How I Remember My West Mifflin School Teachers (1974-1988)

Some blog posts are more for me, than for you. This is one such post.

I’ve decided to make a list of all of my teachers and what impression they made on me.  I include my age when I began that grade – I was very young in my class and probably should have been held back a year for emotional development.

1974, (Age 3) PreK, Homeville Elementary School – I was so young that I barely remember this, but I do remember one of the teachers. I think her name was Mrs. Huffy which stuck with me because of the popular “Huffy Thunder Road” commercials on television. I remember her being very nice to me.

1975-1976, (Age 4) Kindergarten, New England Elementary School – Mrs. Devy.

  • I thought her name was “Mrs Debby” and Debby was her first name. I remember she was very sweet and looked a little bit like my Aunt Sue. I wept when she was out for a few weeks due to illness and Mrs. Balaban subbed. I also thought her name was Mrs. Alabama.

1976-1977, (Age 5) First Grade, New England – Mrs. Moreno

New England Elementary School
  • She was also very nice. Otherwise, I had no real impression of her.

1977-1978, (Age 6) Second Grade, New England – Mrs. Hayden

  • Stern. She expected us to keep orderly desks and would routinely dump them on the floor if they were untidy. She told me I was good at my ‘times tables’ but my handwriting was horrible. Also, I thought her name was Hazen.

1978-1979, (Age 7) Third Grade, New England – Mrs. Strong

  • Even more stern. She yelled at me for reading ahead of the class during silent reading time, forcibly took the book off me and told me to just put my head down and think. She yelled at me for reading. This taught me to be furtive. She took us to ‘Old Economy Village’ for a field trip which we all hated. I remember feeling sad for her because she seemed crestfallen. Furtive empathy.

1979-1980, (Age 8) Fourth Grade, New England – Mrs. Goodwin

  • She was gone for half the year on sabatical in Egypt. Spent second half of year showing us photos and organizing “healthy snack” lessons.  She also made us learn ‘Hava Nagila’ including the dance – I still remember. Because of healthy snack lessons, I repeatedly told I wasn’t eating properly or we didn’t have food, but she didn’t actively address it with me. Reinforced value of being furtive.

1980- 1981, (Age 9) Fifth Grade, New England – Mrs. McElhinny

  • Very sweet. Not very stern at all, but interesting. We learned a lot about science this year. If we responded well to a film strip, she would show it again. We drew a giant mural on the chalkboard of dinosaurs and she would not allow anyone to insert human beings because that was not historically accurate. To prepare us for high school, we switch classrooms for a few classes. The other teacher was also stern, but in a way that felt like she thought we could do better. She often assigned me to work with classmates on their reading which I thought was both because I was a great reader and because she knew I didn’t have any friends and needed social connections.

1981-1982, (Age 10) Sixth Grade, New England – Mr. Manfredi

  • Mr. Manfredi was one of the worst teachers I’ve ever had. He was a bully, pure and simple. Everyone thought he was cool; we called him “Mr. Man” but he yelled, insulted, shamed, and harassed anyone at the drop of a hat. He would single out the weak students and try to toughen us up. But 6th grade isn’t military school. He would mock kids who farted, kids who didn’t do well in athletics, kids who were poor or uncared for by their families. I almost failed out of 6th grade even though I was a straight A student because I hated him so much. I stayed home as much as I could get away with.

1982-1983, (Age 11)  Seventh Grade, Lebanon Junior High

Lebanon Junior High pre-demolition.
  • Math – Mrs. Fleisher. Sweet, smart, and responsive. I realized I did like Math. She pushed me to get into Algebra the following year.
  • English – Mr. Hahn. Poor guy was bullied mercilessly by students. Class was like a SweatHogs warzone. I hated it.
  • Science – Mr. DeRosa. My first ‘coach disguised as teacher’ experience. Sadly, not the last. Lots of swagger, little studying.
  • Social Studies – Mr. Dean Salvucci (there were two of them, cousins). Known as the nicer of the Mr. Salvuccis, he was pleasant and engaging.
  • I had other teachers but can’t remember their names.

1983-1984, (Age 12) Eight Grade, Lebanon Junior High

  • Math – Mr. Kampus. A bit of a bully still, but taught me a lot. We all remember the “Wilmerding Bridge Rule” when it comes to algebra.
  • English – Miss Allen. One of my favorites. We all assumed she was a lesbian, but I didn’t quite understand what that meant. I learned a lot about grammar from her. Or much about grammar?
  • Science – Mr. Lenz. Very, very smart. Affable, lectured a bit over our heads.
  • Geography – Mr. Dom Salvucci. Does anyone ever remember the GNP for any nation? Blah.
  • Reading – Miss Moreno. She was reassigned from 6th grade. She made us turn our desks in a circle every class and back again at the end which reduced class time by like 10 minutes. She made everyone read out loud and I cringed for my friends who were not strong readers. Uggghhh.
  • Can’t remember the rest?

1984-1985 (Age 13) Ninth Grade, Edison Junior High

  • Algebra II – New Guy. I liked the subject, but don’t remember him. He was really young and did not seem at all comfortable.
  • French – Mr. Guis. Dangled classmate Dave out of secondfloor window as discipline. I studied very hard.
  • Science – Dr. Anatar. Very smart. I think this was Earth Science and I really began to struggle with science.
  • I think I blocked out most of this year.

1985-1986 (Age 14) Tenth Grade, West Mifflin Area High School

  • Geometry – Mr. Gentile. He took a shine to me, but was abusive to other students. I was uncomfortable with that dichotomy, but desperately craved positive attention. I did not love geometry.
  • Chemistry – Mr. Moritz. He was a coach, but engaging. Sadly, he died of a heart attack at age 44 in December while at a high school basketball game. It was really sad.
  • History – Mr. ? A glorified study hall. I was so far ahead on the tests that I could skip the last month. That’s not good.
  • French I – Mrs. McElroy. She was like your fun great-aunt who needed to retire ten years early. She was out at least once a week for the entire year. We learned French by rote practice, but I didn’t learn anything else.

1986-1987 (Age 15) Eleventh Grade, West Mifflin Area High School

  • Trigonometry – Mr. Gentile. More of the same. I was falling further behind, but kept my grades up by memorization. I should have been moved to a different program, because I was not higher mathematics material.
  • Pre-AP English – Mr. Ludwig. A gentleman teacher from another era. Forcing Great American novels on me almost cost me my love of reading, but I persevered. Never actually taught us HOW to write an essay.
  • Chemistry II – Mr. Bickus. Sort of a bumbling nice guy. I was far in over my head. He pulled me through but I earned my first F on a test in my life because stuff was so intense and hard at home. No one noticed or said anything if they did.
  • History – Mr. ?. More memorization. I was the most popular kid in class because I let them all cheat of off me. I was never caught. I’m not proud of this as an ethical issue, but it was a savvy survival skill.
  • Some sort of writing class – Miss    . She was tough, but fair. I couldn’t coast. She noticed when I was slacking. I noticed that she noticed.

1987-1988 (Age 16) Twelth Grade, West Mifflin Area High School

  • Calculus – Mr. Gentile. Dear God, how did I get through this?
  • AP English – Ms. Romanus. I could feel her disdain for me and all of the girls. But she taught us a lot. I disliked poetry and that didn’t go well with her. She took us to poetry reading and I fell asleep (I had 2 jobs, ran track, etc plus learned later in life its an anxiety symptom). When I had the highest score in the school on the AP English exam, she never said a word. I skipped two years of college level English and she never said a word.
  • Physics – Mr. Price. Hoo boy. I was so not going to be an engineer. Thank God I helped so many math/science folks with their English/history over the years.
  • Economics – Mr. Trosch  . Yet another coach pretending to teach. We learned about coins. We watched a lot of basketball tapes. We heard gross stories about wax removal from his ears. But I had zero idea about economics to go along with my A.

If you had asked me in high school who I really liked, I would have selected Mr. Gentile. It was only much later that I realized his favoritism wasn’t healthy and how much he hurt other students. In fact, looking back, I feel like I was being groomed.

Yes, my French teacher did dangle a student out of the window. He also slammed him into a locker, threw him across the room, and basically brutalized him while scaring the hell out of me.

And I’m surprised no one noticed I needed help? Ha.

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