Purgolder for 43 years: Teacher Kevin Attaway reflects on the past and future of East


submitted by Kevin Attaway

Social studies teacher Kevin Attaway is completing his 24th year of teaching at East, but before he was a teacher here, Attaway attended East as a student and, as seen here, was a member of the senior class of 1984.

by Jashiya Maynard-Woods, Reporter

Social studies teacher Kevin Attaway is an East institution. The Social Studies teacher and recently retired football coach has been a Purgolder since 1980 (class of 1984). During his time as a student, he made a few memories that shaped him into who he is today.

“The most memorable thing about East was the friendships I made while here. They are lifelong friendships,” Attaway said.

As a student Attaway didn’t shy away from building friendships, especially with his former football teammates. He developed such a close relationship with them that Attaway joked his “girlfriend” was football. Besides the sporty side of school, Attaway was also immersed in a few different activities such as Latin, decision-making class and student government. Football, however, was always #1 in his heart.

“Freshman year we had a tight bond; We were really close. And, other experiences… I didn’t have a lot of social experiences because my girlfriend was football,” Attaway explained. 

Following graduation, Attaway’s plans of going into engineering changed after meeting an inspirational teacher. Before this chance connection, the tenured educator of now 24 years had no intentions of becoming a teacher, and especially not at his former high school. However, after he became inspired to teach, he said he regretted the decision of engineering so much that he would go back and tell his senior self to not pursue it. He had other advice as well, seeing as how hindsight is 20/20.

“To my freshman self: Don’t be so uptight. Yeah, I was a pretty uptight person. I was all about making sure I got good grades. Because my parents sat me down before my freshman year and said, ‘If you want to go to college, you are going to get pretty much all A’s and earn scholarships.’ So yeah, I was pretty uptight that way,” Attaway said. “To my senior self: Don’t go into engineering.”

With his disdain for engineering, Attaway looked to a mentor to help him figure out what was next for him.

“One (teacher) that really inspired me and my teaching style, that I draw a lot from, was a professor at UW-Madison. I got him for Constitutional History. His name is John Tiefer, and he was just energetic and just was excited about what he taught. And I love that, and that’s the way I want to teach. But as far as a staff member here that made me think about it, it was my Latin teacher Jane Cobb. She taught history and Latin for 40 plus years here,” Attaway said.

Twenty-four years of teaching later, and Attaway’s wish for East’s next 100 years includes a simple idea, yet also a difficult task to complete.

“We were the first school in the city to get a presidential academic acknowledgement award for President H.W. Bush. The district got several awards as Principal of the Year, both statewide and nationwide. And I’d like to seize and get back to that type of recognition. We have some of the greatest students in our city in this building. And we just don’t get recognition,” Attaway said.

From his first time entering the school building as a wee 9th grader to now, 43 years later, Attaway has noticed the many good and bad changes that have formed the school. One specific change that has stuck with him is how the make-up of the school community has changed since his freshman year.

When I went to school here, diversity was considered to be that we had Italians, Germans and Irish in the building; it was predominantly white. And that changed after I graduated,” Attaway said.

Attway added that he also hopes East’s community pride will build and that the school will become more academically challenging and advanced in the future.