Chamblee’s PE Teachers Retire: The End of an Era

Burgess, Eskew, Ireland. The three retirees posing together. Photo courtesy of Blue & Gold

Burgess, Eskew, Ireland. The three retirees posing together. Photo courtesy of Blue & Gold

Allison Lvovich, Staff Writer

Out of all the required classes at Chamblee, physical education may be among the most fun, but unfortunately, three Chamblee gym teachers’ careers have come to a close. 

Coach Paul Ireland first began working at Chamblee as a gym teacher 13 years ago, but surprisingly started his teaching career in the science department. 

“I started my career as a science teacher, then I got a head varsity basketball job, which came along with a PE job,” said Ireland. “I enjoyed it, so I’ve been teaching PE for the last 26 years.”

Transitioning from a core subject to a physical education career came with different perks and rewards.

“I enjoyed seeing students progress throughout the semester, especially the ones who actually put effort in, and for the past eight years, I’ve been teaching ninth graders,” said Ireland. “It’s rewarding because ninth grade PE is mandatory, so I actually see their athletic abilities.”

Going back to the origin of his PE career, his role as a basketball coach embodies his favorite memories at Chamblee, specifically during one year where his team had several stellar performances.

“As a varsity girls basketball coach, there was a season where we were undefeated and number 1 in the state, which was definitely a season to remember,” said Ireland.

Ireland’s plan to retire had a cascade effect on coaches Caesar Burgess and Robert Eskew, who both decided to retire shortly after him. 

“I decided to retire this past January and I shared that information with Coach Burgess and Coach Eskew, then Burgess looked into it and about a month later, decided he also wanted to retire,” said Ireland. “Coach Eskew didn’t want to be left alone, so he decided to retire as well.”

After retirement, Ireland plans on traveling across the country and seeing the sights he never had time to witness, along with investing time into his shared business.

“I plan to travel around the country, places I haven’t seen, like New York and D.C. I also wanted to go skiing in Colorado,” said Ireland. “After that, I plan to work on my son’s and my t-shirt business.”

Coach Burgess, who has been a part of Chamblee’s staff since 2002, started teaching PE for the simple reason of loving sports and students. 

“Sports have always been my passion, and I’ve always enjoyed working with and inspiring young folks,” said Burgess. “My favorite part about being a gym teacher is the students, overwhelmingly. The energy, the enthusiasm, the love, the warmth, it’s all about the students.”

Burgess’s favorite memory at Chamblee originates from his college years, when he met a couple of new friends. 

“It’s hard to pick just one, but my favorite memory has to be spending time with our special needs students in Ms. Katz’s class,” said Burgess. “When I was at Berry College, I had two people that I thought of as my bodyguards, and they took me in as their buddy, and they both happened to have down syndrome. Ever since then, the special needs class has been a great motivation. These kids have challenges but complain less than everyone else. I’ve also learned more from them than they’ve learned from me.”

After retirement, Burgess plans on ending his career at Chamblee but continuing to work.

“I’m retiring from Chamblee but I still plan to work,” said Burgess. “I teach driver’s ed, I am looking into some opportunities to teach PE classes part time at other schools.”

The last to retire was none other than Coach Eskew, who has been working at Chamblee for 12 years.

“[Being a gym teacher] is something that correlates with athletics, which I have always enjoyed,” said Eskew. “I knew that working with other athletes would be something I would enjoy as a career.”

Along with Burgess, the students are Eskew’s favorite part of working at Chamblee. 

“I love interacting with my students, instructing them in particular sports and sharing my sports past history with them as well,” said Eskew.

Despite Eskew’s love for teaching students and sports in person, his favorite memory at Chamblee revolved around the virtual year. 

“My favorite memory was being able to teach virtually, because I was able to get up and have breakfast and lunch at home, and be in the comfort of my own home all day,” said Eskew. 

When he learned that two of his PE counterparts would be retiring, the upcoming decision was fast and simple.

“I made my decision based on the fact that I’d be losing two of my very close coworkers, people that I rely on, and I didn’t want the challenge of training a new gym teacher,” said Eskew. “It took us a while to get to where we are now, so I figured it was time to retire.”

After retirement, Eskew plans on enjoying his days without having to worry about getting to school before the bell rings.

“Right after retirement, I’m just going to take some time off and enjoy the fruits of my labor,” said Eskew. “I’ll probably travel and spend time with my family in California and Tennessee.”

All three soon to be retirees have a few parting words for their students.

“Just do your best, education is important so take every class seriously, including PE,” said Ireland.

“Always strive to be the best at what you do and always follow your dreams,” Eskew.

“Love yourself, never give up, and never doubt yourself, because you are deserving,” said Burgess. “Do not waste a day because each day is a gift and each day will allow you to enjoy the next coming day.”