Pick Me!

A weblog by Laura Moncur


Gifted and Talented (Part 1)

Filed under: Gifted and Talented,Personal History — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

I’ve wanted to write about his for a long time. I’ve tried to write about it in book form several times, but each attempt has been abandoned. I realized that the reason I’ve had trouble telling this story in the past is because it is a story that needs time. It was a year of my life and what happened there can’t be retold in a book. I’ve come to the conclusion that the serial format of a weblog is the perfect method for telling this story. This is a rather long story, so I’ll be taking some time to tell you it.

Gifted and Talented is the name of the school program for the smart kids. I had been in Gifted and Talented programs in Junior High, so when I was “invited” into the GT program at Kearns High, I was happy.  My best friend, Suzanne Clark, wouldn’t sign up with me. She hadn’t been invited, but we could work around that. She had other plans, though. “That’s the only period that French 5-6 is taught.” It was so easy for her to make the cut. French is more important than advanced learning.

My schedule said that the teacher was Mr. Johnson. I imagined an amalgam of all my Gifted and Talented teachers. I imagined Mr. Godfrey’s enthusiasm and lack of regard for authority. I imagined Mr. Bradley’s mathematical genius and interesting methods for remembering formulas and concepts. I imagined that Mr. Johnson would be an exciting and rambunctious combination of all my GT teachers.

I didn’t know who had signed up for the class. None of the people that I was super friends with was signing up, so for all I knew, it would all be kids from Kearns Junior High and I would be the only one from Kennedy Junior High. I truly didn’t know what to expect when I found Mr. Johnson’s classroom.

I didn’t know what to expect, but I hoped for something completely unattainable. There was a television show called The Head of the Class. The students were little geniuses and the teacher was totally cool, just like Mr. Godfrey without the curly red hair. This wasn’t the first time that television lied to me. Not only was GT not like The Head of the Class, it could have turned into the polar opposite.

I walked into class that first day and I found old faces and two new faces:

Steve Bryson: the long-haired blonde rocker with dark brown eyebrows who drove a beat up gold bronze Porsche (yeah, a Porsche at Kearns High!). He was from Kearns Kennedy Junior High: New face to me, though.

Tiffany Horsely: the tall, brown-haired rocker chick. I knew her from Kennedy Junior High and she had been dating Matt Mondragon since seventh grade.

Matt Strebe: the tall geek. I knew his face from Kennedy Junior High, but I didn’t really know anything about him.

Dylan: my old friend from Academy Park. By then I had so many stories to tell you about Dylan that it would take several blog entries to catch you up. Let’s just say he was a brother in arms.

Penny Egbert: the tall, blonde bombshell from Kennedy. Her Levi 501 jeans were painted on. She was an expert swimmer, ran for office every year and was so smart. Beautiful, fit and brainy, she was everything I wanted to be.

Mike Moncur: the curly haired geek. I had gone to Academy Park with him, too, but I didn’t have as many stories about him. I remember him being shy and smart, that’s it.

Dawni Angel Burton: She was a new face. Her hair was cut in “steps” and was both blonde and auburn (shocking!). She was obviously a “Waver.” We had one Waver at Kennedy Junior High, but she ended up going to Cyprus High School instead of Kearns.

The year was 1984. New Wave was young in Utah. George Orwell was supremely wrong, but hey, there’s still time. None of that was in my mind. All I could look at were her shoes. It was bugging me. That new girl, Dawni, didn’t have any shoelaces in her tennis shoes. I discretely tried to tell her that the “No Shoelaces” trend was long gone and she said, “I wore my tennis shoes without shoelaces before it was popular, I can wear them after it’s not.”

Update 01-23-07: Steve Bryson just dropped me a line and corrected some of my memories! God, it’s good to hear from an old friend!


Gifted and Talented (Part 2)

Filed under: Gifted and Talented,Personal History — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

Part 1 is here.

The lineup changed pretty quickly. We lost Tiffany Horsely, Steve Bryson and Penny Egbert before the first term ended. To this day, I am friends with Penny. I have never asked her if she regretted leaving GT. I have always assumed that she never regrets anything she ever does, but that could be wrong. Sometime, I should ask her.

Before losing Tiffany, Steve and Penny, Chuck Perkins joined the class. Matt Strebe was adamant about getting him to GT with us. It was like he knew that we weren’t complete until Chuck joined us. Chuck had attended Kennedy Junior High, but he moved to Idaho. He came back to West Valley for sophomore year at Kearns High and just in time to sign up for our class. Chuck was the kind of guy who never answered the phone. If you called his house, one of his younger siblings would answer the phone.


“Hi, is Chuck there?”


“Is Chuck there?”

“Yes.” Dead silence for twenty seconds.

“Could you go get him for me?”

“Ummm? yeah?”

The child wasn’t trying to be funny, he was only three years old and barely understood English. This is the reason children should not be allowed to answer the telephone. It’s not cute, it’s frustrating for the people on the other line. More importantly, it gives you a picture of what life was like at the Perkins Home: too many unsupervised children.

After all the shuffling and class changing, our core group included Matt, Chuck, Dylan, Mike, Dawni and me. I knew the guys from grade school or junior high and this new girl seemed ok with me. She knew what she liked and she was the type of girl to define her own sense of cool. Me, I got my cool straight out of the pages of Seventeen magazine, never straying from its edicts.


Gifted and Talented (Part 3)

Filed under: Gifted and Talented,Personal History — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

Part 1Part 2

Mr. Johnson was nothing like Mr. Bradley, my GT and Algebra teacher at Kennedy Junior High. We loved Mr. Bradley. He was in charge of the computer lab. He taught GT Math, which turned out to be computer programming. He was also the advisor for the Computer Club, which met on Wednesday after school each week.

On Atari 400 and 800 computers, Mr. Bradley taught us BASIC programming. We made the computers compute the date of Easter when given a year. We made the computers flash colors on the screen. We made the computers say the phrase, “Hello World!” over and over, filling the screen.

Mr. Bradley helped us remember the rules of Algebra with mispronunciations of phrases. “Plusk or Minusk” is the only phrase of his that I still remember, but there were many little phrases to help us remember the rules of Algebra. He was creative and entertaining in what could be considered an incredibly boring class.

Mr. Johnson was nothing like Mr. Bradley.

Mr. Johnson was nothing like Mr. Godfrey, my beloved English GT teacher at Kennedy Junior High. We loved Mr. Godfrey. He was the trickster and the sage. He was Pan and Zeus. He was The Green Man and The Shaman. The image of his curly red hair and signature cane are burned into my memory with the fires of love and respect.

I’ve told you about Mr. Godfrey before, but I’ve yet to tell my favorite Mr. Godfrey story. In conservative Utah, any teacher who even suggests that there might not be a God is considered a radical. Looking at his actions now, Mr. Godfrey wasn’t all that radical, but to us, he was the epitome of thumbing one’s nose at authority. I had lost religion in seventh grade, so by the time I was in Godfrey’s class, I was eager to hear what this guy had to say. The rumors had been so great.

Matt Strebe, the tall geek, had an Evil Stepfather named Bud. Despite his Evil status, Bud considered himself a religious man. When he heard what Mr. Godfrey had been teaching to his stepson, Bud decided to come in and give Mr. Godfrey a piece of his mind. Instead of calmly talking to the teacher during Parent-Teacher Conferences, Bud had a much more Evil plot in mind. Much to Matt’s embarrassment, Bud came barging into Mr. Godfrey’s classroom during Matt’s class.

“I have a bone to pick with you!” Bud bellowed out to Mr. Godfrey. At that moment, the cover for the fluorescent lighting above Bud’s head fell from the ceiling. It crashed right in front of Bud, shattering into a million pieces. For the first time in Matt’s life, Bud was silenced. Mr. Godfrey calmly looked up from his book and said, “Let that be a lesson to you.” Bud left without picking any bones.

Mr. Johnson was nothing like Mr. Godfrey.

Part 4


Gifted and Talented (Part 4)

Filed under: Gifted and Talented,Personal History — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

Part 1 ? Part 2 ? Part 3

If Mr. Johnson was nothing like any GT teacher we had had in the past, that didn’t mean he was incompetent. He was just immensely different. Instead of energetic and dynamic, he was calm and patient. Instead of rejecting the local religious atmosphere, he just kept quiet about it. So quiet that none of us knew what beliefs he had, if any. His effeminate nature sent rumors flying about his sexuality, but I couldn’t tell you with certainty which way he swung. Quiet, calm and patient.

Behind his back, the students called him Tommy Teacher. His first name was Lauren, so I have no idea where the origin of this nickname came from. There was a rumor that Mr. Johnson failed a student for calling him Tommy to his face. I don’t think that was true. The student was probably failing in the first place. Not believing the rumor didn’t stop me from calling him Tommy behind his back, though.

The shock of Mr. Johnson’s quiet and patient manner after having such dynamic teachers in the past made me come to the conclusion that he was bored. We had been told that Mr. Johnson gave up his preparation period to teach our class and that he had been teaching GT forever.

Maybe he was tired. I remember being told that teachers were so underpaid that they needed to work several jobs just to make ends meet. Maybe Mr. Johnson had a night job. I remember a rumor of a restaurant that was owned by his “roommate,” but I never put my trust in rumors. I didn’t believe that he was up all night cooking for his boyfriend, but, in retrospect, I’m perfectly willing to believe that he might have been tired.

We were left unsupervised many times, but there was always a teacher’s assistant in the room. The TA for our class had taken GT when he was a sophomore.  Now, he was a senior, taking Honor’s English from Mr. Johnson and preparing for the AP Test. Not even that guy called him Tommy to his face.


Gifted and Talented (Part 5)

Filed under: Gifted and Talented,Personal History — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

Part 1 ? Part 2 ? Part 3 ? Part 4

I think I can safely blame the loss of Tiffany, Steve and Penny on The Blue Books. They were wire bound workbooks that felt as old as the school. I feel unable to write. I have such loathing for these books that I am blind and mute. I feel helpless to describe them properly.

The reason that they are hard for me to describe is because their description is irrelevant. It wasn’t their color or cheap binding that made them despicable to me. It was the insult. The assumption that we needed the Blue Books was a blow to my intellect. Inside the blue cover and held together by the wire binding was a manual. The lessons taught note-taking techniques, studying techniques and other valuable methods for becoming an ideal student. These lessons weren’t taught on a college level, they were taught on a junior high level. The Blue Books had been written for remedial high school students.

Instead of being The Head of the Class, we were being treated like the back of class. Instead of being the cream of the crop, we were being treated like the dregs of the barrel. It has been almost twenty years and I’m still angry about this. I’m having trouble describing the incredible blow to my self image that the Blue Books made.

My paranoia jumped in immediately. It all made sense to me after the Blue Books. Here was a group of kids who performed extraordinarily well on the SATs, yet their grades were lagging. Sure, they were getting pretty good grades, but they weren’t getting straight A’s, like their tests show that they were capable of. I suddenly knew why Suzanne Clark hadn’t been invited. Her grades were immaculate. There was no reason for her in that class. I can just see the men making the decisions asking themselves, “What do we do with them?” Instead of assuming that we were doing poorly because we were bored, they decided that we must be doing poorly because we didn’t have good study skills.

We hated those Blue Books. We fantasized about burning them. I worried that I would have to pay to replace them, but that didn’t stop me from dreaming of them going up in flames. Every time Mr. Johnson’s patient and calm voice would tell us to turn to the Blue Books, we would groan.

Quite frankly, they weren’t very good. For example, one of the note taking techniques involved folding a letter size piece of paper into four. Each of the four blocks would represent a concept and every time the teacher said anything about any of the concepts, we were supposed to write the item in its appropriate box. This note taking technique requires that the teacher tell the students ahead of time the various concepts that will be covered during the lecture. In all of high school and college, I’ve never met a teacher who lectured in this manner.

To this day, I hate those Blue Books. They represent every time any person underestimated me. They make me feel violent. If I could kick the people who decided on this curriculum in the balls, I would. How dare you think that I don’t have the skills when you morons have been boring me for years?!

03/13/04 Part 6


Gifted and Talented (Part 6)

Filed under: Gifted and Talented,Personal History — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

Part 1 ? Part 2 ? Part 3 ? Part 4 ? Part 5

I sometimes wonder why my mom didn’t take me out of that class. I remember telling her about the Blue Books. I told her that they were for remedial high school kids and she told me that maybe I needed to learn some study skills to get my grades a little higher. I had a 3.75 GPA, but I don’t know if she even would have been happy with a 4.0 GPA. It was ok for other kids to slide by with a 3.75, but I tested so well that I should be getting a 4.0. The implication was clear: maybe you need it.

So I suffered through the Blue Books. I remember the day that Mr. Johnson acquiesced and told us that we wouldn’t have to work with them any more. We all cheered. He had told us that we were going to work with them until we got to a specific chapter and we were still two chapters short of that arbitrary line. Class got a lot more interesting and fun after he abandoned those damn Blue Books.

I remember once he brought in a recruiter from ITT technical college. I immediately discounted anything the guy said. He was from a technical college, not a real college. Technical colleges are for guys who want to fix cars or solder chips into boards. Technical colleges weren’t for me and they certainly weren’t for Gifted and Talented students, no matter what Mr. Johnson thought about us. He might have thought that our brightest future was graduating from ITT, but I knew he was wrong. He was just boring me again and I read a book instead of listening to the salesman.

If I had been listening, I would have heard the guys yanking the recruiter’s chain. Matt, Mike, Chuck and Dylan were talking intently to him about the classes offered. They spent a lot of time rambling about drafting and electrical training. They asked him informed questions about the transferability of the credits. I think I started listening when the tone of voice of the recruiter changed. I don’t remember the words that he said, but I could tell that he was panicked and lying.

By the time the recruiter left, the boys had gotten him to admit that the credits rarely, if ever, transferred to “real” colleges. He also admitted that the hiring rates weren’t tracked by an independent company. The hiring rates were counted even when people found their own jobs. The hiring rates were counted even when people found jobs that had nothing to do with what they studied. The hiring rates were counted even when people found a job a year after “graduation.” The recruiter left in a nervous and jumbled huff a half hour before he was supposed to. Mr. Johnson had left us unattended, so we were left alone with the TA. “What should we do?” we asked him. “Whatever you want, I guess.” That was fine with us.  Dylan (Part 1)

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