Just about everybody in Rye knows Craig Sandhaus, the special education teacher. That’s because in his spare time, he is a personal trainer, a personal training consultant to health clubs, a martial arts teacher, a swimming instructor, and lifeguard certification trainer.
By Sarah Varney and Melanie Cane
Just about everybody in Rye knows Craig Sandhaus, the special education teacher. That’s because in his spare time, he is a personal trainer, a personal training consultant to health clubs, a martial arts teacher, a swimming instructor, and lifeguard certification trainer. He has coached varsity and middle school cross country and track and created a martial arts club for middle schoolers that morphed into a club for high school students. He has also served as pool director at Rye Golf, Coveleigh, and the Shenorock Shore clubs.
But with the graduation of his son Bradley from Rye High last month, Sandhaus retired after 31 years of teaching. He and his wife Lisa are building a house in Charlotte, N.C. and will move south once their house in Port Chester sells. Lisa directs the playschool program at Rye Presbyterian Church.
When Sandhaus arrived at Rye High in 1981, special education was new and only one teacher — a physical education teacher — was certified in special education. But even so, he felt lucky to be in Rye. “I came here and I thought I’d died and gone to heaven,” says Sandhaus.
In the early 1990s, Rye was part of the nationwide move to put sixth graders back in middle school. “When I heard that they were bringing sixth grade to middle school, I thought that it would be really fun to teach in that environment. But I had to promise the then-principal that I wouldn’t go back to the high school,” he says. The sixth grade was smaller then with just 80-90 students and the teachers were able to design an interwoven curriculum that used a particular topic in each of the core classes.
Sandhaus stresses that it was Dr. Ann Edwards, principal of Rye Middle School and Joe DeRuvo who recognized early on that students who were not yet classified as needing “special ed,” still urgently needed an academic support program. Rye has always been on the “cutting edge” of special education and Sandhaus credits Dr. Edwards for “really pushing inclusion,” when it was brand new.
Today the number of students receiving some form of academic support has grown drastically. “Early detection is one reason [for the increase]. Nowadays, parents and teachers pick up on special needs much earlier,” he said.
Sandhaus also was a beloved coach to hundreds of runners, and created the Dean Flood Memorial Scholarship Fund, which provides money to deserving students and has made an indelible mark on the Rye community.
In his first year of coaching, a student from Ireland joined the team. The student turned out to be Mike Collins, Class of ’83, who won States in cross country and placed fourth in the National Cross Country Championships. Collins also set the RHS record for the mile (4:14:1), which still stands today.
Sandhaus has coached many league and county champions, but his legacy and contribution to the Rye community transcends winning and losing, titles, and records. Coach Sandhaus helped kids be the best that they could be and even more importantly, he helped them to feel good about themselves.
Athletic Director Rob Castagna created an award in the coach’s honor. The first Craig Sandhaus Cross Country Award, presented to an accomplished senior with a strong work ethic, determination, love of life, and a true sense of leadership, went to Ellie Friedmann, a two-time cross-country captain for Sandhaus. She was an All-League, All-Section runner who qualified for States in her junior year.
Being with his team was always his favorite part of the day, Sandhaus said. He looked forward all day to practice. “It was such a great feeling to be with such great kids who love what they do and love one another. Rye has been the best community I could ever work in. I am so lucky to have been a part of this for so long.”
Not surprisingly, retiring is bittersweet. “Coaching and teaching in Rye has been a really big part of my life but we’re looking forward to the change,” Sandhaus said. “My wish for the younger teachers is that they should have as wonderful an experience as I’ve had.”