It’s easy to forget the fact that our teachers survived the tribulations of high school. Just like us, they also experienced the stress of math finals and wrote long, tedious essays.
High school is a very formative time in teenagers’ lives and the four years have a large impact on their interests and personalities. So what were our teachers like in high school? Where did they come from and how have their experiences shaped who they are today? What funny and perhaps embarrassing memories do they recall?
As we head into the summer, we can look at some of our renowned teachers and picture what they were like back in the olden days.
Jenny Pommiss, Grace’s beloved head of JK-12 dance, described herself as “a real hot mess” in high school – a sentiment that many of us can relate to.
Young Ms. Pommiss was a strong student, who was well-disciplined, driven, and highly considerate of others. Her compassion carries over into her role as an 11th-grade advisor who deeply cares for the well-being and success of her students. She has fond memories of high school, remembering it as a very formative time, which led to her desire to play a role in the lives of current high school students.
Dance has remained constant throughout her childhood and now into adulthood. In high school, Ms. Pommiss participated in her school dance company and was always choreographing around the school.
Surprisingly, she was also on the field hockey team, only lasting for a year, in addition to the winter track team, which was called the “Toscaninis,” entailing a season of running up snowy mountains in the freezing cold. Her love of running originated from her time with the Toscaninis, and, like dancing, has carried over into adulthood.
These are details we likely expect from the wonderful dance teacher we’ve grown so familiar with. However, it may come as a surprise to learn that Ms. Pommiss was quite a jokester in high school. One day, during Ms. Pommiss’ senior year, her high school’s yearbook staff was traveling around the school and taking photos of various clubs.
Normally, the only people in the club photos are the people in the club. However, as the light-hearted, rebellious teens that they were, Ms. Pommiss and her friends followed the yearbook staff around the school, photobombing every single club photo. She and her friends solidified themselves as the founders of the “funny faces club,” which appeared in the yearbook alongside more acclaimed clubs like the senior coalition against Homelessness.
It may come as a comfort to learn that many of Ms. Pommiss’s closest friends are the ones that she made during high school. Every night – pre-iPhone era – she picked up the landline to call her friends, and they talked for hours. She explained that high school wasn’t very competitive for her, and she and her friends always looked out for each other.
In another interview, Andie Goodman, one of Grace’s newest and youngest faculty members, described herself as “basically the same” as her high school self, albeit a little more mature.
When she was in high school, Ms. Goodman was a strong leader and student, as the president of her student body and a self-proclaimed academic “tryhard.” She attended a big public school, a quite different environment from Grace, yet managed to find small pockets of community in musical theater.
For Ms. Goodman, high school was a really positive experience and a place where she met many influential adults, including her guidance counselor. Ultimately, her drive to help students navigate such a formative time in their lives, combined with an aversion to the idea of an office job, guided her decision to join Grace.
Ms. Goodman recalled many fond memories of her time in high school, including one, pretty iconic moment during her senior year.
On one fateful night, Ms. Goodman received the news of an incoming snowstorm. Normally, news of a snowstorm would be cause for celebration – students welcome any potential opportunity for a snow day – but this time, it meant that the opening night of Kiss Me Kate, the musical that she was starring in, was delayed. Although it was only delayed by a day, the news overwhelmed Ms. Goodman, causing her to start hysterically crying.
The next day, a dejected Ms. Goodman, clad in a hoodie and wearing no makeup, attended one of her school’s pep rallies. There, she sat in the bleachers amidst hundreds of other students, “in her feels,” watching as each of her school’s sports teams ran out into the gym.
When the boy’s tennis team emerged, she noticed that they were each holding something in their hands. As they got closer, she realized that the mysterious object was a rose. Every single member of the boy’s tennis team was clutching one of the romantic flowers. At the back of the group of boys was one of her friends, who was wielding a sign that said, “Andie Rose, will you go to prom with me?”
They had already agreed to attend prom together, but she didn’t anticipate his grand promposal – especially since promposals were a rarity at her school.
In high school, Frank Newman was pretty much exactly what we all imagine him as: a math whiz, the smartest kid in school, and the only freshman amongst a sea of upperclassmen in his math classes. He describes his high school self as a “more competitive” version of his current self, who was very interested in striving for success – whether he was engaged in a round of hula hooping or playing Super Mario. Young Mr. Newman had large aspirations, seeking to rise to celebrity status and become “famous” within his high school community.”
Throughout his entire high school career, Mr. Newman participated in math competitions, winning awards that were announced to the entire school. During one pep rally, when the school was honoring him for a math award, he requested to sing the national anthem in front of the entire school.
He loved and still loves to sing, so performing the national anthem was a feat that he believed would be fun and good for getting him out of his comfort zone. The administration allowed him to do it, and so, young Mr. Newman poured his heart into the lyrics of the national anthem and effectively made his mark on his high school.
Due to his natural affinity for math, Mr. Newman was placed out of his math classes by the time he reached his sophomore year. As a result, he had many free periods in his schedule, which he used to visit other math classes and help other students. This experience fostered Mr. Newman’s love for tutoring and teaching, which translated into his decision to become a math teacher.
It comes as no surprise to learn that Dana Foote was equally cherished by her high school peers as she is by Grace’s community.
Ms. Foote, who goes by Dana around the high school, said she was the “social lubricant” of her grade, acting as a bridge across all of the classic “cliques” that could be found in her high school: the stereotypical jocks, nerds, and cheerleaders.
As a high school student, Dana maintained the same (if not higher) level of energy and enthusiasm that have made her such a vibrant part of Grace’s community today. Likewise, when senior superlatives were released, she was voted the “class clown” and “most peppiest.” She had a natural aptitude for humor, which lent itself to her peers labeling her jokes and commentary as the “Dana Laugh Show.”
She explained that internally, she “still feels 17,” and recalls her time in high school with a perceptible fondness.
Dana’s high school experience has directly impacted her life today. One of her favorite parts of her job is watching the growth that teenagers undergo throughout their time in high school, and wants to play an active role in guiding students through such a transitional period in their lives.
Her time in high school left a major impact on her and was where she met many of her closest friends. As such, she wants all students to make meaningful connections with their peers and to feel the care and love that she experienced when she was in high school.
In high school, Andrew Leonard was a self-proclaimed “diva,” who was hyper-involved in their school community. They were part of their school’s International Baccalaureate (IB) program, almost every music ensemble, all of the musicals and plays, and even served as the president of their student government. During their senior year, Leonard was the lead of their school’s musical “Urinetown,” taking the stage as Bobby Strong with their long, flowing curly hair.
Leonard attended a huge public school in Edmonds, Washington – with 2,200 students – which made it easy to blend in. However, Leonard wanted to stand out within their enormous school community, and by their senior year, everyone knew Leonard. They gained the reputation for being the “fun one,” who hosted cast parties for their musical ensemble groups after each of their performances. As a standout member of their community, Leonard contributed to every celebratory parade, homecoming, and school community event. Every year, they won the title of “most school spirited” in their yearbook. Their role as a strong community member extends into their current job and passion for creating small pockets of community within Grace.
Leonard admitted that non-artistic classes were not exactly their strong suit, with their parents having to “pry them away from the piano.” However, the arts program at their school was vibrant and incredible, which allowed Leonard to win awards in and outside of the classroom.
During their senior year, Leonard and one of their best friends to this day, who shares their passion for singing, decided that they were going to sing at their graduation. They picked “Whenever You Remember” by Carrie Underwood, which they now recall as one of the funniest and cringiest experiences of their lives, still laughing about it today. At the time, the song choice was well-received by their grade, as female pop stars like Lady Gaga and Beyoncé were slowly on the rise. However, today, Leonard describes the lyrics as cheesy and corny in comparison to this year’s seniors’ moving rendition of “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac.
Leonard explained that if you are going to do something or be a part of something, you need to put your entire body into it and give it your all. That is what Leonard did in high school, and what they continue to do today as a teacher.
Our teachers are integral to our high school experience and each and every one of them will impact us in one way or another. Learning about our teachers’ high school careers gives us some hope for our own story, knowing that we will never forget this stage of life. Although high school comes and goes, it’s clear from these testimonies of our teachers that the memories and friendships that we create will stay with us forever.
Miranda Chao Hwang ‘24 and Zamira Frost ‘24, the authors, are senior columnists for The Grace Gazette.