September 7, 2010

Part II: Worst teachers, a few worth mentioning

Larry Bory, 1960
I agree with Tom Urban whose comments appear in the previous blog entry. The worst Division Avenue teacher was Mr. Navarra, a bully who loved to make students small. He loved to patrol the second-floor boys room between classes. He quit teaching and opened a liquor store on the North Shore of Long Island.

Frank Barning, 1960
In my experience, the absolutely worst was chemistry teacher Dominic Solimando,. He was a total disgrace to his profession and it didn't help that he had an uneducated, grating Brooklyn accent. I don't think that he lasted more than one year at Division. Solly lived on his own planet. Susan Weldon (1960) describes him as "ferret like."

Most of the students in my chem class were college bound. But because of Solimando several of us had to attend summer school in order to pass the regents. It was humiliating to have to tell my parents that I had to attend summer school. Several other solid students barely passed, having scores in the high 60s. What a shame!

Mal Karman '60 wrote a poem about Mr. Solimando, which I still remember 50 years later...
Old Solly had a Brooklyn lab
how silly can he be
To live a life as Captain Jet
and dream of chemistry
"I won't be dare on da regents test"
and we all did fail how true
But those who suffered now can laugh
Old Solly got the screw

Almost as bad as Solimando was a very nice man, Joseph Fischer. At least he was sane. I had the misfortune of having Mr. Fischer as a geometry teacher and with a few weeks to go before the regents and many of us feeling totally unprepared, he actually allowed two students to take over the class. I will always feel deeply indebted to Ira Selsky and Tom Krustangel who guided me and most of our class to success in the hated regents. After 10th grade, Krustangel left Division and has not been heard from since.

The DAHS powers that be must have understood that Mr. Fischer was a disaster as a math teacher. The following school year, he was transferred to the library and worked there with John Mathews. I spent a lot of time studying in the library and Mr. Fischer was always cheerful and most helpful. Whoever hired him to teach math was the real culprit, not this gentle soul.

Bob Castro, 1960
I was very fortunate because most of my teachers were pretty good, although some of them made some pretty good goofs. That being said, my one outstanding stinker was Mr. Solimando, my junior year chemistry teacher. If my memory serves me correctly, he had three classes totaling about 90 students, and only 14 of them passed the regents. I made it through with a 67. That screwed up a lot of peoples' grade-point averages, including mine. And I eventually failed college chem and had to take it over. This guy couldn't communicate with any of his students,

Michelle Fromm-Lewis 1963
Without a doubt or question, the worst teacher I ever had in high school was Senora Miranda. I had her for Spanish in 10th, 11th, and 12th grades. I, and most of my classmates who stuck it out with her for 3 years, knew less Spanish at graduation than we did after 8th and 9th grades. Her nickname was Misery Miranda, and quite truthfully, I don't ever remember her actually teaching us Spanish. She was much more into current events and politics and she instigated some pretty hot discussions in our class. For instance, one day we came into the classroom and written across the board in large letters was the phrase "Better Red than Dead". Well, you can just imagine.....

In 8th I had La Señora Celesta Cameira. In 9th I had Mr. Shatz (he didn't require the "Señor"). Old Shatzie was a bit weird but a really good teacher.

Jon Buller, 1963
Any feelings I have about the shortcomings of our teachers are balanced by feelings that they all deserved medals for putting up with us. At the twentieth reunion I was talking to Mr. Kalinowski, and I began to apologize for so often giving him a hard time. I was very interested in learning a foreign language in high school, although I never would have admitted it to anyone at the time.

In a gesture that would be familiar to all of his past students, he held up a hand to stop me. “You were ANGELS,” he said. “Compared to what we get today, you were ANGELS!”


June Johnson said...

In my senior year I had to take Intermediate Algebra. I had gotten through Elementary Algebra and Plane Geometry and needed an additional math course.
The teacher was Mr. Pollock. He seemed pleasant enough, but missed a lot of school.We had a steady stream of substitutes and inconsistent teaching. By mid-year,Mr. Pollock was gone.
The class was out of control behaviorally. With the revolving door of subs we were lost.
One day, while waiting for the teacher-du-jour, one of the girls took a bottle of scotch out of her bookbag,opened it, took a swig and passed it on to the rest of us.
I had no interest and sent it to the next kid.
All of a sudden everything got quiet.I followed all eyes to the door where Mr. Simes stood.His face was bright red and he looked ready to explode. He was enraged.
The upshot was expulsion for the swiggers and and the girl who brought the bottle to school.
For me it was a 26 on the Regents.

Feyso said...

I disagree about Sra. Miranda. I had her in 66-67 for Spanish I and I still remember most of the 'dialogues'. Had her for a study hall teacher as a senior in 67-68 in 8th pd cafeteria and I had an absolute blast with her.