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."
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.
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.
At first glance, the guy leaning against the gym's wall, exchanging daps and a quick "What's up?" with the tall basketball players that walk by him, looks like a fellow student, ready to follow them on the court and "play some ball" with them. But in fact he's there to supervise the boys during open gym. The guy is Emanuel Charles, a second year Physical Education teacher at Blair.
Cheers filled the air as a person stepped up to the podium to speak. As the person started to speak, it suddenly became deathly still as his voice was carried all the way to the back of the crowd by the microphone. Robert Donaldson stood there in place, entranced, as he listened, his light blue eyes fixed on the speaker. It is August 28, 1963, during the famous March on Washington, the pinnacle of the Civil Rights Movement.
A young man arrived at a naval hospital in Bethesda during the Vietnam War, comatose after driving a truck into a brick wall. His prognosis was grim: doctors had little hope of recovery. Enter Anne Wisniewski and her fellow nurses. They walked him up and down his ward everyday, two propelling his legs and a third supporting him from behind. After a year, he could walk and talk independently.
Special Ed teacher Abigail Holmes calmly sits in her chair with her legs crossed and a smile on her face. She wears a black dress and a pair of high-heeled shoes and leans onto her desk in a relaxed manner like a cat sitting by a sun-lit window.
Sandra Ivey sits down after deciding how long to heat her lunch in the English department's microwave. She has a welcoming smile that encourages friendlyconversations. In fact, her whole manner reflects her friendly personality, from her casual blue jeans to her face that is always accompanied by a grin.
A river in Vermont is at flood stage. Water rushes rapidly, pushing a woman into a fallen tree. Her friends watch in terror as the woman is helplesslytrapped, pinned between the tree and her kayak. But suddenly, she is able to save herself.
Leaning back in his office chair, James Mogge takes the time to recall his career in teaching. He places his hands behind his head, relaxed and focused on the questions at the same time. Mogge pauses for a second as he adds up the numbers in his head before revealing that he has taught at four different high schools over his 22-year career. He moves on to recollect the experiences of his life as a teacher.
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