Mr. Luft: A History of Classroom Inspiration

Meaningful Stories, Good Humor, and Great Teaching Marked 21 Years at E.O. – So Too Did Ritz Crackers And Funky Expo Art
Mr. Luft occupied the single chair in the front of the classroom as he shared stories about history and life, captivating and inspiring his students for 21 years.
Mr. Luft occupied the single chair in the front of the classroom as he shared stories about history and life, captivating and inspiring his students for 21 years.
Photo by Anna Utterback

Kayla Lin, a sophomore, perfectly describes Mr. Luft’s ability to make teaching history an artform in a piece titled “Artists’ Luft”:

“‘Don’t make fun of my drawings’ was a phrase that Mr. Luft coined often, grabbing the blue Expo marker and marching up to the whiteboard. The class would typically sit in silence (and mild confusion) listening to the squeaks of Mr. Luft’s marker as he constructed maps of Connecticut, intricate renditions of waterways through the US, or squiggly outlines of railroads during the 1800’s. His artistic endeavors, while no match for Renaissance paintings, were cherished masterpieces nonetheless. Unfortunately, there is only so much that one can illustrate with an Expo marker, regardless of the intricate vision for history Mr. Luft may have had. Although his artistic ability was often stifled by the confines of the Expo Markers, Mr. Luft’s room has become more of a canvas than he may have imagined. From the stack of Zinn in the closet, to the Ritz crackers sitting safely on his desk, to the daily changing water bottle, Mr. Luft has spent countless hours refining his craft of sitting in the central chair  – throne, if you will –  painting the story of history. His class has become a canvas in which he paints the narratives of history that resonate within each student. He is as much of an artist as a teacher. These stories transcend time. Never missing a moment to share a Lego Stop Motion movie or a music video, Mr. Luft has a quiet vibrancy to him, transforming each mundane lecture into a little masterpiece.

“Not only was Mr. Luft an artist, but he also was an artistic necessity in my own paintings. I once asked him to pose as a reference picture for me. I approached him with my strange request after class, and his response – ‘Hands? You don’t want my hands. These are stumps!’ What Mr. Luft didn’t know, however, that all I wanted were hands that told a story. And Mr. Luft was certainly a storyteller. He had sat in his chair and told stories: his stories, her stories, the quiet stories, and the buried stories, looking to deviate from this idea of a ‘single story’ history. And year after year, without fail, Mr. Luft has retold millions of them, and crafted his own at the same time, all of them imperfect, but each individual one just as valuable. Mr. Luft often encouraged us to look beyond the compartmentalized perspectives that skewed our perception of history, asking us to search for a hidden lens. In turn, this inspired us to share our own stories in connection to history.

“So, thank you, to our storyteller, and to our artist, who has painted with the tinted hues of complex history. Most importantly, thank you for the stories.”


I remember walking into Mr. Luft’s class for the first time, feeling hollowed out and lightheaded, dreading entering the room. This was my first AP class, and not to mention, one of the hardest available. But Mr. Luft surprised me, he was able to perfectly balance the seriousness of the class with an understanding of teenagers and our perspective. Class was always entertaining, either because we were watching some of the World Cup in class while we worked, or we argued over silly topics, or we spent time debating aspects of a historical time period.

As we say goodbye to Mr. Luft after 21 years at E.O. Smith, we can all fondly remember him not only for his skill as a teacher but for what he was able to teach us as young people learning to become active and constructive citizens of our country. Mr. Luft has taught a wide variety of social studies courses, though many readers will know him as the famous A.P. U.S. History teacher, as he took on the enormous task of teaching us one of the most dense subjects American high schools have to offer.

Even with our busy schedules as teachers or students, Mr. Luft always found a way to bring some good humor and positivity into the classroom and into our lives, as his colleagues and students express.

As we say goodbye to Mr. Luft after 21 years at E.O. Smith, we can all fondly remember him not only for his skill as a teacher but for what he was able to teach us as young people learning to become active and constructive citizens of our country.

Mr. Santasiere, a fellow teacher at E.O., remarked on Mr. Luft’s effort to bring some joy to students and staff during COVID. “During the pandemic when we were all at home and yearning for connection with one another, Mr Luft decided to get a dog and wanted help naming it.  He ran this naming tournament where students and staff could vote on a name.  His weekly video updates were a welcome distraction and connected us around something positive and fun.  Marley the dog is probably most excited about Lufty’s retirement.”

Mr. Koerner, another staff member and close friend of Luft’s at E.O. also told of Luft’s good-natured attitude: “A favorite story comes to mind about Mr. Luft is when Mr. Luft and I were playing golf together with Mr. Ericson and Mr. Konow.  I was up on a tee box while Mr. Luft sat below in his golf cart. As I went to hit my ball I noticed a wheel roll by me down the hill. I hit my ball and walked down the stairs to get my clubs, but strangely  I couldn’t see my clubs or cart. When I asked what that wheel was from, my group had the biggest smiles on their faces, except Mr. Luft, as apparently he had accidentally driven  over my cart and clubs and it was my cart tire that had rolled by me. Mr. Luft gladly drove me around for the day and kindly bought me a new cart to replace mine. The replacement was a sweet neon green too. Every time I look at it on the course I think of Andy, my friend and his excellent golf course driving skills and laugh.”

Makena Hendricks, a current junior and a student of Luft’s, remembered how Mr. Luft’s attitude affected the classroom, “One day in APUSH, Mr Luft came in and he gave us a 20 minute lecture on how girls always have their first day of school outfits picked out 2 weeks before. He knew how to make the classes fun and interesting. He told the most random stories and we knew that we would get off topic at least 2 times each class.”

Mr. Luft’s effort to make the classroom a comfortable and happy place even with the amount of work expected of him and his students was a common and recognizable trait of the teacher. Sophia Caneira, another junior and former student of Luft, expressed Mr. Luft’s ability to make “APUSH a really fun class – I always looked forward to his lectures!”


These stories are only a small snippet of Mr. Luft’s time here at E.O., one filled with both incredibly fun and wholesome situations as well as instances of some truly incredible teaching. Mr. Luft is highly respected by his colleagues, and has mentored many teachers in his time teaching at Lyman and E.O., and this appreciation was expressed by students and staff alike.

“‘Lufty’ when you were my cooperating teacher at Lyman Memorial High School, you understood me quickly as I began my second career and you immediately gave me total freedom and trust to lead our students,” wrote Mr. Bowen, a social studies teacher here at E.O., “I appreciated your willingness to let me thrive, be creative and figure out who I would become as a teacher.

“When we talk about the value of using film in class it is obvious we share the love for film to teach important events in history and present day. Sometimes in the rare circumstance when we were unsure about how to teach something, inevitably you would say ‘just press play’ for whatever impactful film told the story! Andy, during our years together you always embraced those meaningful life lessons we taught our students and the ultimate compliment for me was you teaching those and supporting me fully. We always shared a common understanding of what is important to impart on our students and I will miss and never forget that.”

“Always the best to you in retirement Lufty! Tim.

“Enjoy, your retirement, my friend.”

“Show Up and Be Kind” – Malcolm Felix (A quote added by Mr. Bowen, which speaks to the ideals Mr. Luft led with in his classroom ).

In response to my question, “Is there anything you’d like to say to Mr. Luft before he leaves?” Mr. Santasiere responded, “I have appreciated Lufty’s timely humor and his realistic view of education.  His support for young teachers, student teachers, and colleagues has been consistent and integral for anyone who has had the opportunity to work with him.  His concern for his students and their success is so much greater than anyone will ever know.”

Ms. Mamunes, a teacher in special services here at E.O. who was also student-taught under Mr. Luft, commented, “I did my student teaching under Andy Luft. I used to love sitting in his class, watching him do his thing. Mr. Luft is a storyteller. He engages you in such a way that when you listen to him you yourself travel through time and you can actually imagine yourself in that particular historic time period. I am sad that Andy is retiring as I believe few can match his teaching style, one that I could see the students loved and admired. EOS was extremely fortunate to have Andy all these years. I will miss my friend.”

Mr. Konow, another close friend of Luft, also expressed his appreciation for Luft, saying, “Mr. Luft, congratulations on the completion of a wonderful career at E.O. Smith.  You’ve had a positive impact on countless people during your tenure here at EO and before that at Lyman.  I’m not sure what I’m going to do at lunch once you leave. Our chats were one of the highlights of my day.”


Personally, I find that Mr. Luft’s teaching style is one of the most engaging I’ve ever come across. Never in class did I question the importance of the work or activities we did, they were all clearly for the purpose of understanding the themes of American historical eras, and this lack of questioning on my part allowed me to engage with the material more. 

I also cannot thank Mr. Luft enough for the positive impact he’s had on my life, being probably the only teacher capable of getting me to chill out about grades, encouraging me and my classmates to care and wonder about history, guiding us through AP exam madness, challenging our point of views to train us to have evidence on our side, and, of course, allowing things to get (a bit) off track when we really needed the brain break. Truly, I don’t think I’ll ever have another teacher like Luft. 

I hope Mr. Luft understands that his help guiding us academically was just as significant as how he helped guide us through young-adulthood. “Mr. Luft’s Life Lessons” better known as his commentary on Pixar’s “Soul” will not soon leave my mind as I navigate the rest of high school and the rest of my life. I promise to enjoy the little and the big things, to keep my hopes up even when things don’t work out, to remember I am always enough and that my “spark” isn’t my purpose, and to never, ever, become a lost soul.

Thank you for everything, Mr. Luft. We all sincerely appreciate what you’ve done for us and we hope you enjoy retirement!!!


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  • S

    Shannon CartierFeb 5, 2024 at 6:50 am

    Thank you for putting this tribute together, beautifully done! It makes me wish I had Mr. Luft as a teacher.
    Well done, Best Wishes to Mr. Luft!

  • S

    SantasiereFeb 1, 2024 at 12:57 pm

    Anna, thank you for writing such a beautiful tribute to one of EOs most iconic teachers. I will miss Luft, his positive impact on students, and his never-ending ability to laugh at himself, others, and the challenges of teaching.

  • R

    Rohan JohnsonJan 30, 2024 at 5:20 pm

    A great article! I had Mr. Luft in an AP history course last year, and he really made it interesting. I had been told that lecture-based courses would be boring, but every single day of class was just so investing. I wish Mr. Luft a happy retirement!

  • M

    Makenzie SmithJan 30, 2024 at 9:36 am

    What a wonderful tribute to Mr. Luft! Great story.

  • C

    Chris KennedyJan 24, 2024 at 3:27 pm

    Great story about a great teacher and an equally great person. Enjoy, Andy. Mr. Kennedy, English Department