April 21, 2017 05:30PM
By Leigh Tauss
MERIDEN – Teachers at Edison Middle School have organized a road race in memory of Dennis Ensinger, a longtime physical education teacher at the school known for his humor and compassion for students.
“He loved the kids and always put the kids first,” said gym teacher Amy Stinton.
Ensinger, 46, died Sept. 11, 2015 after suffering a heart attack two weeks prior. Colleagues described him as a larger-than-life personality who was a role model for the students for the 14 years he worked at the school since its establishment in 2001.
“The kids trust him,” said science teacher Travis Crawford said. “He could be a loud, imposing gym teacher and the next minute he could be having a moment with a student. They opened up to and trusted him.”
News of Ensinger’s heart attack was a shock to school staff, who learned of it just two days before the start of the school year. Crawford said he had plans to golf with Ensinger that weekend.
“It’s hard to overemphasize how much of a big, strong, fast guy he was,” Crawford said. “It was unbelievable.”
Health teacher Matt Gross said Ensinger’s absence was heavily felt by students and staff.
“It was weird not seeing him walking down the hallways,” Gross said. “I taught with him for 13 years and we were just so used to seeing him every day.”
The idea to hold a 5k was emailed to school staff by eight grader Cristian Pagan, 14. Teachers at the school then took the initiative to organize the event.
Ensinger left behind a wife and two sons. While the event functions as a fundraiser for Ensinger’s family, school staff say it’s not about the money.
“When somebody passes, a great way to deal with that is to work together to do something positive for our community,” Crawford said.
The 3.1-mile road race will take place at 10:30 a.m. May 20 at Hubbard Park in Meriden. Registration is $32 for adults and $22 for children 11-17. Those who register prior to April 28 will get a free t-shirt with registration. Same-day race registration will be available for an additional $5. The event is rain or shine.