Sunday, November 8, 2009

Teacher, teacher

While cutting the grass today I decided to try and remember the names of my teachers in Shaker, being that its been 32 years since I have been estanged from that place:

Mercer School
Kindergarten: Mrs. Bauter
First Grade: Mrs. (Grace) Smiley
Second Grade: Miss (Elizabeth) Vermullen (or was it Vermeullen?)
Third Grade: Mrs. Rankin
Fourth Grade: Mrs. McLaughlin
Fifth Grade, Mrs. Brack
Sixth Grade, Mrs (Blanche) Brown (first half of year)
Reading skills, Mrs. Golden, grades 2-6th

Oldman Transitional School (private school for kids with Dyslexia)
Sixth Grade, Miss Creed (second half of year)

Byron Junior High School
Seventh Grade Home Room and Art - Mr. Harmon
Seventh Grade, English - Dr. (Mary) Reilly
Seventh Grade, Wood Shop - Mr. Van Ness
Seventh Grade, Gym - Mr. (Larry) Frye
Seventh Grade, Math - Mr. (John) Federer
Seventh Grade, Social Science, Mr. Hawthorne
Seventh Grade, Science - Mr. (Mahlon) Franks/Mr. Gerwin
Eighth Grade, Communicating Arts, Mr. Mallin

Eighth Grade, Home Room, Mr. Bechtel
Eighth Grade, Mechanical Drafting - Mr. Tappenden
Eighth Grade, Science, Mr. Alt
Eighth Grade, English, Miss Beavers
Eighth Grade, Social Science, Miss. Urban
Eighth Grade, Reading, Miss (Sara) Bloomfield
Eighth Grade, Art, Mr. Richards
Eighth Grade, Math, Mr. Bailey
Eighth Grade, Phys Ed, Mr. Frye

Of, all the teachers, Mrs. Golden was my favorite and she's remained a family friend for all these years. Then Mrs. Smiley - everyone else just falls into semi-forgettable.

The least favorite? Its a tie between Second Grade's Miss Vermullen and Sixth Grade's Blanche Brown.

Miss Vermullen was just a crappy teacher. She was young and in way over her head and she didn't return the year after I had her. But my mother will always remember her as the teacher who called me "dumb, stupid and a slow learner." This despite Stanford Acheivement test scores that were off the grid. And then they discovered that I was so near sighted that I couldn't see the black board (which at Mercer were Green). Well I got my glasses and things improved.

While Elizabeth Vermullen never insulted me to my face, Blanche Brown did just that, and then lied about it. Brown and I got off to a bad start from word one, literally. On the first day she called my name and I responded with a "Yo" and was repremanded in front of the whole class. That would be the high water mark between her and I - things rapidly fell apart, one thing or another. At one time she tried to give me an "F" on a paper saying that I had copied someone else - my mother who was getting tired of Brown's BS had me hauled before the Principle to answer questions about my paper, which I might add that answered honestly and correctly. Dr. Miller restored my grade then things got really bad.

It started over the reading group. I was a lousy reader, but I had superior comprehension so Brown placed me in the top reading group at the onset of school. In December, she removed me without reason, in front of the whole class and moved me to the lowest reading group. When I asked why (also in front of the whole class) I was told not to question her. At home I told my mother what she said, but added something about my own feelings to the effect of "She must think I'm stupid."

My mother, still pissed about the Vermullen years, and having reached her breaking point with the woman she described as the "Yetti of Mercer School" went in for the kill while I stayed home from school. The next day I went back to school but got pulled from the bus line by Brown who wanted to know why I said that she said I was stupid. I said that I felt that way and it was because she docked me the reading group levels. She stated that she wouldn't stand for a liar in her class; thats when I sealed my fate: "You're a bitch."

You could feel the chill fall over the room. We were, how do you say it, "done".

Before you could say Hi Ho and away we go, I was signed up for a private school and I was yanked from sixth grade.

In the end, it was the best thing possible for me. I loved being at OTS, even if I was terrified of the nuns. And Brown continued to terrorize the students, most of which have told me that she figered someone else to be her fall guy for the second semester.


  1. Huh! I'm an education reporter who grew up (partly) in Shaker Heights and also had Mr. Alt. I've been trying to find anything I can about him. Do you remember his first name?

  2. I remember Mr Alt, and I loved his class! He was a huge influence on me. I believe his name is James Alt, and according to this, he's now the science chair.