After reading through countless U.S. History papers at the end of a tiresome school day, Social Studies Teacher Terry Gladis craves an outlet. Athletic release from academia has been routine for Gladis since playing sports in high school. Now, his source of athletics, his ‘sport’, resides in the Fitness Center.
What started as a method to retain fitness soon evolved into a critical aspect of Gladis’ relationship with fellow faculty members. “To me, this connection that we have in common, honestly, it’s helped me forge relationships in the school that I never would have before,” he said.
Gladis often trains with colleagues such as Head of Security Barak Favé, who consistent presence in the gym originates from his love of food. Exercising allows Favé to eat the foods he craves without worrying about gaining weight.
Favé finds the gym’s “motivational” atmosphere at ASL distinct compared to that at his local gym. “If you go to commercial gyms, some people just want to socialize. They go there to be seen. It’s the vanity concept,” he said. “There’s no real spirit of camaraderie and working. It’s a bit of a show and I don’t like that.”
Catering Attendant Lucia Glonekova attributes the atmosphere of the gym to Fitness Center Supervisor Andy Patros. After a workday starting at 7:30 a.m. and ending at 3:30 p.m., Glonekova uses the gym primarily to unwind. “Sometimes I have a bad day and I just go there and Andy [Patros] cracks a few jokes and everything seems to be alright after that,” she said.
As a teacher, Gladis is often isolated from other departments in the school, but in the Fitness Center, he is able to connect with faculty members he does not regularly see throughout the day. “We’re in our own bubbles at ASL, especially as a teacher and it’s so important for the organizational health of the community to try and get to know everybody,” Gladis said.
Similarly, Glonekova rarely spends more than a minute with a student or faculty member during the day. She believes that the students and faculty who frequent the gym facilitate a deeper sense of communication as a result of it. “You build different relationships than people coming through the counter. You don’t have time to engage with anyone, but in the gym it’s different,” Glonekova said. “It makes the day more pleasant if you have little talk or banter with the students.”
Through the gym, Gladis learns about colleagues beyond the curriculum they teach or role they hold in the school. “The added value that meeting people and working out with people in the gym has given me is priceless,” he said. “I actually wish that I would see more faculty members in there so I could hopefully forge more relationships with different people.”
“Gym camaraderie” transcends beyond the confines of the Fitness Center. Gladis and Favé, along with Physical Education Teachers Jody Matey, Rich Harris and Grant Hiller, among others, participated in the Tough Mudder 10K obstacle course challenge after connecting in the gym.
By virtue of a common interest, Glonekova believes the gym builds relationships more so than other environments in the school. “People who workout enjoy doing the same things, so you bond,” Glonekova said.
For Favé, the gym setting reveals more about his colleagues than do other environments during the work day. “Perseverance and determination. I think it’s something that stands out in the gym more than in an office or more than when you are given a task with a deadline,” he said.
Everyday interactions in the hallways or during lunch time expand into more genuine gestures of interest after spending time working out. “[The gym] brings us closer than just acquaintances, there’s more of a friendship,” Favé said.
Both Gladis and Favé acknowledge that closing the gym is necessary for the school’s improvement (for more information about the closure see Page 2), “but it’s not going to be a fun period,” Favé said.
Gladis believes the closing of the gym extends beyond the missed joy of exercising. “I hope we can find other opportunities to continue these relationships, but I think that element of community that we have going will be put on hold,” he said.
Transitioning from the Fitness Center to a local gym will turn working out into a mundane process for Favé, but he does not worry about losing friendships he created from the Fitness Center. “Even if we don’t workout together from now onwards, forever, that connection is already made, and every time you see them in the corridor, in a staff lounge, in the Commons, every time you say ‘hello’, it gets stronger and deeper,” Favé said. “If the gym was the reason for us talking a bit longer, it’s no longer what keeps us talking to each other.”