Teachers When They Were 17

Walker in his present day classroom.

A look back at teachers when they were the same age as their students.

Walker in his high school yearbook.

Walker in his high school yearbook.

by Jenna Jaeger and Aiyonna White

It’s hard to think about the fact that the same teachers asking to see your hall pass were once in the same place you are. Believe it or not, the teachers we now look up to were once in high school themselves, cramming for tests, doing homework and balancing a social life with school.

Ms. Leila  Rizzo

Art teacher Rizzo lived in Market, Minnesota when she was 17. She was a cheerleader and a member of the Spanish club. Rizzo attended Homecoming, but it was a little different than it is here at Northern. Homecoming in Market consisted of a semi-formal dance, not super fancy, with students wearing sportswear. This dance was right after the football game instead of on a different day. “We had the football game, and then everyone would pile into the high school gym, having the dance right after. It was great. It was good times,” said Rizzo. Her hometown got 5-7 feet of snow every winter and they had a Winterfest at her school. They had snow races, tug of war, snowshoe races, snow statue competitions, and a lot more. “For a lot of people, high school is a great time, for some it’s not. It’s a tremendous building block for everyone and it’s a pit stop where you have to decide whether your whole life is high school or not,” she said.

Gresko with his students

Gresko with his students

Mr. Joshua Gresko

Chorus teacher Gresko also teaches Business Math. He grew up in Saxton, Pennsylvania with three older brothers. He attended Prom and Homecoming, and was even part of the Prom court, despite the fact that he didn’t like either event. Gresko’s favorite part of high school was making close friends with whom he still talks daily. He was outgoing, and says he had no embarrassing moments. “I think when you’re seventeen, you really want to grow up and you think it’s so much cooler to be older, but it’s not really. Enjoy your time not having responsibilities,” he said.

Ms. Justine Novy

History teacher Novy grew up in Clinton, Maryland in Prince George’s County. She was on the travel soccer and tennis teams. In 10th and 11th grades, she participated in the color guard in marching band.  Novy remembers that her senior year was very busy between balancing her job at a law firm and school work. She specifically remembered her AP literature teacher, who wore a suit and tie everyday to school. For Novy, he made reading very important. One of her most memorable moments was during the soccer season when her team did well at the state level. Novy also recalls class night at her her high school. “During spirit week, each of the classes would dress up as cowboys, native americans, etc. All of the classes would compete against each other, similar to how pep rally is here,” she said. As a teenager, Novy listened to rock bands like Fleetwood Mac and Pink Floyd. She would like high schoolers to, “know the importance of doing your schoolwork now because it’s your ticket to the next place. The better we do here, the better chance we have to get into the colleges we want to go to.”

Mr. Marshall Kawecki

History teacher Kawecki grew up not far from here in Annapolis. His high school, Annapolis High School, only included 10th, 11th and 12th grade. “I knew absolutely no one at my high school, because I went to private school before that. One of my first days of high school in the cafeteria, this girl was having a hard time pumping the ketchup out of the bottle,” Kawecki said. “She was very cute, and I remember thinking, ‘wow she’s really cute.’ I go to help her, and being my size I get a good pump, and she is just rained with ketchup. Not only did I ruin any opportunities with her, everybody saw it. I was never able to get a date with her. I don’t know why.” He played soccer, football, and baseball for his high school. One of his favorite memories was playing in the football state finals. He was actually inspired to be a teacher by his English teacher in high school. Mr. Kawecki recommends that kids, “move forward and stop looking back. College is better.” 

Walker in his present day classroom.

Walker in his classroom.

Mr. Sandy Walker

English teacher Walker lived in upstate New York as a teen. He was involved in football and both indoor and outdoor track. He was the senior class president and even started his own literature club. Walker remembers going to Prom with a close friend, but they ended up arguing the whole time. Walker was voted easiest to talk to in high school, to his dismay. “I wanted something like prettiest eyes, or best smile,” he said. He says he had many embarrassing moments, and one was when,  “…I was  talking to this girl, and I really thought I had a chance with her. I was sitting on a desk and she was standing in front of me… I let out a huge fart, and it was amplified because of the desk I was sitting on. I knew all my chances were gone after that.” His words of wisdom are to, “believe in yourself and find something you’re good at.”

Mr. Mickey Norfolk

Project Lead the Way teacher Norfolk went to Annapolis High School. He was a wrestler and a baseball player who was voted SGA president his senior year. He listened to R&B and funk music in high school, and lists Earth, Wind and Fire as a favorite. Norfolk’s school was new, and because of his presidential status, he was given his own office where he had his own telephone and could write passes for his friends. Norfolk loved his school and friends, and held gatherings in his office during lunch. Most memorably, Norfolk would bring a megaphone to school football games to start cheers in the stands and heckle opposing schools. “Everybody wants to be cool. Be the best version of yourself, and that should be good enough for everybody,” he said.

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