By Shin Park
She’s the familiar face you see walking through the lobby, running around the track, or working in her office. Give her a hello and you can always expect the friendly gesture back. Tara Casey Rosenthal, known more commonly by the student body as Coach Casey, has worked in the Great Neck District as a physical education teacher for the past thirty-eight and a half years. Having put down her attendance clipboard for the last time in March, Coach Casey is leaving South High as one of the school’s most beloved Rebels.
Reflecting back on her time at South, Coach Casey realizes her time as a teacher was not what she expected. She originally debated on either pursuing a career as a nurse or following her father’s footsteps as a gym teacher; in the end, she found herself fascinated by the physical education aspect of a career. However, looking like one of the high school students during her earlier years teaching, she had to handle most of her classes with discipline. As time went on, she learned that the way she had to manage each class depended on the students.
“Get them to do what they need to do without yelling at them,” she advises. “Have fun with them.”
And her memories at South are nothing but fun. She reflects on one of her favorite classes—her 2018 ninth period gym class—where there was never a pillow polo game that didn’t end with students chasing each other with sticks, a ball kicked to the back of the storage room, and a teacher in the corner laughing her lungs out. She also savors the memories from her field hockey games: her team taking off their socks and shoes to play on the turf, her team clapping despite having lost the game, and her goalie refusing to play in the rain because it would ruin her hair.
One of Coach Casey’s major goals was to be a role model for her students. She used humor to keep them engaged, and she exercised in her freetime to motivate her students to be active. And what a role model she’s been.
Despite taking 25 years off of coaching to take care of her sons, she has coached over 46 teams for the school district. From field hockey to gymnastics to lacrosse, Coach Casey has met and formed close and personal bonds with hundreds of students.
Some of her students have been so impacted by the role Coach Casey played in their lives that they answer with her name when asked about their most influential high school teacher. Coach Casey has been honored to be offered the title three times in her career: from MIT’s Jackie Liao, Cornell University’s Danny Rosenfeld, and Carleton College’s Annie Cohen. Teary eyed, Coach Casey said, “As a physical education teacher, having three students tell me that I’m their most influential teacher is so important to me.”
After her husband retires, Coach Casey plans to travel and explore the world. She also plans on reading, running, biking, and doing yoga—the things she loves doing. She also plans on coming back to coach field hockey and gymnastics.
“I wish we had a chance to say goodbye in a better way,” she leaves the message to her students. “I just want to say that I loved all my years at South with that—I loved our laughs and chats and our time together.”