Memorable teachers (for good or bad)

So I should have posted this about a month ago, when it was National Teacher Appreciation Week/Day. I apologize for the lateness of this, then.

Somewhere, in my black hole of a room, I have a list – yes, a list – of every teacher I have ever known. Most of them, I’m sorry to say, were not entirely memorable, although they did their jobs admirably. But here below is just a post dedicated to those teachers who made a difference in my life, for good or ill. You can make of it what you will.

~ Mrs. Meyer: My music teacher in first grade at Columbus Elementary in WI, and then through fifth and sixth grades at Jefferson Elementary in WI. She taught us first-graders how to sing from the diaphragm; by fifth and sixth grades, however, for whatever reason, she’d abandoned that approach. But what she taught me in first grade has helped me immensely now with voice lessons. So.

~ I posted earlier about Mrs. Schmitting, and she taught third graders at Jefferson Elementary.

~ Mr. Winder: Jefferson Elementary. He was my fourth grade science teacher for the most part; he taught other subjects, but science was his forte. One day, the class was working on an in-class assignment, and Mr. Winder was going around the room answering any questions. Then I heard him say, “I’m going to go pick on a left-hander.” And I knew he was talking about me. He came up behind me and pinched the back of my neck – probably thought he was being playful, but damn that hurt!

Then….okay, something you have to know about me, is I hold my pencil really weird, like so:


Mr. Winder tried to get me to hold my pencil like a typical right-handed person would, and told me “You’ll write like that from now on in my class.” I remember blinking back tears, feeling utterly humiliated, because I couldn’t very well speak up for myself when the teacher in authority has decreed I should do something, right? I also remember not being able to finish the in-class assignment well, because I was restricted in my method of writing. Thankfully, he never mentioned it again, and I wrote as I normally did for the rest of the year.

~ Mr. Foster: The principal at Columbus Elementary where I was for first grade, then was my sixth-grade teacher at Jefferson Elementary. Most memorable for the fact that he kept referring to me by my Older Sister’s name (as in “[Older Sister’s name], I’m talking to you,” and I had to correct him.) But he was a really nice guy. I remember when he was principal at Columbus, and I was conducting the first grade choir in a song about a snake – we were all hissing like snakes, and I got to cut them off at just the precise moment. In the silence that followed, all you heard was Mr. Foster’s hearty guffaw.

~ Mr. McGinnis: The tech-ed teacher during my seventh grade at Wilson Junior High in WI. He was the worst teacher I’d ever had. Because he was one in the wrong. I did not have my materials for class one day, and so I was only following his instructions when he said, “If you don’t have your materials today, do something that won’t bother anyone else who does.” So I was writing, not bothering anybody else. And he called me out for not having my materials. And worse, he took my notebook away! So embarrassing.

~ Mr. Zimmerman: My science/homeroom teacher during my seventh grade at Wilson Junior High. Reminded me of the actor Josh Mostel. Most notable for his immortal phrase, “Oh, my heart bleeds peanut butter for you,” said sarcastically. He was a funny guy.

~ Miss Demerath. My math teacher during my seventh grade at Wilson Junior High. One of the youngest teachers I’d ever had, and the first teacher I’d ever had who tried to be friends with all her students. I didn’t know whether that was a good or a bad thing.

~ Mr. Hanson. The guidance counselor at Wilson Junior High when I was in seventh grade. Most notable because he used to be a gymnast in college, and that was in the thick of my wishing I could have been a gymnast. So.

~ Mr. Hummel and Mr. Ciorba: The teaching duo for band in seventh and the start of eighth grade at Wilson Junior High – Mr. Hummel taught the seventh graders, Mr. Ciorba taught the eighth graders. Mr. Hummel was the teacher who once chucked a clarinet at the wall and pierced the school banner, while Mr. Ciorba once went an entire day with his fly open. They were both really nice guys, though.

~ Mr. Atkins: The band teacher for the remainder of eighth grade at Edwardsville Junior High in IL. Mr. Atkins yelled a lot, and all the kids thought he was mean and a hard-ass and whatnot. But he was a really nice guy. When I went to tell him my mom volunteered to be a chaperone on the band’s tour of the elementary schools, he said, “Well, bless her heart! Could you tell her we need her?” Yeah, he was cool.

~ Mr. _______ a/k/a Mr. Holland: The main band director in ninth grade at Edwardsville High School in IL. So nicknamed because he was the band teacher when the band went to Europe. No need to say much more, eh? Except that he was a really good teacher. I’ll leave it at that.

~ Mrs. Dripps-Paulson: The second-in-command band director at Edwardsville High School. The first teacher I had who was both teacher and friend. We all called her ‘Ms. D.’ My friends went a step further and called her ‘Reverend Mother.’ I have no idea why. When she left at the end of the school year, to move to Chicago, my friends got her a going-away plant they named “Stuart.” Again, I have no idea why. I once found an interview with Ms. D online; you can read it here if you like.

~ Ms. Zimpfer: My ninth grade algebra teacher at Edwardsville High School. Most notable for her standard spiel before any test/quiz. Perfectly scripted, it went like this (and I did once write it down word for word like this in my journal, so I’d never forget it): “When you finish your (quiz/test), bring it back to my desk. Return to your seat. Do not talk or distract anyone in any way. You may read a book, study something else, take a nap, or twiddle your thumbs. Do. Not. Talk. Good luck.” She was pretty cool.

~ Mrs. Spellman: My ninth grade English teacher at Edwardsville High School. Most notable for her “Okaynevermind,” and you would have to have heard how she said it in order to find that funny.

~ Mr. Becker: Mr. Becker was my civics (government) teacher in ninth grade at Edwardsville High School. He looked like a cross between David Schwimmer and Ben Stiller. And he was crazy to boot. He would kick over his metal wastebasket, during lecture, for no reason other than to make sure we were all paying attention. He would also act out to get his point across, most notably when he pretended to be a disgruntled old man with a shotgun, jumping onto his desk, shouting things like “Down with the establishment!” I never laughed about his antics while in class. I would laugh about it on the way to my next class.

~ Ms. McGlynn: My 10th grade algebra teacher at Waubonsie Valley High School in Aurora, IL. She looked like actress Helen Hunt. Ms. McGlynn got the class a pet hamster that she named What. So when kids would ask “What’s his name?” she’d answer “Yes.” tee hee.

~ Mr. Knudsen: My sophomore English teacher at Waubonsie Valley High School. He was an Everyman sort of guy. In my junior year, the school had an assembly in which some of the teachers sang a medley of TV theme songs. Mr. Knudsen and a female teacher were Archie Bunker and his wife, respectively. And Mr. Knudsen sang really well. I stopped him afterwards and told him so.

~ Miss Corlew: 10th grade chemistry teacher and 11th grade earth science teacher at Waubonsie Valley High School. She was the next closest teacher I’d ever had to a friend.

~ Mrs. Bouldin: Creative writing teacher junior year at Waubonsie Valley High School. My most favorite teacher ever. The best teacher I have ever had, bar none.

~ Mr. Benford and Mr. Ziegler: Another teaching duo, during my senior year choir at Kennedy High School here in IA. And I am naming their names. Their priorities were so screwed up – they were more invested in the show choirs than they were with the actual school choirs. Mr. Ziegler would go on and on about how he was “living in sin” with his wife, which still makes absolutely no sense to me. Mr. Benford (who was African-American, by the way) is the one who once went on a diatribe one day about how “Some of us in this room have talent and some of us don’t….Some of us in this room are more equal than others.” The day he said all that was the day I dropped the class. I hated them both. They were the other worst teachers I ever had.

~ Mr. Mike Harris taught my flash fiction class in college in 2010. He got really excitable when it came to good writing. Remember that short story of mine called Too Much? Well, I remember when I turned that story in, he actually pounded on the desktop, he was so excited by all the ‘too’s at the end. He was like, “Damn, those are good lines!” He was a fun guy to have as a teacher.

~ Angie. My current guitar teacher. Angie seems very punk rock, with her short hair and tattoos, but she’s really down to earth, and she knows what she’s talking about, having played guitar for 20+ years. I wish I could play as well as she does. Angie has taught me not to be such a perfectionist, that it’s all about the journey, not necessarily the ultimate destination.

~ Cindy. My current voice teacher. And Cindy is my friend in addition to being my teacher.

~ There was one teacher I never had, also named Mr. Foster. He taught at Illinois Central College when my Grandpa taught there as well. Grandpa once took Mr. Foster some of my writings during the summer I was seventeen. Mr. Foster had good and bad things to say about my writings, and I took well to his criticisms. It helped me immensely, and so I mention him here as well.

To all my teachers, good or bad, past, present, or future, I thank you.


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