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Annie Remembers Her Favorite High School Teachers As Kids Head Back To School [Video]

Reitz Memorial High School circa 1955 (YouTube)

The majority of kids in the Tri-State will head back to school this week…something I still have a tough time wrapping my head around.  (It’s odd to me…and Rodney…and our friends…and just about anyone over the age of, oh say 18, that school starts before Labor Day)  But as the kids head back to readin’, writin’, and ‘rithmatic…I can’t help but look back on the people who helped mold me in high school…some of the best teachers you’ll ever meet. 

I was lucky enough to have parents that took great pride in education.  They worked long hours and sacrificed a lot so that I could go to private school for all but one of my 13 years of primary and secondary education (the 4th grade in Chesapeake, Virginia)  Because of their devotion to my education, I always, always, had excellent teachers.  But there were a few that stood out.

Mace Brauchla – Chemistry (10th Grade)

Mace Brauchla circa 1988 (Photo/Barbara Paul for The Message)

The first one that comes to mind was Mace Brauchla.  He was my Chemistry teacher at Reitz Memorial.  Mace was AWESOME!  In my senior yearbook he wrote, “Annie, have x32 good times this summer!  – Mace”.

Before Mace, I hated, loathed, despised, math.  Mace taught me the extremely easy way to convert just about anything from the American base-10 system to the European metric system.  He got me excited about Chemistry and electron magnetic theory (or as Mace called it “beat me, whip me, teach me luuuuv” in Atom’s world)  I can still, to this day, take any household product and give you the chemical equation for what’s inside it.  Mace was that good.

When I graduated Memorial in 1985, I went to William Woods College (now University) in Fulton, Missouri. I didn’t “take” to college away from home too well and I went from being a straight “A” student to a “C” student and was put on academic probation for the Fall of ’86.  The first person I turned to when I got that letter was Mace Brauchla.  He read it, told me what it meant, and asked me if I really wanted to be that far away from home.  After about an hour of talking and figuring out what my answer was, he sent me home…and I enrolled at the University of Southern Indiana. I graduated from there in 1994 with a BA in Communications.

Sadly, Mace died of a heart attack in July, 2000.  In the online guest book his former students wrote of how he touched all of our lives.  I didn’t notice until I was writing this piece that he gave us all nicknames.  Even me.  He was the first person to call me “Annie”.


Brother Eugene – College Credit History & Psychology (10th & 11th Grade)

Brother Eugene Phillips circa 1985, the way I remember him (YouTube)

The second high school teacher that meant a lot to me was Brother Eugene. He was a HOOT!  Brother Eugene taught College Credit History and Psychology.  I LOVED HIS CLASSES!!! The best part of Brother Eugene’s class was that there was no textbook.  He taught us all from his head.  We learned from notes, and you better know how to take good notes!

He would challenge us with something he called “Brother Eugene’s Asides”.  These were little tidbits of information about history that you don’t read about or learn in history books.  Like interesting trivia about Calvin Coolidge (who swore in Coolidge?  His father) or the Liberty Bell (What word is mispelled on the Liberty Bell?  Pennsylvania)  Brother Eugene gave us all a real appreciation for books and history.  I already had an appreciation for history, but Brother Eugene made me fall in love with history of all kinds.

It was in Brother Eugene’s class that we could also chew gum and have candy, which was forbidden at Memorial – LOL.  You see, Brother Eugene ran the Bookstore at Memorial, so he would sell his wares to his students , which we LOVED!

The Memorial HS Bookstore (YouTube)

Speaking of gum, he was also in charge of cleaning up the place and keeping it tidy at night after we left the building.  As we purchased our prized gum and candy we were all rebuked “DO NOT leave your num nums (that’s what he called any kind of candy) under the desk or seat and please deposit your trash in the proper bins as we were taught by our loving parents.”  Which is why pictures like the one you see here of the huge mound of gum wads are hilarious to his former students, like me.

This is just one of the thousands of wads of gum left under the desks and seats at Memorial HS found by Brother Eugene and his student staff (YouTube)

His most important lesson of all was instilling in his students this motto, “I can, I must, I WILL”.  There was no such thing as “I can’t” with Brother Eugene.  Every task was able to be accomplished as long as you told yourself, “I can, I must, I WILL”.  I never forgot that.

Brother Eugene died in 2009.  Like Mr. Brauchla, his death was another harsh blow to Memorial graduates. Even I was shocked to learn he had passed.  The memorial video and online guest book for his funeral shows just how much of his life was spent with us, his students, and Memorial High School.

What I remember the most about these two men is this.  They taught me how to learn.  They taught me to want to learn. And, probably most important of all, they taught me how to teach my kids how to love learning too.

Who was the teacher that meant the most to you in school?

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