Monday, April 1, 2013

Loveland Students Make Good: Part Three

IF YOU TEACH AS LONG AS I DID it’s inevitable that you will mix up former students in your mind. Some you see you believe are almost certain will go on to success. Most you think will lead happy, productive lives.

One young man I had in class, however, made Cincinnati’s “Ten Top Most-Wanted List” a quarter century later.

In his case, even that was no surprise.

Let’s start this installment with one of my favorite former students, Lynn Holman (Blessing), who, as far as I know it, has never been in jail in her life. This may sound funny; but I had Lynn in class during my early years in Loveland—during an era when corporal punishment was still regularly applied. Yep, I swatted this young lady.

For not doing her homework.

Certainly, that sounds strange today:  “Teacher swats favorite student.” Yet it’s true. I also flunked Ms. Holman for history the first year I had her. Again: strange, but true.

Here’s what I discovered in those early years. It was not uncommon to have very bright students who didn’t use their talents and Lynn was one. The following year I asked the principal to place Ms. Holman back in my class. Again:  that may sound counter-intuitive. I had faith, though. This time Lynn turned herself around and proved she had an excellent mind. Same nice young lady—same brain—but now a solid “B” student. I think she woke up and realized she could do so much more with her talents than she thought and I was never prouder of any young lady I had in my class.

What’s she up to these days? Raising a son she dearly loves. Recently remarried. Still using her talents—running her own business, “Garden Girl Landscaping” in Germantown, Ohio. In fact, her latest Facebook status says it all:

“I’m so excited. The dream I’ve dreamt of being a landscaper for the last 25 years has really come true. I have an awesome man who supports and helps me more than anyone ever has...and I’ve recently gotten some really great accounts for some really nice people.”

Ms. Lynn Blessing, right.
Not afraid of a little hard work.

That's my former student up in the tree,
getting ready to jump in the river. No wimp is she.

In the late 90s, as part of a “March Madness” unit for Language Arts classes, Loveland Middle School used to bus 300 seventh graders down to Lexington to tour the University of Kentucky. The idea for the trip was the product of the fertile imagination of Mrs. Jeane Weisbrod, one of my favorite colleagues, who also did most of the organizing for the trip. One year stands out, when our greeter at UK was Sarah Hager, a former student and Loveland High School grad.

It didn’t surprise us to see that the University of Kentucky would choose Sarah as the perfect spokesperson to create a good impression.

Sarah left a good impression wherever she went.

Eventually, Ms. Hager returned to Loveland Middle School, as an aide in the special education department. Today, she’s the Intervention Specialist at Norwood High School. She reports that “Bubba,” her brother Jeff (another star student from days of yore), is “a science teacher at the Buckeye Ranch in Grove City. It’s an alternative school for kids that have been removed from public school for behavioral and/or mental issues.” Sarah continues: “We both LOVE teaching. We had many great teachers growing up…and their positive influence helped guide us into the teaching field.”

If I was a young teacher, just now starting out, I’d try to keep a few brief notes about all of my students; because the names do jumble. I have one note that says Jeff “took a bow during his skit.” It had to have been funny or I wouldn’t have noted it. Today I can’t recall what the skit would have been about or why the bow was so timely.

All I remember is that Jeff could be hysterical in class.

Sad, but so true:
Sarah (standing) was once a fan of NSYNC.
If teaching doesn't work out, I think
Sarah and her husband are considering becoming sheep herders.
That's her brother, Jeff, right.

Josh Brock reminded me of myself when I had him in seventh grade. I could see he had talent; but his grades were up and down. (In seventh grade, mine were mostly down and down.) He could think for himself, however, and I liked that in any student.

His manners were flawless, too.

Mr. Brock was the kind of young man you figured would do well someday and so he has. The same is true for brother Justin, another good man to have in class, who just finished his second tour of duty in Afghanistan with the Marines.

Josh writes:
From a professional stand-point, after having come out of Cincinnati State for Biotechnology and Chemical Technology I find myself living near Louisville, Kentucky, working for a contract laboratory company specializing in DNA sequencing. Personally speaking, I am getting married on October 6th to a fine woman who has two great kids and can’t ever remember being happier.

Mr. Brock (left) in casual attire.
Unidentified friend (right).
These days Josh still plays a little hockey for fun.

It’s not often a teacher can say, “My  former student is a professional poker player.” But with Noah Campbell, that statement is true.

At least it was. There was a time when Noah made good money playing in Texas Hold Em tournaments. Then he met a good woman, settled down, had a child, and decided to go into teaching.

Tragically, he remembers getting in trouble in my class one day, over some minor infraction. As many of my former students may fondly recall, I used to assign dumb ssays, as kind of a warning to everyone to stop any minor fooling around.

Noah had to write 200 words on the topic:  “My Date with Smurfette.”

Noah was not scared by the experience and adds, “I ended up doing stuff like that with my students too. Turned a punishment into a fun writing assignment.”

Currently, he stays busy raising his daughter Sophia. For five years he taught third grade at Northpointe Academy, a Toledo charter school. Recently, he says, he “was promoted to the position of School Improvement Coordinator for The Leona Group, a management company that has about 60 schools nationwide. I oversee eight schools in Ohio and Michigan, working with them on their grant funding, and their school improvement planning.”

I think a quote he has posted on Facebook gives you some idea of what kind of young man Mr. Campbell has become:  “Your beliefs don’t make you a better person. Your behavior does.”

Noah's daughter, Sophia.
I couldn't resist including her picture.

Noah (left above) sings in a barbershop quartet.
At least he made the paper for doing something good.

Mr. Campbell agreed to dye his hair pink
if students did well on the Ohio Achievement Assessment test.

I think Suzy Culbertson made it all the way through my history class without ever losing her good humor or her patented smile. I remember her, first, as a very fine writer (even though I once gave her an “F” on a paper after she made foul use of the dread words, “things,” or “stuff.” Again, students may recall that rule of writing in my class).

At any rate, Ms. Culbertson was fantastic in skits and plays in history and once served as the narrator in our famous play, “Jessica of Troy,” loosely based on Homer’s Iliad. I am blaming Mr. Sharpless, my trusted colleague, for that idea. The play focused on Helen of Troy, Hector and Achilles—and the inimitable Jessica Simpson.

Suzy was a fine student in all kinds of ways and a joy to have in class every day. She did drama in middle school, later dabbled in community theater, and right now…I mean this very instant…she is studying biology at the University of Iowa.

No doubt she’ll do well. The girl has incredible talents.

Suzy in the mountains near Boulder, Colorado.
Culbertson, tuckered out after hiking those mountains.

Betsy Barre stands out as one of the most mature teens I ever happened to meet. True, most of the time you can’t even use the word “maturity” in a sentence about teens, but Ms. Barre was preternaturally mature in eighth grade. Maybe she had to be—since her mother was also the dread principal of the school! Ha, ha, only kidding. Her mom was also cool.

I also remember how Betsy challenged herself to read more advanced books for my class.

So, what has she been up to recently? First, she attended Bowling Green State with the idea of becoming a music education major. One class in philosophy, however, and she was hooked and majored in philosophy. She met her husband around the same time and both went on to earn PhD’s at Florida State. Then they jumped around to various colleges. Ms. Barre taught Islamic Studies at Lake Forest College, then Philosophy and Religious Studies at Marymount Manhattan College. Now she and her husband both work at Rice University. She adds:
He’s teaching Poli Sci and I’m teaching in their new freshman seminar program. These courses are small (15!) and can be on just about any topic of interest. They’re designed to help introduce freshman to academic life (learning how to write, read, critically think, etc.) Last semester I taught a Religion & Politics course (on the philosophy and history of church-state relations in the U. S.) and this semester I’m teaching a course on Religion and Sexuality.

Again, as with the gentleman who went on to make the “Top Ten Most Wanted List,” but this time in a good way, I’m not surprised to hear what Ms. Barre is doing with her life.

(I might also add that her sister, Jill, another mature and excellent student of mine a few years back, is teaching at Milford High School. Kevin, their brother, escaped being in my class, and is currently an assistant principal at a middle school in Brunswick, Ohio.

The Barre’s have education in their bone marrow.

One of my favorite pictures:  Betsy sent me this picture of her library
and said I helped turn her into a serious reader.
Betsy back in what she labels her
"nerd" days.

Besty and husband: Betsy looking a little more sophisticated.

Brandi Rush (Campbell) was born on Valentine’s Day—and grew up in Loveland. What are the chances of that!

Sometimes, I tend to mix up brothers or sisters from the same family in my old teaching brain. So, let me start by saying that all of the Rush siblings I had were entertaining in class. Brandi was lively and involved and a bright young lady. My memory is that she was a cheerleader in middle school, during the Big Poofy-Hair 80s.

Her sister Julie was also cool. Julie is now a police officer “somewhere in Cincinnati,” and I’ll put her picture in my blog sometime if I get permission—and let me say right here, to Julie, that if you should ever stop an old gray-haired man for speeding, and you notice the name “Viall” on his license, then maybe let him slide on the ticket.

As for Jerry, he was one of the most comical kids I ever had in history class and I always enjoyed students who could make me laugh. Today he’s in the restaurant business.

Here’s how Brandi describes herself on Facebook:

“What you see is what you get!!!!!!...I am married and have two kids Jack, and Liam, we have one dog his name is Chet. I love animals, Jam bands, beer, watching movies, hanging out with friends, riding my bike, swimming, painting abstract art, making my friends smile, camping, fishing, hiking, most importantly my family so you mess with them you will regret it!!!!!!!!!”

(I counted the exclamation points there—and decided Brandi meant it; plus, her sister is a cop. Okay, no messing with Ms. Campbell or her family)

Among things she hates (I didn’t use the word “things,” former students. Brandi did):

1. Snakes

2. People who think they’re better than you

3. Men that wear the pants past their butts

4. People that turn their radio so loud that it thumps, but their speakers suck, so it sounds like crap

She listed others; but that’s enough. What matters is she’s practicing her art, and raising two sons, which is art in itself, and says “I love all my friends and family very much.”

Like I say: if you’re a teacher you can expect that most of the kids you teach are going to turn out just fine as adults.

Brandi (left), Julie (right) back in the good old days.

Brandi's abstract art.
Brandi's art of raising good children.

Lynzi M. Engel (Beadle) was one of the hardest-working students I had back in 2002, not to mention one of the very nicest. I wasn’t surprised to find that she was full of fun and ideas. I knew it ran in the family. I had her brother, Adam three years later, another star student, and knew their dad from basketball, too. And…what the heck…how old am I??

I had mom in class back in…back in…crap…who can remember?

I think it was Lynne, her mom, and several of her “hoodlum friends,” who brought me a bag of potato chips one day, after I mentioned in class that I ate chips whenever frustrated. My memory is that their class had been frustrating as hell the day before.

So I think they thought I needed salty solace.

Normally, Lynne was a joy to have in class, too, and Lynzi was a chip off the Engel iceberg and always easy to teach. Here, I suppose I should apologize for repeatedly making her name the correct answer to joke questions on various tests.

(Did I mention that Lynzi had a great sense of humor?)

So how is Lynzi faring in 2013? She has her undergraduate degree in speech language pathology from Ohio State and she’s happily married. She sends word to me electronically: “When I further my education it will either be for Speech or Special Education…I will be working with either speech students as [a] special education teacher or vice versa. Still deciding and praying for a clear decision.”

Ms. Beadle calls herself “a follower of Jesus Christ” who “created me into the person I am today.” What that is that was created is a very good person, from what I remember.

I suspect Lynzi is the same fine young lady today.

Lynzi as a baby; Lynne holding her tight.
Both star students during my teaching career.

(Dad was really good in basketball, too.)

Lynzi, left, Adam, right.

Mr. and Mrs. Beadle
at their OSU-themed wedding.

Last, but not most assuredly not least, we have Ms. Jara Bonner. I remember her as a bright and caring and nice young lady. She, too, was mature beyond her years and wanted to do her best, which is the standard all of us should follow.

After she graduated from Loveland she went on to earn a degree at Xavier. I checked her Facebook page to see what she was up to. Right away, I noticed she included this statement:

“I love my son, he is the greatest gift that I will ever receive. I love to read, travel and spend time with my son and my family.”

I also noticed that Jara quotes Rene Descartes (I told you she was smart):

“All the same, it could be that I am mistaken, and what I take for gold and diamonds is perhaps nothing but a bit of copper and glass.”

So, I send her a message and ask her to fill me in on what she’s now doing. She replies:
I loved doing skits in your class, and I still remember that I had to write an essay on my date with Goofy! [Noah Campbell can relate.] !! I don't even remember what I did, I just remember having to write. LOL I am currently playing around with returning back to school to pursue a masters’ degree, in what I have no clue…When I am not working, I volunteer with a project entitled The Family Is First Project. This is a group/ministry for inmates, ex- offenders and their family members. The group encourages rehabilitation, education and self-development of those behind bars as well as providing support to the family members. The group currently meets inside Warren County Prison. I am also a Chemical Dependency Drug Counselor Assistant.

I will probably switch gears soon and move into more of a social service position. My son Markus is 18, and will be attending Mt. St. Joe in the fall, he will be playing football, and studying Law Enforcement. I still love to read, recently learned to ski, [and] I might take it up next season.

Raising a good son—helping people rebuild their lives—no surprise, from what I remember of this young lady.

So let me finish this post with a positive note for anyone who reads this far. When I hear people wondering, “What’s wrong with young people today?” I always want to reply, “Nothing.”

I must totally agree with Mr. Markus Bonner.
Mom!  A Steelers' jersey???
Raise a good son and you have an accomplishment.
That's what Jara is about.

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