10800221079?profile=RESIZE_710xDeb and Larry Handler will mark their 30th wedding anniversary this school year at Gulf Stream, where they total 75 years of service as teachers. They also love basketball. Deb played for Keene State College in New Hampshire and Larry is co-athletic director at Gulf Stream.
Rachel O’Hara/The Coastal Star

By Rich Pollack

For Deb and Larry Handler, the return of students to the Gulf Stream School campus in late August signaled the beginning of a year packed with milestones.
For Deb Handler, this calendar marks the beginning of her 40th year at the school, where she has been teaching kindergarten for most of her career. Some of the little ones, in fact, are children of her former students.
For Larry Handler, this year marks his 35th year teaching math to middle-schoolers and playing a key role in the athletic programs.
This school year will also include the 30th anniversary of the couple’s wedding, which took place in the school chapel and was, by all accounts, a major Gulf Stream School happening.
“Almost everything in our lives has involved Gulf Stream School,” Larry Handler says.
In fact, the Handler family and the family-like atmosphere enveloping the school have been firmly intertwined over the years.
The couple’s daughter, Kendra, attended the school, as did Handler’s son from a previous marriage, Aaron.
“Kendra literally grew up here,” said Larry Handler, adding that she is now an elementary school teacher in Cocoa. The school, Deb Handler says, has helped to provide a solid foundation for the couple and their family to build upon, both personally and professionally.
“Gulf Stream School gave us the opportunity to work and grow as a couple,” she said.
Both give credit to school leaders, especially former Head of School Anne Gibb, for making that possible.
“Miss Gibb set the atmosphere that allowed us to flourish as teachers and as a family,” Deb Handler said.

10800221464?profile=RESIZE_710xThe weddings of Bryan and Shani Cook and of Deb and Larry Handler were celebrated in the 1994 edition of the Gulf Stream School yearbook, The Mariner. The Cooks and Handlers still teach at Gulf Stream. Photos provided

Other campus couples
When it comes to married couples on the Gulf Stream School campus, the Handlers are not alone.
The school has employed couples before, and two are teaching now: the recently married Rob White-Davis and Samantha Smith White-Davis, as well as Bryan and Shani Cook, who have a story similar to that of the Handlers.
Like Larry Handler, Bryan Cook teaches middle school math. He is also co-athletic director with Larry Handler and was his best man in the couple’s wedding.
Shani Cook, like Deb Handler, works with the youngest students, teaching prekindergarten.
Bryan Cook says that what stands out about the Handlers is their significant impact on the school and the students over their years there.
“They’re such a large part of the fabric of the school and have been for such a long time,” he said.
Cook says their dedication to the students is clear even outside of teaching or coaching. It’s not unusual, he says, for the couple to attend students’ games when they play in rec leagues or on travel teams or even after they graduate from the school.
Because the Handlers teach at opposite ends of the school — as do the Cooks — their paths don’t usually cross during the school day.
That’s also the case for both Samantha and Rob White-Davis. Rob, the director of performing arts who is beginning his 15th year at the school, teaches at the south end of campus. Samantha, the newly named lower school division coordinator, is at the north end of the school.
The couple, who got married in July, do their best to avoid shop talk during their time off.
“It would be easy to talk to each other about school, but we try not to,” says Samantha White-Davis, who began dating Rob during the pandemic while becoming best friends. “It would consume our whole relationship.”

A basketball connection
For the Handlers, who sometimes compare notes during evening walks, there’s a chance to work together during basketball season as co-coaches.
Basketball, it seems, has played a large role in how the Handlers got together.
“We hit it off largely because of college basketball,” Larry Handler said.
Deb, who played college basketball at Keene State College in New Hampshire, is a fan of NCAA powerhouse Duke, while Larry is just a fan of the game.
There was even a time when the two took to the basketball court for a game of one-on-one, although it appears no one kept score.
It was during the summer of 1992, when Deb was in Massachusetts and Larry was here in Florida, that the two got engaged. Larry sent Deb a wooden puzzle in the shape of a heart with the words “will you marry me” visible once it was completed.
It is clear to those who work with the Handlers and who know them well that teaching at Gulf Stream School is more than just a profession — it’s a passion.
“I love teaching kindergarten,” Deb Handler said. “I love seeing the joy on a child’s face when they see they can read. They just light up.”
Larry Handler says his enjoyment of teaching has never faded and that he can always expect the unexpected.
“There’s still a time when something will happen that I’ve never seen before,” he says.
What the long term holds for the Handlers is unknown — they’re both in their early 60s — but it’s a bet that whatever they do, they’ll be doing it together.
“We’re a package deal,” Larry Handler says.

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