Teacher: Miss Westphall
Though this was the first year of officially being in “the other half” of the school, I don’t remember much about it.
I’d heard for years about how tough a teacher Miss Westphall was, and had narrowly missed having her in fourth grade, but we finally caught up with each other this year. She was tough, but more importantly, she had our number. A quick wit coupled with an understanding of how elementary school kids think meant she had an immediate response any time a student asked one of those “What if I…” questions designed to waste class time. She also used the word “moot” a few times, a strange-sounding new-to-us word that always got a few chuckles, but not more than the word “behoove,” as in, “Mr. Zwolanek, it would behoove you to put away that comic book and get out your science book.” Yes, she attached “Mr.” to our names when calling us out, and her intonation while doing so added an extra bit of “you know I’m not fooling around here.” It was kind of like when your mother yells your full name when you’re in trouble, only Miss Westphall rarely yelled.
Miss Westphall and Miss Appling (my brother’s teacher) came to our house to meet our parents one night. It was a standard thing that teachers did back in the day, but it was odd for us because we lived a half hour from school. I remember trying to listen to what they were saying from the top of the stairs and planning escape routes out my second story window should the need arise. I must not have needed to, as I never once climbed out that window.
The biggest memory I have from sixth grade is that every week someone was the “Student of the Week.” They would bring a recipe from home of their favorite treat, and Miss Westphall would make it and bring it on Friday to class. At the end of the year, we put together recipe books from all of the recipes throughout the year. The recipe I brought was for brownies that a lady in our church made. Her name was Mary, so my mom had written “Mary’s Brownies” on the recipe card. In the book at the end of the year, right next to “Oatmeal Raisin Cookies” and “Mississippi Mud Bars” were “Mary’s Brownies.” I was mortified that “my” recipe didn’t have a proper name and felt I should do something about it, but there wasn’t anything I could do. From my vantage point now, I actually like that “Mary’s Brownies” got immortalized in that fashion and it makes me smile. Plus, they were really good brownies.
I remember a failed attempt at smart alecking in sixth grade, too. Miss Westphall was making a comparison to how people didn’t know much about … someone (a pastor? A President?), but everyone knew who Marilyn Monroe was. To be the flipside of that coin, I stuck my hand up and asked, “Who was Marilyn Monroe?” Ha ha, right? I knew who Marilyn Monroe was, but I was proving her wrong! …except not. She went on to explain who Marilyn Monroe was, and I felt stupid. Well played, Miss Westphall. Well played.
That’s all I’ve got from sixth grade. Looking at it, it doesn’t seem like much. Our family visited Washington, D.C., this year, but it’s not technically school-related, so I can’t talk about it.
Seventh grade messed me all kinds of up.