Along with bringing an end to the school year, tonight’s Andrews High School graduation also brings an end to the 35-year career of coach and physical education teacher Allen Poston.
Next year someone else will occupy Poston's impeccably decorated classroom off the school’s gym.
“I try to keep the room smelling good,” Poston said. “It’s probably the most beautiful classroom in the whole entire school. I’ve got a lot of neat stuff in here.”
Every week Poston adds things to the classroom walls, and makes a game out of which kids notice.
“I’m trying to teach them how to be observant,” Poston said. “Once you start giving out Gatorade, or some little prize, they’ll start paying attention to what’s around. That’s a good skill to have, observation.”
Poston graduated from Andrews High in 1977 and headed to Chowan College in Murfreesboro, North Carolina, to study and play football. At the time, Chowan was a two-year junior college. After a stint at Middle Tennessee State University, Poston returned home to get his South Carolina teaching certification.
Poston was hired by the Georgetown County School District in 1982, and became the phys ed teacher at Brown’s Ferry and Sampit elementary schools.
In 1984, he transferred to Andrews High. For the first 16 years he taught science. For the last 17 years he’s taught phys ed.
Poston likes to use rhymes and riddles when he’s teaching, sometimes to the frustration of his students.
“I want (them) to figure it out, I want (them) to think,” he said. “I don’t think we make our students think enough so I try to make them think, because they don’t like to think.”
Poston has also coached every sport at Andrews High except for softball and volleyball. He won region championships in golf, football, track and basketball, and coached a few individual state champions.
For the first 30 years of his career he coached three sports every year, but it’s football that he loves.
“Football was my main calling,” Poston said. “That’s what I wanted to do. I guess I spent the majority of my time chasing a football. That was my first love.”
Former Andrews High Principal Webber Rowell hired Poston as the school’s football coach.
“He gave me a chance,” Poston said. “He gave me an opportunity.”
Poston averaged seven wins a year as head coach, and remains the second winningest football coach in school history.
Poston also started the weightlifting program at Andrews High.
“When I first came back home, we really didn’t have a weight room and I was able to get the Booster Club to build us one, and they built us a nice one,” Poston said.
He also teamed up with Keith Brown, the former principal at Georgetown Middle and Waccamaw High schools, to get weightlifting classes added to the school district’s curriculum.
“(Keith and I) knew the importance of strength training because we had been to college and played,” Poston said. “I had graduated from college and come back and knew what needed to be done.”
After a 1-9 record in 1999, Poston stepped down as football coach and transferred to Georgetown Middle.
“I thought the world had come to an end but it had only just started because I met a lot of great people over in Georgetown,” Poston said.
Poston took over the school’s football team and compiled a 60-10 record. He’s also coached the B-team at Rosemary Middle School, where he went 14-6.
“I’m just as proud of that as anything else,” Poston said. “We were able to do some great things and I had some great experiences. It was the hardest job I ever had, but it made me a better coach because I had to change a lot of the things I was doing. It made me think.”
One of the Rosemary players the last few years was Eli Durham, son of current Andrews High football Coach Scott Durham.
“He’s been a tremendous asset to our program,” Durham said of Poston. “Our B-team program was a mess when he arrived. He brought stability, continuity and a winning attitude to the program. I’m very thankful for the job he has done and for the fact that my son got to play for him.”
Poston said he is convinced that if Durham stays at Andrews High, he’ll eventually win more games than he did.
When Poston was the head coach at Andrews, one of his rivals was Ken Cribb, who was the head coach at Johnsonville High School.
“You knew his kids were always going to be physical and play hard,” said Cribb, who recently left Bluffton High School for Wayne County High School in Jesup, Georgia.
Cribb said the key to Poston’s longevity is his spirit and his toughness.
“He’s old school, but he’s like a kid magnet. Kids love him,” Cribb said. “His personality is like nobody else. Every time Allen’s around, things are always lively. He keeps things going.”
Cribb said coaching against Poston made “memories I take with me for the rest of my life.”
Poston’s success led to job offers outside of Georgetown County, but Cribb is not surprised he never left.
“He’s a Georgetown County boy,” Cribb said. “You ain’t getting him out of there.”
“I turned down several jobs that we would have had to move,” Poston said. “My kids didn’t want to move. … It worked out pretty good.”
Poston and his wife, Robin, have two children: Walt, who is the golf coach and athletic director at Carvers Bay High School; and Katie, who is an educator in Colorado. Robin is a partner at Harper, Poston and Moree in Georgetown.
Walt said as a child, when he was getting ready to leave for school, hid dad would ask him “What are you going to school for?”
“I would tell him, to learn,” Walt said. “That kind of put things in perspective for me.”
In his spare time, Poston is president of Cherry Hill Country Club.
“It’s about we’ve got left in Andrews other than the churches,” he said. “We’ve done a good enough job to keep it open.”
The Postons live on the golf course, and Walt said his dad starting teaching him the game when he was very young and encouraged him to play junior golf.
Walt said golf has been a “blessing” that has taught him a lot of life lessons, and he wouldn’t trade the memories of time spent with his dad on the course for anything.
“We’re still competitive,” Walt said. “It’s something we do as a family. It’s something we enjoy. It’s been good for us.”
Walt said his decision to follow his father into education and coaching was due in part to watching former students stop by the house to see his dad, and how happy people were to see his dad around town.
“One of his biggest accomplishments is all the positive relationships he formed,” Walt said. “I hope I can form as many positive relationships as he has and learn my craft to the best of my ability.”
When Walt was hired at Carvers Bay, his dad told him to keep a folder of “positive” things, like thank you notes and Christmas cards, and take it out when times get tough.
"Keep the good things that show you that formed good relationships with your students," Walt said.
Poston said what he will miss most about teaching and coaching is the relationships with students. He’s taught a lot of sons and daughters of former students, and this year, he coached a grandson of a former student.
"It's been an awesome ride but I’m ready to get off," Poston said. "I told my wife … I’ve been doing what everybody else wanted me to do for a long time, it’s come time for me to do a little bit of what I want to do.”