Swiveling in his chair and contemplating his typical weekend plans, Franklin Stallings chuckles and says, "Work." Since he was 16 years old, Stallings says, he can't remember a period in his life when he was not working.
Margaret Jessell may not be a teenager, but she still plays Truth/Dare, hosts murder-mystery parties and goes to R.E.M. concerts with her friends. A petite woman with piercing blue eyes, Jessell seems solemn and very serious. But in reality, she is the complete opposite. "Oh, I'm mean and uptight," she jokingly describes her personality. Then, cracking up at her joke, Jessell reveals the hidden goofy and outgoing side that her students, children and friends have the privilege to see.
John Haigh is a typical Blazer: he plays soccer constantly, loves the outdoors, wears American Eagle clothes and enjoys hanging out with his friends and jamming to alternative rock music. He could be just a typical teenager – which is why it is easy to forget that he's a teacher.
"It's like I'm an actress in front of an audience, so I need to know what the audience wants," says a smiling Maria Cuadrado-Corrales as she describes her teaching style. Cuadrado, a Spanish teacher in Blair's Foreign Language Department, has been teaching at Blair for three years but has taught in other schools for the past 15.
By seventh grade, she and her mom had decided. She was not going to be anybody's secretary. She was not going to be a waitress. And she was definitely not going to be a teacher. Yet Candace Thurman is currently finishing up her third year teaching at Blair after having taught for 23 years at Walter Johnson.
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.
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.
Staring down at her manicured hands, Biology and ESOL environmental science teacher Jenny Tanner reflects on a time when those same hands felt as if they were on fire after she ripped seeds out of poisonous peppers for a day.
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."
Michelle Roberts decided in high school that she wanted to teach music. Sitting at her desk, Roberts gives an amused yet somewhat cynical laugh as she recalls her band director's warning. Shaking her finger, Roberts does an animated imitation of her teacher. "You know it's a lot of work, but I'm telling you, it's a lot, a lot, a lot of work," Roberts says in a stern voice, before breaking down into laughter.
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.
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.
The precalculus student remains thoroughly confused, staring at his math problem, which is a quarter page of mathematical monstrosity. Rescue comes in the form of his new favorite math teacher, William Rose, who enters the Math Help Room with a usual quick and upbeat pace, looking to help anyone with a math dilemma. In a matter of minutes, the problem is quickly deconstructed and the crisis resolved, thanks to a quick intervention by Rose.
One of the fascinating things about Leslie Rogers is that he brews his own beer. And that he rides a motorcycle. And that he worked in Australia. And that he didn't start college until he was 26. Get the picture? Rogers is an all-around fascinating guy.
Relaxed at his desk, which is covered with books, educational movies and a miniature skeleton, David Whitacre, teacher of Cultural Anthropology and Modern World History, sits sipping his Starbucks drink. What someone cannot tell from just looking at Whitacre is that he a brillant teacher, with a flair for making dull classes interesting.
Kenneth Seat does not like to talk about himself. "I've never really felt comfortable talking about my personal life," he said, taking a sip from his mug, which is adorned with Japanese characters. "But if you want to get personal, here's a recent picture of my daughter."
English teacher Michael Horne grew up a well-rounded child in Connecticut. He had one sister and played a little of every sport and played the accordion. Since then, his interests have changed, but his well-roundedness has remained as one of his best qualities.
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