It is the first day of ninth grade, and a group of anxious freshmen girls nervously filter through the door to room 162. But as soon as their English teacher begins to speak in a warm Southern accent, the girls immediately feel at ease. "Y'all are my babies," Dr. Dana Simel tells them, "And I'll do anything to protect you."
While students follow John Giles as he scribbles a complicated pre-calculus problem on the whiteboard, a sinister plot is being hatched across the room. He turns to explain what he has written when a "click" and "pop" resonate through the air and a small foam pellet hits him square in the chest. Giles has just been shot.
It took a little bit of time for things in Janet Berry's life to fall into place. She describes her hometown, South Bend, Indiana, as a place where "many people are from but not many stay." Early in her life, Berry saw art as her ticket out. But despite being the "artist in the class," she was hampered by a high school that offered only one art class.
When Stefanie Weldon first entered the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University in 1968, she was shocked. The atmosphere there screamed wealth and privilege, something Weldon was not used to. Yet she soon found a kindred spirit in a gentleman from Arkansas who came from a similar background. Twenty-five years later, her friend William Clinton was sworn in as the 42nd President of the United States.
Stephanie Lee walks into a classroom wearing a new shirt. She lectures her students at the board and halfway through the class period, her students stop her to tell her that the tags on her shirt are still on. Later, her entire class has to tell her that her fly is unzipped. But for this young teacher, such situations don't spell trouble because, as she says, "[embarassing] moments like those create a good working relationship in the room."
The usual noise surrounds the weight room. The football players are noisy, music is blaring and others are screaming while trying to finish their final repetitions. However, most of the noise is coming from Rob McMahon. "Don't bend your back," he says to a freshman. "Push harder," he says to one of the football players.
Carole Tomayko started working at Blair in 1981, beginning as a staff assistant and eventually taking a position as an English teacher. Over her years at Blair, she has seen the school move from one building to another, seen hundreds upon hundreds of students walk the hallways and taught just about every core book known to mankind. But this year, she says, it's finally time to kiss the kids goodbye and leave Blair Boulevard once and for all.
Junior William Cavanaugh remembers Spanish class as a sophomore. He did the work, memorized vocabulary, learned the grammar and read about the culture. But after earning high grades in nearly four years worth of Spanish courses, Cavanaugh found himself unable to readily speak the language.
With the ID policy controversy, hallway sweeps, and a host of new events, it has been a very busy and tumultuous yet successful year for Blair's SGA under the leadership of 2006-2007 SGA President Eric Hysen. In spite of such success, the SGA has realized major flaws in its organization and methods of operation, leading to structural changes that will be incorporated into next year's SGA. The SGA will also face the challenge of meeting and working with a new principal next year.
Blair is a school filled with different cultures, backgrounds, beliefs and ideologies. There are students and faculty who have come to Blair from all over the world, and French teacher Mbaya Kabemba fits right in among the diverse population.
When the bell sounds at 2:10 p.m., students pile noisily out of the P.E. hallway, toward their buses or friends. In the midst of the hysteria, a teacher leans casually against the wall outside his classroom, slapping hands, laughing and joking playfully with students on their way out. The day however, is not nearly over for Richard Porac, a notoriously entertaining health teacher.
Late January marks the end of the indoor track season. Most members have long since disappeared, whether from the onset of studying for exams or not qualifying for the regional meet. The remaining runners face the frosty track each day after school, and they are not alone. Their coach sprints alongside them, feeling the same shin splints and fatigue. She who dares to join her athletes in the dreary weather instead of comfortably standing by on the sidelines is Heather Amell.
One peek into room 160 shows the depth of David Ngbea's reach. Over 40 letters and notes fill one bulletin board, saying things like, "Thank you Mr. Ngbea for everything." Motivational posters line every corner of the wall space – some with tips for healthy living and others with words of guidance. Ngbea has made it clear that he has one main purpose at Blair – to guarantee that young people get the best out of their high school careers.
At age eight, senior Thomas Dant picked up his first camera – an old Nikon from his uncle – and spent hours snapping photographs of flowers, people and whatever else he could find in his neighborhood. Now, nine years later, Dant's photography has blossomed into a thriving business, Fine Foto, and earned him honors in a national business competition.
As soon as he felt the crisp, cold metal of the baton slap onto his palm, senior Muhammad Roberson bolted from his expectant stance to sprint up the curve of the track. Salty sweat dripped down his brow, blinding his eyes as he caught the leader of the race. Halfway through the backstretch, Roberson suddenly felt a sharp pain in his hamstring. An aching grimace spread over his face as the pain intensified and Roberson wanted to stop, but couldn't – not in front of the 46,000 fans who had come out for the 113th annual Penn Relays Carnival. For the first time in over twenty years, Blair sent the boys' 4x100m and 4x400m relays to Philadelphia, joining a legacy of Blair faculty who have competed in the meet throughout the years.
At the start of her sophomore year at Blair, senior Estefany Carrillo would walk into the science office, and explain her situation to any teacher there who would listen. After days of this, she finally got what she had been asking for: classes equal to her ability, not far below.
Senior Max Lockwood doesn't need a large field or a court to play his sport. Nor does he need to run a few laps to warm up. All he needs is a cup, a three by six foot felt mat, a table to put the mat on, some small colored disks called winks and a shooter disk called a squidger for his choice sport: tiddlywinks.
In the center of the empty choral room, several parents met with Principal Phillip Gainous this morning. Over coffee, cookies and danishes, the group discussed Gainous's possible resignation and its repercussions. One by one, the parents – including PTSA co-President Dave Ottalini— asked questions of Gainous.
Senior Mike Street swallows a nervous lump as he ties an apron around his waist. He surveys the immaculate personal cooking station before him, registering the raw chicken broccoli, and rice. To his right are spices, seasonings and vegetables; and to his left, cooking utensils and appliances. With one hour and 58 minutes to go, he seizes a handful of flour with one hand and a slab of raw chicken with the other, and begins the race for the title Best Teen Chef 2007.
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