All through the elementary grades at Holmes School, students kept the same teacher for two years. This was great if you liked the teacher but miserable if you didn’t like her. I say “her” because the only male teacher in the school was Mr. Franco, our gym teacher.

Mr. Franco was a nice guy and a good teacher and coach. He saw some baseball talent in me and encouraged me to continue playing after graduation from Holmes. I followed his advice and played for eight years on various teams.

Mr. Franco was also the patrol supervisor, and he made the rounds of patrol posts two or three times a week to see if the patrol boys were on duty and to make certain that we had no problems.

One time he collared Richie Schu for throwing snowballs at Bob Spitzer and me when we were on duty.

He took Richie to the principal, and Richie was suspended for 10 days.

When I came to Holmes in 1948, my fourth grade teacher was Mrs. Volpe.

She ran a tight ship, but she couldn’t control a guy named Pete. His antics really upset the classroom until one day Mr. Carlyon, our principal, came into the room and saw Pete jumping up and down on a desk.

Mr. Carlyon ushered Pete into his office, and we didn’t see Pete for two weeks.

In fifth and sixth grades, my teacher was Miss Sauer. She was the teacher who really got me interested in writing. In fact, I made a career teaching English and composition.

In seventh and eighth grades, I was in the homeroom of Miss Tredennick, the math and science teacher. She was a sharp-tongued lady who did not brook any nonsense. When the time came to select high school classes, she told me to take algebra and to continue through the math curriculum for four years. I followed her advice and never regretted it.

Miss Wright was our English teacher. She told us daily that if we did not learn how to diagram sentences, we would never know how to write a coherent essay. I thought that diagramming was boring, but her words were true, and I did learn to write clearly and correctly.

When I met with her to select a foreign language for high school, she told me to take Latin. I told her that the majority of my classmates were going to take Spanish or French. She again told me to take Latin. I did not argue because in those days we believed that teachers knew best.

I took four years of Latin and enjoyed it.

Miss Wellner, our librarian and literature teacher, insisted that the students read a classic novel every week and write a critical review. She would then meet with each student after she had graded his/her paper and discuss the pros and cons of our critiques.

Miss Vykruta, our history and geography teacher, taught us political geography so well that I still know where San Marino is located. She made history come alive by having us read biographies and, too, when she taught the Constitution, she made it clear that it is a living document.

Miss Reinel, our art teacher, tried so hard to teach me how to draw in perspective, but her efforts were to no avail. It was then that I realized that architecture would be a poor career choice for me.

All of my teachers told us to study hard, love our families, respect adults and choose our friends wisely.

I have tried to follow this advice for over six decades.

John Stanger is a lifelong resident of Oak Park, a 1957 graduate of OPRF High School, married with three grown children and five grandchildren, and a retired English professor  (Elmhurst College). Living two miles from where he grew up, he hasn’t gotten far in 76 years.

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