Shiffrin Leaves Big Shoes To Fill At Merritt Island High
By Maria Sonnenberg // August 13, 2013
Served Brevard public schools for 42 years
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – After examining a few pictures, anybody can sense a pattern in the photos taken of Gary Shiffrin. The man is usually wearing black and gold.
There’s a picture of Shiffrin in a plaid zoot suit of that color. In another one, he sports a polo shirt with the same hues.
OUTSTANDING EDUCATOR & COACH
Shiffrin isn’t just a fan of the two tones, but rather he’s a devotee of the official school colors of black and gold for his beloved Merritt Island High School, from where he retired this June after a long and outstanding career with the Brevard County Public Schools.
Shiffrin’s association with the public school system spans 42 years and several schools.
At Merritt Island High, he racked up a full decade. Before that, he spent 14 years, 10 of them as principal, at Thomas Jefferson Middle School in Merritt Island.
For six years, he was assistant principal at Cocoa Beach High School.
When he was offered his first teaching job, Shiffrin, straight out of Springfield College in Massachusetts, embraced Brevard with all the fervor of a long-lost brother.
Tack on four more of assistant principal duties, this time at Cocoa Beach High School. He served at Stone Junior High School for a year just after he had left Melbourne High School, where he started his teaching duties as an educator and coach.
Shiffrin was also a coach and athletic director; and served as the commissioner of the Cape Coast Conference for 23 years and was the Space Coast’s representative on the FHSAA assembly.
“It’s been a long career,” said Shiffrin.
“Brevard County has been the one and only place where I have worked.”
When he was offered his first teaching job, Shiffrin, straight out of Springfield College in Massachusetts, embraced Brevard with all the fervor of a long-lost brother. An Army brat, he had grown accustomed to moving every couple of years, living in locales such as Alaska.
“When we were there, it was still a territory, but it was right around the time that it became a state,” he said.
DESTINED TO BECOME AN EDUCATOR
His ninth and tenth grades in high school were spent in Korea. Unfortunately, his family was stationed in South Korea, while the only American high school was in Seoul.
So every weekend, the teenaged Shiffrin would board a train for the six-and-a-half hour trip to Seoul, where he lived in a dorm.
“It was an interesting experience,” he said.
Although Shiffrin is the first in his family to pursue a college degree, he had not originally intended to follow education as a career.
“My ultimate goal at that time was to go to West Point,” he said.
Poor eyesight got in the way, however.
“I had the nomination, but the eye exam did that in,” he said. “When that happened, another route I thought to take to serve my country was to become an educator. I’ve always liked kids, so I thought it would be a good fit.”
HELPED TO SHAPE GENERATIONS
The Space Coast provided Shiffrin with continuity, a place where he could hang his hat for the long run. He loved it from the get-go and here he stayed. Brevard was fortunate, for Gary Shiffrin has helped to shape generations.
For six years, he was assistant principal at Cocoa Beach High School. Tack on four more of assistant principal duties, this time at Cocoa Beach High School. He served at Stone Junior High School for a year just after he had left Melbourne High School, where he started his teaching duties as an educator and coach.
During his long tenure, Shiffrin has impacted the lives of thousands of Brevardians and spent many, many days – and a lot of evenings – helping his students reach their potential.
Shiffrin is a firm believer that, as a principal, the buck stops at his desk.
“You want to make sure that students are getting the quality education they deserve, that parent needs are being met and that the staff enjoys their jobs,” he said.
“As a principal, you are responsible for everything that happens in that school.”
Education is all in the family for Shiffrin’s clan. His wife, Kathy, is a guidance counselor at Space Coast Junior/Senior High School, and daughter Courtney is in her 10th year teaching elementary school.
Son Ross, after a stint as a golf professional, served in the Air Force for five years and is now getting ready to return to school.
In retirement, Shiffrin plans to sharpen his golf game, which should be easy, considering he lives on a golf course at golf-happy Viera East.
“I’ve played golf since I was 11,” he said. “It is an important game for me.”
He is not quite retired, either, for Shiffrin has slotted time for a new job as assistant to the executive director of the Brevard Association of School Administrators. The teacher in him wants to stay connected.
“It enables me to stay involved in education,” he said.