My story comes from when I taught kindergarten and I was giving individual readiness tests. I had called Tyler over and asked him to tell me his name and address and asked him how old he was. When I asked him how old he was, he paused, looked around the room at all his classmates and pointed and said “I am as old as all of these guys.”
Sharon Frounfelker, Akron
Akron Public Schools, teacher
I was modeling an activity in which the students take home a bag, fill it with items about themselves, and return it to school to share. I was showing the students a picture of my parents and my husband and I on our wedding day when I heard a little voice say, “Boy, you sure looked better that day than you do today!”
Theresa Hodges, Stow
Ravenna’s West Park Elementary, teacher
I had many memorable moments during my 32 years of teaching. But one story still makes me laugh.
I was passing out study guides to my sophomore English class at Barberton High School. When I handed one to a young man in the front seat, he told me that he could not take one.
When I asked him why, he told me that his family had always taught him not to accept handouts!
Joyce Lovas, Canal Fulton
It was my first day of teaching; my first-grade class had 36 students signed up. I was only 19½, having just completed the Cadet Teaching program at KSU, having taken about three years of classes and still working toward my degree.
I was very nervous as parents arrived with their students. One boy came in all by himself. His name was not on my list. I asked his name and he answered, “Waben.”
I told Waben to find a seat. It wasn’t until much later in the day, that I saw he had written his name on a paper as “Robin.” He just couldn’t pronounce his R’s.
I was hired by the Akron Public Schools in 1996. To the relief of many, Terry Grier had recently left Akron, and Brian Williams had become the new superintendent.
My first assignment was at Goodrich Middle School, where we walked our students from class to class. After only a few weeks on the job, I was in the hallway with my eighth-period class. They were a challenging bunch, and gave this new teacher a run for his money.
To go to my room, we had to walk past the visitors entrance. As we were walking down the hall, I saw Brian Williams come in the visitors door and start walking right toward me and my boisterous group.
I thought for sure I was going to be fired on the spot. As Mr. Williams approached us, one of my students asked, “Isn’t that, like, the mayor dude of Akron?”
I saw the opportunity for a teachable moment, so I said, “Students, this is not the mayor dude of Akron. This is the superintendent of the Akron Public Schools.”
At this point, another student said, “Hello, Mr. Grier!”
Mr. Williams started laughing. To this day, I am thankful he had a sense of humor, or else I might have been in a different career today.
Doug Merideth, Akron
Akron Schools, school counselor
I have been a teacher at Abacus Child Care Center for the last nine years. I have the toddler class, which is 18 months to 2½ years old. I teach the children the fundamentals of using a cup, spoon, potty training and sharing.
My toddlers enjoy looking at picture books. Recently, I had my group of toddlers surrounding me as we looked at a book with many pictures. Some of the children could say that a picture was a ball, car or dog. When a picture of a cluster of brown acorns were shown, the children were quiet and didn’t know what they were, except one boy who loudly said, “That’s poop!”
Loana Vickery, Akron
Abacus Child Care Center, teacher
One of my fifth-grade students, Tim, was having difficulty with reading comprehension and I would work daily with him in this area of difficulty.
One day I pointed out a paragraph for him to read silently in his book. I told him I’d ask some specific questions about what he had read when he finished. The passage included a sentence that stated: “As we stepped into the stream, we found the water to be tepid and flowing slowly.”
I asked Tim if there were any words in that sentence that he didn’t know the meaning of or understand. He confidently answered “No.”
I asked if he was sure and he again confirmed that it made perfect sense to him. I pointed to the word “tepid” and asked what that word meant. He smiled and replied, “That’s when you get a bunch of toilet paper rolls and throw them around at night on someone’s trees and stuff.”
Trying not to laugh, I asked him to say the word to me. “T.P.ed” he answered.
“The stream was T.P.ed and flowing slowly?” I asked.
“Yep,” he replied.
And it made perfect sense to me, too.
Dave Leatherman, Cuyahoga Falls
Stow-Munroe Falls Schools, retired teacher
In the ’90s, I was in charge of the crossing guards, which meant all concerns they had came to me. One day, two guards came to me and said, “There was a car driving jerky and we saw a fourth-grader driving!”
After having the guards come to the fourth-grade rooms and identify the girl, I questioned her.
“Yes,” she told us, her grandmother wasn’t feeling well and asked her to drive. Grandma rode in the passenger side, so she thought it would be OK for her 9-year-old granddaughter to do the driving!
In the early ’90s, I was the band director at Falls Church High School in Fairfax County, Va. One year I decided to play an April Fools’ Day joke on them. We had just returned from winning a band competition out of state and were starting to work on new music. One of the pieces was kind of avant garde. I told them that this piece had some special “techniques” on how it was to be played.
I had the trumpets put trombone mouthpieces in their horns and trumpet mouthpieces in the trombones. I had all the reed players (clarinets, saxes, etc.) turn their mouthpieces upside down so that the reed was on the top instead of the bottom. I had the flutes turn the instrument around so they were blowing out of the other side of the tone hole. And I told the percussion they had to face the back wall instead of me, so they couldn’t see and had to react by ear.
Needless to say, this sounded awful! And they knew it, but I kept insisting this was how it was supposed to be performed. I kept a straight face until Jennifer said, “This has to be an April Fools’ Day joke.”
At that point, I burst into laughter and the joke was over. They were furious that they had been had and playfully threw anything they could reach at me.
The next day, I walked in to find the entire contents of my office set up in the middle of the band room! I haven’t played that joke on a class ever since.
Steven A. Mietus, Cuyahoga Falls
Band director at Early College High School at the John Hay Campus in Cleveland
Once upon a time, as I was testing a kindergarten child on his knowledge of patterns; I learned a lesson.
It was a typical test. I had placed a pattern of little bears on a table. The pattern was yellow bear, blue bear, yellow bear, and so on. The child was to tell me which color bear would come next in the pattern. I pointed and said “Yellow, blue, yellow, blue,” and looked at him as I pointed. No response. I repeated. Still no response. My last time I said, “OK, what do you see? Yellow, blue, yellow, blue …”
And as I’m pointing he says, “table.”
Kathy Devus, Akron
My students were returning from gym and putting their gym clothes away. I found one shirt on the floor but no one would claim it as their own. I could faintly read a name written on the tag but couldn’t make it out. So one of the children begged to help me read it. He was so confident that he would be able to solve the mystery.
“I see it,” he proudly exclaimed.
“What does it say?” I asked. He was not joking when he replied, “It says, Fruit of the Loom.”
I chuckled at that and teasingly asked, “Well, who is that?”
He seriously replied, “Oh, I think he’s in the other room.”
Gilda Grande, Stow
Holy Family School, teacher
I was standing at the door of my classroom at Jennings Middle School about 15 years ago when a very distraught student came limping toward me so out of concern I asked her what was the matter. She looked at me and said she “had been hit by a parked car!”
Julie Bittle Cowling
Akron Public Schools, teacher
A female student had been repeatedly misbehaving in class to the point where it was time to inform her parents. I sent a message to the home concerning the student’s behavior and what had been done at school to remedy the situation. The reply I received the next day was priceless!
“We talked to (student’s name) and she got punished. If you have anymore trouble you should just string her up by her ‘thumps!’ ”
Needless to say I had a good laugh and handled any other issues on my own. (I did save the note!)
Patreece Welser, Tallmadge
Coventry Schools, retired teacher
On the first day of teaching a bookkeeping I class at Jeffersonville High School in southern Indiana, I introduced debits and credits and the balance sheet and explained that we would be learning double-entry bookkeeping.
When class was about over with a few minutes to spare, I asked if anyone knew what double-entry bookkeeping was. Most of the class seemed puzzled, but one hand shot into the air and he said he knew. I called on him and he said, “Isn’t that when you keep one set of books for the government and another set for yourself?”
I laughed all day long and have never forgotten that.
Janet Thorne Evans, Cuyahoga Falls
Akron Public Schools and other out-of-state districts, retired teacher
Early in my career, I was a first-grade teacher. One day when we were lined up to go outside, a little boy said to me, “I am so happy. My mom didn’t have to work today, so she will be home when I get home after school.”
I replied, “How nice that she didn’t have to work.” I then said, with a smile, “I wish I didn’t have to work today.”
He looked at me and asked innocently, “Oh, do you have a job?”
My next story is from a veteran first-grade teacher, who taught her entire career in Ravenna. She shared this with me years ago. She is no longer living.
She said that the principal of the school came in to observe her one day. As she was writing the lesson on the chalkboard, a pair of underpants fell from under her skirt onto the floor.
She said that she nonchalantly picked them up, put them in her left hand as she continued writing with her right hand on the board, as if nothing had happened.
What did happen was that a pair of underwear was stuck to her slip (static cling) and she did not know it. It just so happened that it fell from her slip at a very unfortunate time!
This teacher was so professional and classy that she never missed a beat and continued teaching her lesson.
My last story is one my sister, Liz Wymer, shared with me. She was teaching in a Montessori school in Cincinnati early in her career.
Her principal came to observe her for her evaluation. One little boy raised his hand continuously to answer questions. Each time that she called him to answer, she said “Mister,” and he would answer.
Later when she sat down with the principal to go over her evaluation, the principal told her that she received high marks in all areas, but one. He said that he did not like how she called the young man “Mister.” She replied back to the principal, “But that is his name.”
Ravenna’s Brown Middle School, counselor
When I was teaching high school math, I had a student whose name was “Jesus.” Since this young man was Hispanic, his name was pronounced “Heyzoos.”
As I was hanging up A+ papers on my wall of fame, a few of the students were looking at the names on the papers and one of them announced — “Hey, Jesus is in our classroom!”
I said to him puzzled, “Why do you think that Jesus is in our class?”
He said “Well he put his name on this paper! He is here! Where is he?”
Jesus and I looked at each other and we both knew what was going on and we laughed. I finally said, “This is Jesus, you never know when Jesus might appear in your class,” as I pointed to the student. “In Spanish, all the J’s are pronounced as H’s.”
We all laughed! However, when you think about it, even though your name may not be spelled like Jesus, you never know when Jesus might appear in your classroom or in your life.
Patty Miller, teacher
In September 1967, Ernie was in kindergarten. As the Spanish teacher, I was arriving from Jackson School to Bettes School about 10 a.m. I parked my car, got out and saw two little shoes behind a car.
Thinking this was a child hiding behind a car, I walked over and said, “Who’s there?”
A little boy starts to run.
I ran after him in my high heels.
He ran inside the building, down the long hallway and out the back door. As I chased him, he ran on the outside of the building to the front of the school. Several times I told him, “Little boy, stop! You get to school!”
He just kept running and crossed the street. That’s when I panicked and thought he would run across Tallmadge Avenue where he could get hit. I stopped a car, got in and told the person, “Follow that little boy!”
Suddenly I lost sight of him. We went down Hyde Park where we saw two little girls playing. I asked the girls if they had seen a little boy running.
They said, “Oh yes, it’s Ernie.”
I knew where Ernie lived. I went and knocked on the door. His mother answered and said, “Mrs. Ruiz, what are you doing here at this time of the morning?”
I said, “Is Ernie here?”
She answered, “The poor thing is sick and has come home from school. He’s in the bathroom.”
I said, “He is going to be sick now!”
I knocked on the bathroom door and said, “Ernie, come out. I want to talk to you.”
He opened the door. His mother looked at both of us and asked, “What is going on?” I told her how Ernie had run away from me at school. Since he was not sick, I walked him back to school.
Eugenia Ruiz, Tallmadge
Akron Public Schools, retired
I noticed John’s desk was rather messy, papers coming out, so I decided to clean it out while he was watching. He grew increasingly upset as I pulled out paper after paper, all not completed, asking him about each one, such as, “This is homework, why isn’t it done?” or “Why is this math paper not done?” or “Why is your writing assignment not done?”
As this continued for a while, his frustration level was increasing, he was running out of excuses. I pulled out a newsletter, the ones we write weekly to parents letting them know what’s happening for the week, and asked him, “What is this?”
He replied, by now tears in his eyes, and said, “I didn’t know how to do it!”
Patricia Cole, Akron
Imagine Romig Road Community School, teacher
Story one: I was collecting the children’s homework at the start of the day when I noticed that one student had not turned his in. I asked him if he had done his work. He replied that he had done it but just forgot to give it to me.
He went to his locker, took out his book bag and handed me an incomplete math assignment. Not one problem had been done.
I held the assignment up to him and said, “Mark, I thought you said that you did your homework.”
Mark confidently said, “I did do my homework.”
“But the paper is blank,” I replied.
“Oh, I didn’t write it down, I did it in my head.”
Story two: I was introducing a math lesson on fractions to my second-graders. I wanted to see how much they knew about fractions so I asked “Has anyone ever heard the word fraction? Do you know what that word means?”
One little girl excitedly raised her hand and I called on her. She said, “Mrs. Grande, I know what fraction means! My sister just fractioned her arm yesterday!”
Gilda Grande, Stow
Holy Family School, teacher
My husband and I taught the first- and second-graders at our church at the time this occurred …
We told the children if they would bring someone for three Sundays in a row to church with them we would take them and their guests to McDonald’s for a treat.
The Sunday came for a treat. One little girl’s name was Bev. The new little girl’s name was Mary. As we were getting into the car, Mary said, “do you know what my mother said — what men are good for?”
Not having any idea what Mary was going to say, we ignored her question.
Mary was ready for the third time to ask the question.
I whispered to my husband, “if we don’t answer her, she will continue asking the question.” Finally I said, “what did your mother say men were good for?”
She answered, “My mother said, ‘Men were good for nothing.’ ’’
Lorraine Ott, Alliance
Bible School teacher
The ’50s were a fun time … I was teaching a third-grade religion class at St. Leo the Great Catholic School in Old Brooklyn, Ohio, just outside Cleveland.
It was a beautiful warm spring afternoon and the window was open. I think spring fever was in the air. I thought that maybe we needed a little break in routine. Therefore, I decided to put our regular religion class aside.
I asked my class to close their books and take out their crayons. I passed out some art paper and told them I wanted them to draw their favorite Bible story. They thought this was a good idea and went to work.
When time was up, I collected the drawings and we had time to show them. The pictures were creative and a great deal of imagination. However, one picture puzzled me so I asked Russell if he would like to tell us about his picture.
I could see a man driving a convertible with a man and a woman in the back seat.
He explained it was God driving Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Paradise!
Barbara Johns, Stow
St. Leo the Great Catholic School, retired teacher
I was a young fourth-grade teacher at Smith School in the Kenmore area during 1969 to 1974. I allowed my students a free range of “morning sharing” each day.
The children performed puppet acts, country-western songs, or shared special things they owned. It was our favorite time of the day.
One morning, a boy showed up with a decent-sized snake, and we admired it for “sharing.” Then I told him to put the snake into its cage and into his locker for the day. I gave no reason, but I was afraid of snakes and didn’t want it in the room all day.
That same day, Smith School PTA mothers, an active force in those years, arrived with buckets of paint. The principal announced that the PTA had volunteered to paint the stairs between the first and second floor, where I taught.
The mothers tied off the top of the stairs to remind us to use the other set, and painting began.
When the final bell rang, the boy who owned the snake came back into the room, yelling that the snake was missing! We searched his locker, the now-empty cage, and walked the hallway and teacher’s lounge. It was gone!
The boy and I went down the other stairs to the first floor. Some PTA mothers were finishing the job, looking at it with dismay. At the top of the newly painted stairs was a line that began in the paint job, smearing the paint. The line continued down the next step, the next, and the next ... to the bottom of the stairs!
I don’t recall if the snake was captured. I do recall the horror of realizing that the snake had gotten loose and he had painted his escape route!
Kimberly Pierce (Simington) Gillenwater, Akron
Akron Public Schools, retired teacher