Students and staff members from all schools in the district assembled in the Howe High School gym on Friday, Sept. 22 for a special Homecoming pep rally where they honored the 30-year coaching career of educator Coach Steve Simmons.

Simmons said he could not have thought of anything better than being surrounded by parents, kids and Bulldogs. He was not quick to forget the students who had endeared themselves to him in the years before he started his three-decade long journey of leading Howe students from pups into Bulldogs.

“Not to mention the ones I dearly taught and loved [in] Celina, Van Alstyne and Chillicothe,” Simmons said, adding that he’s been blessed with “wonderful years and special kids everywhere I’ve been.”

In his time as a dedicated Bulldogs eductor, Simmons has become just an icon of the Howe community. He recounted what he felt as he walked into the gym to stand before a sea of familiar faces cheering in adoration.

“It was just an awesome experience — touching, meaningful, special, very emotional. It’s capping off a 40-year career, this is going to be my last year,” Simmons said of his first impression of the Homecoming rally.

“They told me to stay in coach Hudson’s office. They wouldn’t let me in the gym,” Simmons said. “When I looked in [the gym], everyone in the school district had on this t-shirt. It was Bulldog heaven.” Those in attendance were dressed in Bulldog black and silver t-shirts with descriptions of Simmons’ career printed on them.

Simmons was honored by the district that has become his family with a surprise pep rally to recognize and celebrate the final school year before Howe Elementary School’s beloved physical education teacher retires after 31 years of educating three generations of Bulldogs.

The former head coach of the Howe High School football team has earned the admiration of an entire community since he started teaching the children of his physical education program’s “Thunder Division” in 1987. Each one of Simmons’ divisions is unique in name, with each assigned a motto and gesture having to do with their name. Simmons is well known by those familiar with the Howe educational community to be one of the very few people capable of being able to silence a massive crowd of Bulldogs, gaining their laser-focused attention by raising a single hand in the air.

Simmons fondly recalled a track meet in 1994 when a student ran across the field to give him a hug. The seventh grader told him the meet felt more like a family celebration than an athletic competition.

“He looked at me and said ‘man this is just like a family reunion.’ I said ‘you know what, that’s what it is. Because we are family and you are a part of it,’” said Simmons. “They [the students] all feel a part of that, you can see it they just fit into the spirit, they become part of that family and that’s what we have here at Howe. You just can’t beat it.”

Simmons has been a fixture of the community for decades, in recent years serving to welcome the grandchildren of his former students.

Simmons remains as highly enthusiastic about his physical education program which has been in place since his first year in Howe’s school system. One of his most notable and long-running traditions has been the Howe Elementary School Day of Champions, an annual school-wide track meet that is held in lieu of a field day every year. This was started by Simmons in conjunction with school district administration in 1987.

Much like a proud parent, Simmons has never seen a single loser in the eyes of the students he has known and loved as if they were his own flesh and blood, regardless of what any scoreboard says at the end of a competition. Simmons has made a point to stick with his Bulldogs through the best and worst of times, even offering words of wisdom to the current Howe varsity football team who has seen a rough go of the season so far, having yet to earn a victory on the field in the 2017 season.

“The best thing I see in our team is the same thing I see in all our kids, they never quit, they never give in,” Simmons said. “That’s the number one thing that we teach is that drive, the drive can’t stop, don’t let nothing stop the drive, and that we are undefeated in.” Simmons said that if the 2017 Bulldog football team can keep the determination and drive he has tried to impart to them throughout the years that the Bulldogs of Howe will always be a successful team from his point of view.

“As long as we are undefeated in [drive] this coach is happy,” Simmons said, praising the entire Howe atheletics season and all of its supporting players.