Everything has a story, whether it be that fuzzy stuffed panda on the bed or the line green knicknack sitting beside the computer, and every story deserves to be heard—even teachers’. Yes, behind droning lectures, your teachers can be cool. It seems unheard of, a teacher with a personality and another life outside the perimeters of the campus. However, many teachers have other interests outside of school and go on all sorts of adventures. Just by looking around the classroom and studying their possessions, you too can discover the other side of your teachers.
Among the many drawings and letters from previous beloved students on English and ELD teacher Arantxa Arriada’s colorful wall, one can find the 8 ½ x 11-inch signed photo of America’s wealthiest woman, Oprah Winfrey.
“I just love her!” Arriada said.
Arriada’s boyfriend Eli Brown, who returned October 5 after serving 13 months of Iraq, brought the photograph home to her after working on the set of Oprah’s show.
“Oprah was doing a special show at Fort Campbell about pregnant army wives,” Arriada said. “Eli was a body guard for her while she was there.”
According to Arriada, while Oprah and Eli were driving to their next filming location, Oprah asked Eli if he was married. He said no, but mentioned his longtime girlfriend Arriada and her admiration for Oprah. Right then and there, Oprah pulled out a photo of herself and a pen and signed the photo for Arriada.
It reads “Best Wishes, Arantxa Arriada.”
Roma Hammel, English and AVID teacher for the past 22 years, can be described in one word: excursionist.
Over the past 10 years, Hammel has spent her spare time traveling to the corners of the earth in search of culture and a little fun. A few of her travel destinations have included Peru, Bali and Africa. Her classroom is a showcase for her many collections. In the right-hand corner of the classroom is a 12 foot long lilac kite that resembles the face and wings of a dragon.
“I got it Bali,” Hammel said. “When I went, they were having a kite festival. They even had kite fights. The opponents would attach glass to the ends of their kites to try to knock the others out of the sky.”
Pinned high on the opposite wall and illuminated by the afternoon light are three hanging quilts. The largest one, four feet long and three feet wide, depicts a tranquil scene of villagers in a small town. In the background, white-tipped mountains can been seen behind the village rooftops.
“Those I got in Peru,” Hammel said.
Carl Babb is no ordinary science teacher. A bright, stuffed and fuzzy parrot perching in an open cage sits motionless underneath the television, and a snake remains tightly coiled in a glass aquarium against the opposite wall.
“[The parrot] was a Valentine’s Day gift from my wife,” Babb said. “It repeats what I say, so if a student asks me to repeat something, I just push this button and it repeats everything I said.”
According to students, Babb enjoys the parrot.
“He uses the parrot a lot,” sophomore Jenny Bakos said. “He often sets it off right before a test, while we’re taking notes, or just to quiet the class down.”
It is clear that Babb has a personal connection to both the bird and the snake.
The snake in the aquarium is aptly named Lydia.
“I named her after the Groucho Marx song,” Babb said.
“Lydia the Tattooed Lady” is the song Babb was referring to, and after hearing the title, it is clear why he named his red tail boa constrictor after this song. Covered in reddish-brown spots, Lydia truly is a tattooed lady.
Having Lydia around does not seem to bother students.
“The snake is really cool,” sophomore Sydney Manning said. “I love snakes.”
According to Jenny, the snake actually seems to have a positive effect on the atmosphere within the classroom.
“It really lightens the mood and makes class more interesting,” Jenny said.
A life-sized cut-out of music legend Elvis Presley is clearly visible from special education teacher Chris Phipps’ classroom door window.
“I’m a huge Elvis fan,” Phipps said. “That was actually a prop from my 40th birthday party that never happened.”
Birthday party that never happened?
“My friends planned this huge birthday party with an Elvis theme,” Phipps said. “Then a week before the party, my dad passed away so it got cancelled. The cut-out was a leftover prop, and so I took it home. It wasn’t until this year that I realized it would be a good thing to put in my classroom, a real conversation piece.”
There is no doubt that this cardboard replica of the 50s’ dream boy is bound to stir up some conversation. Standing at about five feet-eight inches and wearing an orange sweater and classic black pants, the poster holds a startling resemblance to the real King of Rock n’ Roll.
It is clear that with most teachers, there is much more than meets the eye. Many have a much different side to them that is represented through personal objects hanging or posted around their classrooms. So in the future, look around and you may find out something new about your teacher.