Student has fond memories of teacher now caught up in controversy

After reading the allegations and resignation of Timothy Chokas I was saddened and, unfortunately, not surprised. I am a 2017 alumnus of Stonington High School, a former member of the Honor Society, and patron of Chokas’ instruction. I am not writing in defense of Mr. Chokas, or to support the allegations, but as a third party who experienced the situation firsthand.

I consider myself fortunate to have been taught by Mr. Chokas. I can honestly say he was a moral compass for me, teaching valuable skills beyond his woodworking class. He would stay after school, assist during lunch, and use free periods to provide myself and others extra instruction. I learned he served in the military prior to becoming the outgoing, caring, and considerate teacher he was.

Having no children of his own, I was humbled to hear he chose teaching as a second career, not for the salary, but to help young people prepare for the world. One of my friends who had him as a coach stated, “(Chokas) had only the best intentions toward the golfers.” Another female friend described Chokas as “one of the most respectful men I’ve ever met.”

I have no intention of discrediting those who have come forward. I recall Mr. Chokas patting my back, followed by a chipper exclamation of “good work.” I also remember him physically helping myself and others adjust their grip on a chisel, planer, or other tools for our safety and effectiveness. Although he had physical contact, it was only out of safety and genuine care for his students. It is wrong to touch students in any way; however, I strongly believe Mr. Chokas had only the best intentions for the students for which he cared so dearly.

After spending years interacting with students in this manner, I am unsure why the issue was not addressed in a timely fashion. Unfortunately, it appears Principal Mark Friese and others did not address the issue immediately, perhaps preventing Mr. Chokas from correcting his actions before it became a larger issue. It is a shame if a lack of action resulted in more students being negatively affected and the loss of one of Stonington's best teachers.

Allen Chappell lives in Stonington.

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