By Anyi Liebler-Bendix and Emma Huckins
The mid to late 1900s were a time of no cell phones, big hair, blue makeup, and the songs we know as "oldies" were brand new. This was the world many of our teachers inhabited, but all the teachers, old or young, have their own unique high school experience no matter where they grew up. Students at Jamesville-DeWitt High School have similar problems that their teachers faced decades ago.
Most of the teachers interviewed grew up in various regions of New York State, except for history teacher David Bunyan, who graduated in 1999 from Loveland High School in Colorado. Several teachers graduated from local high schools: History teacher Marian Glauber (J-DHS, 1966); math teacher Michael Klemperer (Nottingham, 1999); Spanish teacher Maria DeJesus (Westhill, 2002); and chemistry teacher Theresa Groman (Baldwinsville, 1989). Hailing from other parts of New York are English teacher Courtney Romeiser (Red Jacket Central, which is in Shortsville, NY, 1989), and history teacher Thomas Bennett (West Winfield, which is in West Winfield, NY, 1968).
Just like students today, teachers recall spending much of their time involved in athletics, no matter what years they were in school.
Ms. Romeiser said that there were fewer clubs and fewer sports for girls than today. However, Ms. Romeiser tried to take advantage of what was available. She played soccer, basketball, and softball. “Sports was integral in our community,” said Ms. Romeiser. “We had very successful teams.” Ms. Romeiser was also musically inclined and had small roles in musicals and singing groups.
Mr. Bunyan was very involved in athletics in his school as well. Through his four years at Loveland, Mr. Bunyan participated in both football and basketball, and in his senior year, he began playing rugby. Not only was Mr. Bunyan an athlete, he was also elected president of his student council senior year after being involved in it for his first three years in high school. “We would probably put on 150 events a year,” said Mr. Bunyan, showing the demands of student council. Mr. Bunyan also participated in DECA club, which he now advises at J-DHS.
Mr. Klemperer attended a large school, so sports and activity options were not limited. “We even had a bowling team,” Mr. Klemperer laughed. He played baseball throughout high school, and was a life guard. “You could get your life guarding certification through gym, which was cool,” said Mr. Klemperer. He also joined journalism and photography, which were classes as well as after school activities.
When Ms. Glauber attended J-DHS, girls had fewer sports to choose from. However Ms. Glauber did express that she was involved in the Girls’ Athletic Associaion (GAA), which was held during activity period. Most of the time, the activities were held on campus, but Ms. Glauber recalled horseback riding a couple of time as well. On top of the GAA, Ms. Glauber also paritcipated in Drama Club and French Club.
Sports and activities weren’t the only differences between high schools. The social lives and experiences of students varied from clique to clique. Bullying has been a constant problem for high schoolers since the beginning. Mr. Bunyan said, “Oh yeah definitely, everyone did [experience bullying] I think.”
Ms. Groman easily recalled a personal experience of bullying when one of her close friends fell victim. As for social differences, Ms. Groman explained that students typically split themselves up into cliques such as the athletic group, band group, nerd group, etc. She could not exactly compare the social cliques to today because she is not in any cliques as a teacher.
Although Mr. Bennet experienced more bullying in elementary and junior high, he definitely said that bullying was a problem in high school as well. Since Mr. Bennett was in high school during the late 60s, he emphasized that there was less tolerance of people who were different in sexual orientation and race, and there was a lack of female equality. “This was a time where the Civil Rights Movement was in full swing, Vietnam was starting up, and we didn’t have the kind of ‘more tolerant and accepting’ attitudes that I think are more prevalent today.”
Every teacher had a favorite subject growing up, and most went on to teach these same subjects later on. While most schools offered similar subjects, the classroom environment and expectations were much different in earlier years than they are now.
During high school, Sra. Dejesus’s favorite subject was Spanish, which isn’t very surprising since she is a Spanish teacher at J-DHS. Now that she is a teacher, Sra. Dejesus realized that when she was in high school, student’s didn’t rely on teachers for answers as much. She learned to look up answers, and even though there was Internet, there still were fewer resources.
Although Ms. Glauber is a history teacher at J-DHS, her favorite subject in high school was math, not social studies. She even went off to college as a math major, but later changed majors due to the events in the country at the time. “Honestly, Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot, and I changed my major the next day to political science,” said Mrs. Glauber. Mrs. Glauber noted that there was a little less interaction between students and teachers when she was in high school versus the way students tend to be more friendly with their teachers today. She also talked about that classes took the shape of lectures, and that there was no group work or projects, such as posters.
Of course, teachers took standarized testing in high school, including the SATs and ACTs. Compared to today, the stress and pressures of exceding at these tests was not emphasized as much. The homework load differed from school to school as well.
Since Mr. Bunyan went to high school in Colorado, he did not have to take a Regents exam. However, he did have to take a different type of standarized test, but unlike the Regents, the score on that test did not determine whether or not he graduated. Mr. Bunyan, like most students, took the SAT and ACT for college purposes. He did not receive a lot of homework in high school, but he also didn’t take very many AP courses, however, he did not feel that this hurt him. Mr. Bunyan said that, like today, homework would range from about two hours to none.
Ms. Romeiser is very familiar with standardized testing. She had to take the Regents just like every other New York student, and she expressed the pressures that juniors faced academically. Though junior year may have been stressful, Ms. Romeiser said that SATs were not as heavily weighted as they are today: The SATs “weren’t the bear they are today. We didn’t prepare for it, we didn’t take courses for it. We just showed up and did the best that we could at that time.” Ms. Romeiser said students wouldn’t think about their test scores again until it was time to apply for colleges.
It is likely that almost everyone has something they wish they could change after graduating high school.
Mr. Klemperer looked back at his high school time, and realized that he wished he had gotten more involved in extracurricular activites. He also wished he had looked into the college process more seriously. “I would’ve thought more carefully about what I wanted to go to college for and picked a school based on that,” explained Klemperer.
Sra. DeJesus also expressed that she wished she had been more involved with the college process. She wanted the chance to ask more questions about scholarships. “I didn’t get that information that I see students with here,” said Sra. DeJesus.
Mr. Bunyan seemed mostly satisfied with his high school career, but he did express his wish that he’d started to play rugby at an earlier age. Academically, Mr. Bunyan sometimes wishes he had taken more AP level classes, but he feels that not taking such classes did not hurt him in the long run. A major reason why Mr. Bunyan could not participate in many extra curricular activities is because his role in student council took much of his time, but he regrets not being able to participate in his school choir. Like most students today, Mr. Bunyan was forced to choose certain activities over others due to time constraints.
Most people know that fashion trends, music, and television are constantly changing and evolving. Every decade brings new teenagers with new ideas about what is “in.”
When asked about fashion trends in high school, Mrs. Groman remembered big hair, perms, and blonde hair were popular. She recalled many girls dying their hair blonde and streaking them with different colors. Coloring of hair may remain popular today, but Ms. Groman also recalled the use of blue eye liner, mascara, and lipstick, which is a more eccentric fashion choice today. “Blue was in,” Groman laughed. In terms of television, Groman expressed her interest in MTV as it was new when she was growing up, “Dukes of Hazzard,” and “Pretty in Pink.” Prince, U2, Madonna, and Cyndi Lauper are remembered as music icons from Ms. Groman’s high school career.
Ms. Romeiser, who graduated the same year as Ms. Groman, remembered different trends that were popular in her high school, and chuckled while explaining that popped collars were in and teenagers would often layer their shirts, popping both collars. She remembered many teenagers having mullets and wearing parachute pants or acid wash jeans with coca cola shirts. Similar to today’s Timberland boots, Ms. Romeiser recalled many students wearing work boots. Though she explained that she was often too busy with sports and homework to get hooked on any one television show, the Brat Pack stood out in fo her. Family time, sports, and playing outside were popular according to Ms. Romeiser.
Mr. Bennett, who graduated two decades earlier, remembers boys growing their hair out much longer in the 1960s after the “British invasion” with the Beatles, who captured the whole music scene.” He remembers the 60s as a time of rebelliousness. By the time Mr. Bennett graduated from high school, he had long hair and a moustache. He remembers more young people involved in politics than today because of things like the Civil Rights movement and Vietnam. “If you were worried about being drafted, you spent a lot of time thinking about the war,” and explained that most of his friends went straight into the army, some to Vietnam, if they did not go to college after high school.
Though every teacher has their own high school story, students can still relate to certain problems such as bullying and balancing activities that teachers faced decades ago. Some of pop culture and fashion has even carried on into our generation such as the Timberland-type work boots and artists such as the Beatles. One can only imagine what today’s generation will remember when looking back on their high school career in years to come.