The teachers of Gull Lake do not, as some might expect, maintain their desks as sterile surfaces for grading purposes alone. Instead, most are absolute conglomerations of high school artifacts, spilling over with a combination of decor brought from home and that accumulated from students. In any case, the contents prove interesting indications of the teachers’ personalities.
Among history teacher Scott Minehart’s menagerie of desk ornaments are a Henry VIII coffee cup, a waving Lucky Cat and a miniature Terracotta Warrior. Varied as they are, each comes with a story and a previous life.
“None of the things are my own; they’re just kinda brought in,” Minehart said.
Minehart said the knick-knacks are mostly gifts from students, brought back from travels or left to preserve their classroom legacies. Minehart was able to provide background on each and every item and its giver.
The Lucky Cat, Minehart said, is straight from China. It was a gift from the Sweezie family when they went.
“There’s the coffee cup of Henry VIII and his six wives, which when it gets hot their heads get cut off,” he said. “That was a gift from a student in my English class.”
Some of the memorabilia takes on a more humourous quality; one piece in particular pokes fun at the teacher’s frequently mocked stature.
“I have a statue of Napoleon that was given by another student because they thought there were similarities between the two of us,” Minehart said.
Another calls back memories of a classroom catastrophe.
“I had two bookends, and they were something with history–I don’t remember what they were now–and one of the students broke them, so he felt bad,” he said. “So the next week he brings in the Michigan State Santa to make up for it.”
Nonetheless, the Santa situation seems to have come full circle, as the figurine currently sits atop Minehart’s file cabinet with its head detached.
“Now Santa’s broken, in a game of Family Feud that got a little out of control,” Minehart said.
The ill-fated Santa now waits in hopes of repair in time for his next role as a classroom trivia buzzer.
Why does he allow these random (and occasionally broken) bits and bobs to accumulate?
“I’m kind of pack rat (a little bit) so that’s part of it, and then you know, they’re unique–I mean no one else has a
coffee mug like that; no one’s got Napoleon on their desk,” Minehart said. “And they’re historical, so I like that, obviously. And they’re from students, so I think that’s always a cool thing.”
When asked the most touching things kept from students, Minehart described the many student letters he’s received over the years. He was particularly surprised by letters from KAMSC students, who are encouraged to write a short letter to an influential educator for a KAMSC end-of-year ceremony.
“They’re interesting because I don’t really think of myself as connecting really well with KAMSC students because it’s all math and science related–you know, they use their brains very differently than mine,” Minehart said. “Those have been neat because they’ve talked about the fact that ‘yeah we are math and science people, but you did this or you did that,’ and it’s very personal, so I like that.”
Still, Minehart said these are outranked by the articles of highest importance–family photos.
“Probably the two most important things I have on my desk are the pictures of my family–those are more important than all the other items combined,” he said, and although the photos outrank other objects, their subjects may contribute to the sentimental streak behind the collection of student gifts.
““It’s a weird thing,” Minehart said. “I never cried until my children were born, and now the things that I get, you know, they make me more teary eyed than I was before. Yeah, (kids) tend to do that to you. I was much more stoic. My stoicism, it’s not as bad as it was; I’m definitely more empathetic now.”