Field Guide To JG2’s Elementary School Teachers

Despite the fact most of these people are probably dead now, names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Mrs. Yam (Kindergarten)

Mrs. Yam was probably the nicest teacher I ever had, although I suppose you can’t really be a mean kindergarten teacher. The only time I remember her getting even slightly angry was when I spent fifteen minutes one day making another kid laugh by pretending to straighten a tie I wasn’t even wearing (yes, I have always been this way). Even then, the max punishment was a concerned look and maybe a check instead of a smiley face on my daily report folder. Mrs. Yam owned a flower shop in the small Florida town where I attended kindergarten; last time I visited, the shop was still in business. That made me happy the same way super vibrant rainbows and iguanas wearing hats make me happy.

Mrs. Grandma (1st Grade)

Typical white-haired school marm type. The only memory I have of her personality is how upset she became when the Challenger exploded. We watched it slowly rise in the distance from our classroom window (our school was maybe an hour from the launch site?) and then slowly fall back to Earth. They made some kind of announcement about what happened and Mrs. Grandma starting bawling. I think this was the first time a lot of us kids had seen an authority figure lose their shit, and we were pretty stunned. Aside from that, life with Mrs. Grandma was pretty uneventful.

Mrs. Strudel (2nd Grade)

Notable because she almost sliced her finger off in the paper cutter one day. This was before school had started, while all the kids were still on the bus. The ambulance came and everything. Luckily, they managed to save Mrs. Strudel’s finger before gang green set in. This lady kinda looked like Frau Farbissina from Austin Powers, but she was way cooler. Her son graduated from medical school the year I was in her class, though, and for a while that was all she talked about. I have a feeling that’s why I suck at math now. She distracted me with talk of her doctor son.

Mrs. Kelp (3rd Grade)

The Johnny Ramone of my elementary school teachers in that she had a bowl haircut and seemed eternally pissed off. The day she found some kid’s copy of MAD with a bunch of naked people drawn in it was like 9/11. We weren’t allowed to move or talk from the first bell to the last. I’m not sure the owner of that naughty magazine was ever identified (although I’m pretty sure it was [REDACTED]). Mrs. Kelp was never much fun, but I became very embittered toward her the following year when I saw her in the hall and she pretended not to know who I was. Uh, how could you forget Jim Greene, the kid with orange Converse who gave that ball-smashing presentation on Emily Dickinson? They’re still talking about that poetry report in the hallowed halls of Farmingville Elementary.

Mrs. Kaleidoscope (4th Grade)

A really great teacher who rocked a Richard Simmons perm with Hillary Clinton mom glasses. Unfortunately, Mrs. Kaleidoscope had a nervous breakdown midway through our year, crippling us with idiot substitute after idiot substitute for two or three months. At least I heard it was a nervous breakdown. Who knows, maybe she secretly worked for the government. At any rate, Mrs. Kaleidoscope taught us in really fun ways when she was there, like walking us around the school grounds and showing us different kinds of plant life or having us write letters to pen pals in Russia (I can’t believe I sent that kid a Nolan Ryan Topps card from 1986; he never even wrote me back!). It’s unfortunate Mrs. K was absent so much that year. She really knew her shiz. Plus, she was pretty nice to us dumb kids. Kaleidoscope presented yours truly with a large volume of Superman comics on the last day of school because she thought I was a talented artist and could benefit from the inspiration. Kindest thing any public educator ever did for me. I still have that book somewhere.

Mrs. Hufnagel (5th Grade Homeroom/Science)

Squat blonde Roseanne Barr clone. Had the same voice, too. That’s all I remember, aside from some lesson she tried to teach us about Easter which I’m sure would get a teacher in this day and age fired faster than you can say Eucharist.

Mrs. Yinky (5th Grade Math)

Mrs. Yinky came down from the middle school and had this legendary hard-ass reputation because she had made an eighth grader cry once. She was sorta bitchy, and I remember hearing some weird stuff about her later on (weird SEX stuff), but as far as the math teachers in my life go, Yinky was just the tip of the iceberg. I mean, she was nothing compared to some of the dicks I had to deal with in high school. Oy vey. It should also be noted that Yinky sort of resembled a short brown-haired version of David Coverdale. Their faces were interchangeable.

Mr. Lulu (5th Grade History)

Just a slob of a man. Grossly overweight, always unshaven, shirt never tucked in or buttoned right, greasiest hair this side of Pennzoil. My main memory of Mr. Lulu revolves around his where-I-was-when-Pearl-Harbor-happened story. I remember hearing that and thinking, “Fuck, bro, you’re old as hell!” Lulu’s classroom was a hall of JG2 firsts: first time I saw blood during a school fight, first time I purposely swore in conversation with an adult who was not my father (Lulu laughed this off, thankfully), first time I threw out completely unchecked statistics about America’s homeless. There was also this totally bad-ass model of the Titanic in Lulu’s room that I spent hours pouring over with my eyes.

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