Longtime P.E. instructor retires after 24 years

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By ANTHONY FLORES

Growing up, Holly Kociuba struggled with asthma. But the seventh of eight children didn’t let that stop her from running down a path that led her to a 24-year career as one of Liberty Hill ISD’s most beloved physical education teachers.

“I struggled with asthma, and my mom didn’t want me to run, but I wanted to. I was always the one who would never do what she was told to do,” said Kociuba. “Finally, I got it under control, and I loved to compete, and I ran in college and went to Europe in 1977 with the AAU team to compete. I started out as an art major, but because I was on the track team and into P.E., they kind of talked me into switching degrees. It was in my blood, and my love of running drove a lot of my P.E program.”

After 24 years in Liberty Hill, Kociuba is retiring from Liberty Hill Intermediate School. The lifelong athlete is preparing to enter the next stage of her life with the same drive and motivation.

“It came much sooner than I think I was ready. It feels awesome. Family is first for me always, and my daughter is expecting her first baby,” she said. “I didn’t have the days to take off and be with her for several weeks, so I decided to retire and help her. It’s exciting, and I have a lot of things to look forward to.”

Retiring can be a difficult transition for some people, especially those like Kociuba who like being active. The retiring coach isn’t worried about the change. This allows her to delve fully into her creative endeavors.

“I own a small business, and I do all the woodworking myself. My father, he’s 101, and I grew up in the south woodworking in the basement with him. I make oil-burning wood candles, platters, and anything out of wood. I never had a lot of time to spend on it. I would stay up till 10:30 or 11 on weekdays or spend my whole weekend creating. So, I’m excited to have more time to spend on that.”

With a lifetime of experience woodworking, the next move for Kociuba was making her hobby a business.

“I started my business in 2016. A lot of people said you shouldn’t give those away as a gift. You should sell them,” she said. “I figured I’d try it, and I did. I made time to go to shows and sell, and it was really starting to become a full-time job on top of my full-time job. My heart was in P.E., but the artsy side of me was really crying out to have more time.”

With a yearning to embrace her creativity, Kociuba allowed her ideas to flow into her job as a P.E. instructor.

“I was going to be that graphic artist, but I think throughout my P.E. career, the creative side of me was able to flourish,” said Kociuba. “I have created so many things and traditions to have at school. Being able to do some artwork on t-shirts or just the bulletin board.”

Kociuba began her career as a P.E. instructor in Georgetown after earning a doctorate in dance from the University of Houston. After seven years in Georgetown, she took a 14-year hiatus from P.E. to raise her children. Kociuba made her way to Liberty Hill after former principal Kathy Major reached out to her.

“There was an opening in P.E., and as soon as it opened, it shut down because the lady decided not to quit. So, she asked me to try out for this 4th-grade classroom position, and I told her I’m not a 4th-grade teacher. She said we’ll help you. I took the job and learned to love it and admire other classroom teachers. When it became the Intermediate, I realized this was my calling. I love 5th and 6th grade P.E. I want this job, and I got it.”

In her time at the Intermediate school, Kociuba started several programs, including the cross-country unit and the Intermediate Mile.

“The last thing I created was my operation field day, which was after my daughter, a sponsored obstacle course racer for a time. I would go watch her, and I knew how much it cost people to do those obstacles,” said Kociuba. “I asked my husband if I draw this out, do you think you could build these. He did. We had 37 obstacles over a three-mile course, and you could see everything I taught come to fruition. The kids had to use all of their physical skills and team comradery. It was a dream come true. I hope someone carries it on.”

Looking back on her 24 years in Liberty Hill, Kociuba is grateful to have joined such a tight-knit community.

“My mother would say, and I know it’s cliché, that it takes a village to raise a kid, and it does. I started when Liberty Hill was small, and I knew everybody, and everybody knew my children. It was truly an awesome experience. It was good for everybody. We all celebrated each other’s successes and helped each other through hard times. It carries you through a lot when you have that community comradery. That’s very special.”

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