On January 4th, Art Phiffer announced that he plans to leave Sequoyah School after a 36-year tenure as a lead teacher at Sequoyah, a fact that seemed to set in among the school community during Phiffer’s last Jogathon on February 19th.
Phiffer said he plans to move to the Puget Sound area, where he will commence “being a Seattle Seahawks fan.” At the end of the Jogathon, a larger group of students and faculty ran a celebratory lap with Art. His last Jogathon was his best run, at 30 laps he said. Harper Johnston, Outback student, kept pace with Art throughout most of the fundraiser. Johnston says, “It was fun, but sad knowing that it was Art’s last Jogathon.”
Asked to reflect on his tenure at the school, Art was characteristically thoughtful and in the moment. “Many images, feelings and memories flood to my mind,” he said. “I smile as I think about creative Out Back students helping Ian and me create a role-playing version of early American history this year.” He has collected, however, a large repertoire of stories: backpacking in the snow at Pear Lake, shooing away wild pigs stealing the camping food in Catalina, and many, many years of running. In thinking about what he will miss, however, Phiffer said he most appreciated the understanding that students, parents and fellow teachers have shown, as “I have been allowed to make mistakes and learn from them.”
The Spring 2016 issue of the Phoenix celebrated Art and his departure from Sequoyah in a six-page spread. Several former students contributed short pieces about him, including alumni Malika Williams and Alison Brody, sister of school director Josh Brody. The spread also contained a “word map” of words students in his class this year submitted to describe Art, which included “active,” “funny,” and “helpful.” Former and current colleagues also contributed appreciations.
Many in the Sequoyah community are sad Art is leaving, but at the same time people are happy that he is moving on to a new adventure. Junior High student Lola Martin said that she had hoped that Art’s year would coincide with her last year on the K-8 campus also, so she “wouldn’t have to get used to not having him around.” She also expressed sympathy for the students scheduled for a second year in the Out Back next year, because “it would be hard to adjust to two new teachers, with Ian going up to the high school also.”