Valued counselor and coach at Park City High School to leave
This past Friday, as Jerry Fiat watched his final graduating-class commencement on Dozier Field, he could take pride in the fact that 62 percent of those students, according to Park City High School (PCHS), were accepted to their first-choice colleges. Retiring after 23 years as career and guidance counselor at PCHS, Fiat played no small part in the success of these many students.
Fiat came to Utah in 1973 to pursue graduate studies after receiving degrees in physical education and driver’s education from Iowa State University. At the time, his family lived mostly in Chicago and even though he had planned to move west with his wife, "their sense was where is Utah?" he said.
His studies completed, Fiat spent the 1975 school year skiing and substitute teaching at Hillcrest High School in Midvale. Later, he landed more permanent work at Hillcrest teaching social studies, U.S. and world history. He also taught a course entitled teens and law. Most like a criminology class, this unit was an educational and preventive lesson for students.
Fiat later left Hillcrest to take the football head-coaching position at Bingham High School. Part of a tough league, Bingham reached the playoffs against traditional powerhouses Brighton and Alta under Fiat.
After five years at Bingham, Fiat got word of an opening at PCHS and took over as career and guidance counselor in 1985. Still friends with Burns, whom he earlier met at Hillcrest and whom he actually played football against in college, Fiat had ties to PCHS where Burns worked.
Fiat’s previous schools had been larger suburban schools, so the small PCHS came as something of a change. He recalled that it was a milestone when the graduating class swelled to 100 students. Fiat also came to a school in the midst of serious changes. His principal, Jack Dozier, believed strongly in recruiting top talent to instruct at the school.
For his part, Fiat hoped to rejuvenate and refocus the counseling services at the school. Although not all students intended to go to four or two-year schools, Fiat wanted to make sure that students had help transitioning to the next level.
Although Fiat counts himself as one among a group of dedicated instructors who influenced PCHS around the same time, much of his work at PCHS he did alone. Fiat is proud to say that he has taken the time to visit at least one school of higher learning during the entirety of his career at PCHS, both to keep himself fresh and to spread the word about the quality of PCHS students. Students at PCHS have always had the ability to make it to the next level, Fiat said, but growth and a change in expectations has allowed more students that opportunity.
Aside from his official title as counselor, Fiat also coached football alongside Bob Burns and Jesse Schaub. Off the field he coached Sterling Scholars and administered and coordinated AP testing. When Fiat started, PCHS offered six or fewer AP exams. Now the school offers 22 different exams.
After 23 years, Fiat will officially retire this Friday. His wife, a professor of dance at the University of Utah will continue in her role for at least another three years. While Fiat is still determining his plans for retirement, he said that he will likely spend a lot of time tutoring two of his children who are just finishing their first year as teachers. He also plans to spend time at a family house in Minnesota.
"(Teaching here has) been a privilege and an exciting opportunity to be a part of this district," Fiat said.
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