Craig Buchalter
by Ernest Hernandez
Oct 23, 2008 | 30190 views | 0 0 comments | 2599 2599 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Walk into Mr. Buchalter's swimming class on any given Friday and you'll see his students finishing their week by relaxing on inner tubes, jumping off the diving board at the school's Olympic-sized pool, or competing amongst themselves for bragging rights as "best swimmer." The speakers overhead are blasting with hits from the 1960's and Frank Sinatra.

Once a week, he allows his students to relax during "free swim." On other days, he demonstrates how to perform a perfect swimming stroke to eager students with enthusiasm, vigor, and patience.

"I think as a teacher the greatest accomplishment is when kids come back because they remember that what they experienced meant something - whether it was something they learned or whether it was something they enjoyed," he said. "When they come back, that to me is one of the best compliments."

In a career that spans nearly 30 years, Mr. Buchalter has taught physical education at various parochial and public schools in Queens. He also served as head coach of men’s basketball at John Bowne High School, his alma mater, where he was also instrumental in developing the women's basketball team. His last coaching job was at the Lexington School for the Deaf, where he also taught swimming and courses in lifeguard training.

The apex of his career came in 1995 when he received the All-Star Coach of the Year Award at Yankee Stadium. His eyes lit up as he recalled that day.

"Receiving the award at home plate was a thrill of a lifetime as a diehard Yankee fan growing up and as a kid idolizing Mickey Mantle!" he said.

With his coaching days over, he arrived at the newly built Long Island City High School in 1995 to continue teaching swimming and a lifeguard training course each year.

After three decades, Mr. Buchalter feels satisfied looking back at his career.

"I've had a lot of fun,” he said. “Everybody has to get up in the morning and go to work. And for almost 30 years, I've gotten up in the morning and I have come to play."

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