Virginia High School Celebrates Calculus Teacher's 90th Birthday

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Students and staff at Alexandria City High School celebrated a special birthday this week: calculus teacher, Lou Kokonis turned 90.

Kokonis lives to help his students master math.

“It seems like just yesterday I was just starting to teach, and now all of a sudden, here I am at 90 teaching. It's overwhelming,” he said.

One of his own high school math teachers inspired his career. 

“The teacher once told me, ‘You know, you do really well explaining. Maybe you want to be a teacher,’” Kokonis said.

Kokonis started in the Alexandria public schools in 1959. He’s taught more than 6,000 students students since, including Superintendent Gregory Hutchings.

If you’re happy with what you’re doing, I don’t see any reason for retiring.

Lou Kokoni

Hutchings remembers as a sophomore in a class of older students, he sometimes misbehaved to get attention. Kokonis kept him focused. 

“He is somebody who is the epitome of kindness and welcoming,” Hutchings said. “So, even though it wasn’t my favorite subject, he always told me that I was good at it, and I believed him, and then hey, I got a degree in it.”

In his 63-year career, Kokonis has gone from chalk and blackboard to smart boards and laptops. The pandemic forced another big adjustment: teaching remotely via Zoom.

“I didn’t want to deprive the students of not learning that year, so I tried to do the best I could with using Zoom and some other aids,” he said. 

His students say Kokonis always makes time.

“He’s definitely very kind, and you can just pop in during lunch. He’ll help you with anything,” senior Emil Lasida said. 

Kokonis says retirement has not entered his mind. 

“I never even think about that,” he said. “If you’re happy with what you’re doing, I don’t see any reason for retiring.”

“I’m kind of like an introvert,” he said. “I’m happy just being a teacher.” 

Alexandria City High School is happy to have him for as long as he wants to stay.

“He embodies everything that’s great about teaching,” principal Peter Balas said.

“I’ve already committed myself to next year, and it’s year by year,” Kokonis said. “I’d like to keep going.”

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