High School and had Mr. Filie as a teacher.

“It is difficult for me to express how important Mark, his influence, and our relationship is to me,” said Mr. Hodges.

While a student, Mr. Hodges said that Mr. Filie “challenged, supported, and guided me” and that he and his friends still reflect on their experiences in Mr. Filie’s creative writing and American literature classes.

“As a peer, Mark Filie has guided me professionally towards being the teacher I dreamed of becoming – a teacher who believes, professes, and ardently defends the gospel of “this matters” – that teaching, learning, struggling, and triumphing are meaningful, sacred, and inviolate acts,” said Mr. Hodges. “As a friend, Mark has lent his paternal perspective on leadership, relationships, home ownership, personal grooming, plant care, wedding rings, and everything else, to which I am eternally grateful.”

Mr. Hodges is not the only high school teacher to count Mr. Filie among his former teachers. So, too, is history teacher and MWTA president Mr. McElroy.

“Mark Filie’s impact on Monroe-Woodbury will be felt for years to come because he always put the interests of his students first,” said Mr. McElroy, who added that both students and educators have a lot to learn from Mr. Filie. “I will miss Mark’s advocacy, his counsel and steely determination to always do what was right on behalf of his students and colleagues.”

Mr. Filie was an active union member and was always open about speaking his mind on issues that affected his colleagues and students in this district. 

“Right now, though not everyone would agree, all of our buildings are understaffed. We need more teachers in these buildings, and I’ve always said we need class sizes to be smaller,” said Mr. Filie.

Mr. Filie sees more electives and classes, taught by more teachers, as the solution.  As he points out areas for improvement, Mr. Filie recognizes one of the district’s strengths as well.

“Our staff, districtwide, as far as our teachers and teaching assistants are concerned, is phenomenally dedicated, like iron-willed commitment to withstand whatever they have to. The way that they rallied even during COVID, to create something new from scratch, a new paradigm, nobody knew how to do that,” said Mr. Filie. 

This year, English Department chairperson Ms. Bulla created the Mark Filie Award to be given annually at Rhythm and Rhyme. Ellie Wright was the first recipient. This award, alongside Mr. Filie’s many other contributions, will carry on his legacy within Monroe-Woodbury.

In a speech delivered at Mr. Filie’s retirement party, Ms. Bulla said that Mr. Filie’s legacy is “expansive”.

“The evidence is all around us,” said Ms. Bulla. “Devoted students, grateful colleagues, the highest quality of courses, publications, poetry, curricula, contracts, expectations, and humanity. You have served thousands of students and teachers, and you have remained steadfast, loyal, calm, and uplifting at each turn.”

 

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About the Contributor
Olivia Cooper
Olivia Cooper, Writer
Olivia Cooper is a writer for The Wire News and a junior at Monroe-Woodbury High School. After writing creatively for years, she joined in 2023 to explore a new avenue of writing and learn more about issues within the school. In her free time, she alternates between vegetable gardening, knitting with local wool, watching her pet corn snake, and playing rogue-like video games. She's excited to write on topics close to her heart for an audience of fellow students.