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Tribute to High School Teachers

May 17, 2017

 

A Tribute to My High School Teachers:

 

Clinton High School (1964-1968) in Clinton, Indiana

 

by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

 

 

While my favorite television program Jeopardy is in the midst of honoring teachers through its Teacher Tournament and after my blog post last week to honor some superior teachers from my grade-school days, I am turning to the teachers of Clinton High School (Clinton, Indiana) during my high school years of 1964 through 1968.  In my Wordwalk blog post of May 10, I acknowledged grade-school teachers in chronological order; however, for this tribute, I will give my thanks to teachers by a recollection of building location and departments.  Once again, I am not presenting a “Top Ten List of Teachers,” but am mentioning some outstanding teachers while I fully realize that I learned from each teacher in whose class I sat in the old wooden “row” desks that had such style and character.

 

Speaking of those desks prompts me to recall the block on which stood the five buildings of our high school (with an enrollment of approximately four hundred students, 104 graduates in my Class of ’68).  Of course, all of the buildings were brick.  The three-story Senior High Building graced the northwest corner of the large block; and the Junior High Building, also three stories, faced Mulberry Street at the northeast corner of the block.  Between these two buildings was the firehouse for the City of Clinton.  Behind the firehouse was the newest of the buildings–the Multi-purpose Building which was primarily used as our cafeteria.  A covered walkway connected the Senior High Building, Junior High Building, and the Multi-purpose Building.  Behind the Senior High Building and to the west of the Multi-purpose Building was the Gymnasium which in addition to a basketball court and bleachers, had a large stage, upstairs classroom for health class, and a basement for home economics and shop classes, as well as the band room and locker rooms.  Finally, on the southeast corner of the block, facing Blackman Street, stood the Administration Building which besides offices, had classrooms on the second and third stories.  Of these five buildings between Third Street on the east and Fourth Street on the west, only the Gymnasium and Multi-Purpose Building are still standing and being used.

 

All who know me certainly know that I am not a math person; however, I will begin in the math department of Clinton High School.  After descending the east stairwell of the Senior High Building, the first classroom on the right in the lower level was the math classroom of Mr. Theodore (“Ted”) Nolan.  Even more than freshman algebra, what I learned from Mr. Nolan was an extraordinary teaching method.  He had a most impressive way of not only welcoming each student, but also making each student feel important.  In his classroom, there were not just a couple of star students:  the entire classroom was a constellation.  I am certain that some students smiled and flourished only in his classroom.  When I was teaching, I tried to follow Mr. Nolan’s example and welcome each student as he or she entered my classroom each day.  Whenever I was challenged by a group of students in a class, I often wondered what I could do to make these students feel special and learn more from my class:  I truly wondered, “What would Mr. Nolan do?”  Even as a freshman in high school, I marveled at his classroom techniques.  How his manner of teaching did inspire me!  I wish I had been able to thank him years ago.

 

In the second room down from Mr. Nolan’s room was the math classroom of Mrs. (Susan) Lapworth, who was my teacher for geometry (sophomore year) and “College Algebra” (junior year).  While I have forgotten way too much geometry and algebra, I will never forget how, without ever asking me a question about my eye condition, Mrs. Lapworth very unobtrusively handed me each quiz written in her beautiful cursive handwriting because this observant teacher realized that I, even from sitting in a front seat, could not see the quiz questions which she wrote on the chalkboard.  During my sophomore year when an ophthalmologist told me for the first time that I was “legally blind,” I never thought, nor did my parents, of telling my teachers.  Eventually only the school nurse Miss Butts knew of my diagnosis of macular degeneration (juvenile onset); however, to my knowledge, the school nurse never informed my teachers.  Of course, the small accommodation which Mrs. Lapworth made was well before the days of the word “accommodation” becoming prevalent in education.  Most assuredly, what my geometry teacher did for me helped me to receive knowledge and grades that made me later eligible for National Honor Society because I had no plans to tell her that I could not see the quizzes written on the chalkboard.  Yes, I should have also thanked Mrs. Lapworth decades ago.

 

Across the hall from Mrs. Lapworth’s room was the typing room where, the summer of 1966, I learned touch-typing from Mrs. (Joan) Dunlap.  While we still pounded away on large, standard typewriters, some of the typewriters in the classroom were, gratefully, electric.  With all the papers which I wrote during the remainder of my secondary, undergraduate, and post-graduate education, that typing class was vitally important and appreciated then and now.

 

Moving from the lower level to the second floor of the Senior High Building, I remember the huge Study Hall which had a very small stage and a piano in the front of the room.  Expanding the entire length of the south half of the second floor, the Study Hall must have contained at least twelve rows of thirty or more of the “row” desks.  Tall windows lined the south and east walls; of course, the floor was hardwood.  Entering and exiting the Study Hall was through two large doorways on the north side.  Mrs. Dunlap, a business teacher, and Mr. Kyle, who was a shop teacher and was very active in the VFW and Lions Club, selected me as one of the students to take attendance in their large study-hall period.  Not only did I enjoy this task, but I benefited by their trust and confidence in my being able to do this task quickly and efficiently.  Another year or two, I was pleased to be chosen to work in the Counselors’ Office.  Picking up attendance slips outside classroom doors daily or delivering messages occasionally were among my minimal duties; but I was pleased to do this work for Mr. (Robert) Burton, one of our counselors.

 

To the west of the Counselors’ Office (across the hall from the Study Hall) was the classroom of Mr. (Max) Chambers.  Although I learned a fair amount about sociology, what I think Mr. Chambers most taught was how to study.  Study skills which I learned from him served me well through many subsequent years of my education and helped me to realize the importance of my teaching others how to study.

 

East of the Principal’s Office and across from the Study Hall was the foreign language room.  During my first two years of high school, I studied French with Mrs. (Marilyn) Hawkins.  I relished the variety of this class and also enjoyed its creative aspects (like making menus in French).  In this room, during my senior year, I was delighted to take a Spanish class with Mrs. (Vera) Shew.  With no foreign language lab and with only minimal teaching materials, these teachers instilled in me a love for learning languages.  As a result of this Spanish class, I continued to study Spanish throughout undergraduate and graduate school at Indiana State University.

 

During my years at Clinton High School, the Junior High Building, despite its name, was for secondary students (grades nine through twelve), as were all the other buildings which I have mentioned.  In the Junior High Building on the second floor was the large library, expanding the entire south side of the second level.  Miss (Florence) Salaroglio, who had been my mother’s French teacher, was the full-time librarian.  Not only did I enjoy working in the library for Miss Salaroglio, but I was thrilled when she selected my friend Nancy Rendaci and me to attend a week-long summer conference for student librarians on the campus of Purdue University.  One of the activities of this special week was a discussion of the book Fahrenheit 451.  Staying on a large university campus for a week was great preparation for what lay ahead in only one year.  Miss Salaroglio was one of the teachers whom I was able to appropriately thank because she invited Nancy and me to her home for a visit one afternoon to share what we had learned at the conference before senior year.

 

Certainly, I was blessed with English teachers who gave me a strong foundation in grammar, punctuation, writing, and literature.  I am especially grateful to Mrs. Gerrish (freshman homeroom and English teacher), Mrs. (Nancy Pointer who later taught in the classroom of Mrs. Gerrish (northwest corner of the lower level of the Junior High Building), as well as Mrs. (Harriet) Baldwin who was my English teacher for one year  and then again for senior English and British Literature in her classroom in the northeast corner of the lower level of the Junior High Building.  In the northwest classroom of the top floor of the Administration Building, I certainly remember the energetic teaching of English by Mrs. (Naomi) Craig.

 

During my junior year (1966-1967), my high school offered journalism as a course for the first time.  Since I was very interested in newspapers and newspaper writing, I was delighted to have this opportunity to take journalism with Mrs. (Sharon) Hussong, a new and young teacher.  The green and white cover of our textbook prominently displayed the title Press Time.  Undoubtedly, this was my favorite textbook.  I only regretted that the course was merely one year.  While I could not take a second part of the course of journalism, I was able to continue working on the school newspaper for a fourth year.  By the time of my senior year, the newspaper staff acquired the office between the library and the new classroom of Mrs. Hussong in the Junior High Building.  Our staff room had counter space, office desks and chairs, and even an IBM Selectric typewriter.  What a wonderful opportunity to work in this room on an offset newspaper production for our high school!  Through Mrs. Hussong’s journalism class and the newspaper staff (for which she was advisor), so many worthwhile opportunities and experiences developed, including attending the Indiana High School Press Association Convention and becoming a charter member of our high school’s chapter of the Quill and Scroll Society (national honorary organization for high school journalists).  My love of working on the school newspaper led to my studying journalism at Indiana State University.  I have always wanted to tell Mrs. Hussong how far that journalism course took me on a wonderful life’s path of writing.  I wish I could give her a copy of my book and a bouquet of thanks for all that she encouraged me and gave to me.

 

In May of 1968, when I crossed the stage of the CHS Gymnasium and was handed my diploma, I had my parents and many teachers to thank.  I thank them even more today.

 

 

With thanks to all of our teachers of Clinton High School,

Alice and Leader Dog Willow

 

May 17, 2017, Wednesday, the 125th anniversary of the birth of my paternal grandmother Elizabeth (Liza) Massa

 

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8 Comments
  1. Sue McKendry permalink

    Alice–what a nice tribute to all of the teachers you mentioned, but what I enjoyed most about this post is learning more about you and your many interests and activities–I’m sure someday former students will be writing about you, at least the ones who haven’t already. What really amazed me was your description of the locations of the buildings, something I would never be able to do for the high schools I attended.–Sue

    • Sue–Thanks for reading my very lengthy post about my high school teachers, and I appreciated your comment. Due to the stormy weather, I had to shut down my computer twice and was concerned that I would not be able to post this memoir by my self-imposed deadline of prior to midnight on Wednesday. Fortunately, Mother Nature gave Milwaukee a little break; and I posted the document which was much longer than expected.

      Hoping all is well at your house after the storms, Alice and Willow

  2. mfanyo permalink

    Thanks for the walk down Memory Lane, Alice! Your tribute certainly brought back the details of the CHS hallways and classrooms that we roamed in our teenage years. I could actually feel the energy, enthusiasm, and excitement of dedicated teachers and curious students coming together to expand our knowledge of the world–knowledge that has served us well in our studies and careers. What fun to look back on that time through your skilled writing!
    Love, Mary

    • Mary–in my more than 1900 words, I intended to mention, but forgot to include a note about the club Future Teachers of America, to which both of us belonged. Through this organization, I was able to assist a teacher with her class one afternoon at Central Elementary School. Our small-town school offered us many opportunities.

      Thanks for commenting on my journey down Memory Lane–Alice and Willow

  3. Fran Rayce permalink

    Oh, Alice. It felt like I was fourteen again, worried about being able to make it from one building to the next in time for my next class! How clearly you described it all, putting me right back in those hallways. It even brought back my study hall seat; row 3, seat 13, right in front of Mary. We were indeed fortunate to have such dedicated teachers, noticing our needs and encouraging us always.

    • Fran–I am impressed that you remember the exact row and seat of your desk in the CHS Study Hall. I, too, worried about arriving at the next class on time in the five minutes which we had for break between classes. Walking from the Senior High Building to the top floor of the Administration Building in five minutes could be achieved only without dawdling.

      Thanks for sharing some of your comments about CHS–Alice

  4. Gina Amerman permalink

    Alice, I really enjoyed the walk down CHS memory lane! I’m forwarding your blogpost to my Aunt Nana (your Mrs. Dunlap!). She just celebrated her 91st. birthday on May 7! She recently sold her home in Clinton, and is living in North Carolina with her daughter Pam. They have a very large family there, and she cooks, babysits, and drives to grocery store and to get her hair done each week! She is amazing–a great inspiration to me and my sister. I know she’ll enjoy reading ALL of your writing! Love, Gina

    • Gina–I am so delighted to have your comment added to this blog post about teachers of CHS. Many thanks to you for forwarding my blog post to your amazing and inspirational aunt. How wonderful that she is so active at age 91! Although I knew she had moved to North Carolina, I am happy to hear this update about my former teacher. If I recall correctly, I believe she was one of our class sponsors during the freshman and/or sophomore years of the Class of ’68. Additionally, I believe Mrs. Dunlap was one of the sponsors of the club Future Teachers of America. When you next speak to her or write to her, please give her my best wishes and thanks.

      With much appreciation, Alice

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