Teachers Tell the Truth about High School: Mrs. Claypool Takes a Trip Down Memory Lane

“Idyllic,” said PA Middle School Dean of Students and Literature teacher Mrs. Teresa Claypool when asked what word comes to mind when she thinks of high school.

“Pretty much what you picture when you think of high school,” Claypool added candidly.

PA Middle School Dean and Literature Teacher Mrs. Teresa Claypool poses confidently in 1995. She recalls this time in high school saying, “I was a little quirky.”

In keeping with her straightforward nature, Claypool confessed that she skipped study hall one day to get breakfast with friends. Who would’ve thought a future Dean of Students would have to be escorted back to school by her police officer father dressed in full uniform?

This candidness is characteristic of Claypool. Anyone can attest to her frank, but lighthearted approach to life, so it’s not surprising she’d have this perspective when speaking of high school as well. 

Similar to other much-loved PA teachers, Claypool wanted to teach by the time she graduated high school. Her instructors instilled her with confidence which motivated her to make the same impact on others.

Mrs. Teresa Claypool smiles for senior pictures in 1995. “Be your authentic self,” she advises students, based on her own experience in high school.

Claypool expressed that teaching Middle School perfectly aligns with her personality. She admittedly didn’t enjoy Middle School much herself, so she values having the ability to help students through these years that many consider awkward. 

“It’s a time when you’re caught between blending in and being true to yourself, which is difficult to navigate,” she expressed compassionately. 

Throughout high school, however, Claypool became more comfortable in her skin, leading her to pursue a career that allowed her to help others achieve the same. With this understanding, Claypool believes building relationships with students is of the utmost importance, and that as a result, teaching becomes more compelling and effective. 

“All my students–former and current–know my door is always open. And I mean that,” Claypool shared.

While she feels at home in the Middle School wing, she loves maintaining connections as students move through the Upper School.  

Mrs. Teresa Claypool cheers for her high school as their mascot, the coyote, during her junior year in 1995.

“That’s why I love teaching here. I get to see everyone transition into beautiful adults,” reflected Claypool. 

Her humor and candor draw Upper Schoolers back to the Middle School to visit their beloved former teacher. Who would’ve thought students could be so eager to “head to the Dean’s office”? 

“The fact that she’s still invested in my life even though I haven’t had her as a teacher for four years is so meaningful. You don’t find that with many teachers,” reflected Adriana Azarian ‘22, one of Claypool’s former students. 

Mrs. Teresa Claypool shows off her cap and gown after graduating from Williston High School in North Dakota in 1996.

Claypool has impacted the lives of so many by simply being herself. 

Ms. Bridget Taylor, Claypool’s friend of eleven years and Middle School Assistant fondly remembers her first encounter with Claypool: “She was running across the field to save a student who had just fallen during a softball game…while [Claypool] was eight months pregnant! I remember thinking to myself, ‘Who is this teacher?!’ It was a die hard moment.”

As a PA parent herself, Taylor also remembers her first parent-teacher conference with Claypool. She recalled thinking, “This is why my child goes to Providence. This teacher makes my daughter feel like she’s the only student in the building.”

It took only minutes in a room with Claypool for Taylor to know exactly why her daughter loved her so much.

Mr. Daniel Hickel, PA Science Teacher and Claypool’s friend of five years, was also touched by Claypool’s magic upon joining the staff himself in 2016.

“When I started working at PA, she was one of the first people to reach out and get to know me,” Hickel enthused. 

Whether it’s a student, parent, softball player, or colleague, Claypool has a way of making everyone feel valued, and that rare gift encapsulates part of what makes Providence Academy “a school like no other.

Teachers Tell the Truth about High School: Dr. Biebs Takes a Trip Down Memory Lane

“Smug,” said PA Upper School Literature and Latin teacher Dr. Jeff Olsen Biebighauser when asked what word comes to mind when he thinks of high school.

For anyone who has encountered Biebighauser, this may come as a surprise. One would not suspect this passionate and devoted teacher to have previously portrayed a “too cool for everything” attitude.

Dr. Jeff Olsen Biebighauser proudly smiles in his high school graduation photo in 2001.

Biebighauser, more commonly known to students as Biebs, felt somewhat insecure as a high schooler. As a result of transferring halfway through high school, Biebs’ life was abruptly transformed. This interruption of his high school career and uprooting of friendships caused him to feel misunderstood. 

However, in the midst of this tumult, Biebs’ teachers were able to make a positive impact on his life. 

“I saw the value of my smart and funny teachers who reached into the awkwardness of my adolescence to connect with me,” Biebs warmly reflected.

By the time graduation arrived, Biebs knew he wanted to be a teacher. The teachers with whom he connected gave him an indication of who he wanted to be as a teacher. Even teachers whom he found unappealing impacted him positively because he was determined to be better than them.

Although the insecure undertone of his high school career was difficult to overcome at the time, it offers Biebs the opportunity to relate to students in ways that many teachers cannot. This “insider information” gives him a unique view into the lives of students. 

“My own high school experience makes me try to look out for kids whose talents haven’t been discovered yet,” Biebs wholeheartedly expressed .

Dr. Biebighauser sits contemplatively in his teenage home in St. Louis, MO, circa 2000. Although he does not recall the context of the picture, he is confident that he was “most likely thinking about a ska band.”

As the only PA instructor teaching all 9th grade students, Biebs is in an ideal position to guide teenagers on the path to who they want to become. 

For example, “knowing yourself” is a fundamental theme the insightful literature teacher emphasizes to 9th graders. He pushes students to think critically about themselves in relation to the works they are reading. 

Val Fish ‘21 recalled a conversation with Biebs in which he commented that he tries to emulate Abby Cadabby, a popular “Sesame Street” character. 

“‘I don’t actually think I sprinkle magic through the air and make other people magical by recognizing the magic that’s already in them,’”  Fish recalled Biebs candidly admitting. “‘But,’ he went on, ‘I find Abby inspirational in precisely those ways.’” 

Although Biebs cannot shower PA’s yellow halls with magic in a literal sense, he does something even more remarkable. Similar to Abby Cadabby, he has the exceptional ability to empower students by helping them recognize the talents they already possess.

Biebs recalled a powerful moment in his career in which, through tears, a student’s mother thanked him for connecting with her son. She expressed that Biebs had transformed her son’s perspective of high school from one of disorientation and exclusion to one of accomplishment and self-confidence.

Mrs. Amelia Hejna, Biebs’ friend and colleague in the literature department of 5 years echoed this sentiment, “He embraces teaching as his vocation, not simply his job. He sees teaching as mentoring and wants to walk with students on their personal journeys.

The dented water bottle Biebs’ carries daily exemplifies key aspects of his teaching style and outlook on life: we’re all a little bruised, but that doesn’t mean we should be discarded. The dents simply show that we’re broken in, which is beautiful.

Teachers Tell the Truth about High School: Mr. Hickel Takes a Trip Down Memory Lane

“Chillax,” said Providence Academy Science teacher Daniel Hickel when asked what word comes to mind when he thinks of high school.

“It was the coolest word in the early 2000s,” Hickel added defensively after revealing his class’ senior word “chillax”. Perhaps the word is no longer widely used, but Hickel’s relaxed nature, compassionate relationship with students, and excitement for his discipline still carry with them an element of the seemingly well-worn word. 

Providence Academy Science teacher Mr. Daniel Hickel poses confidently on his [then] new moped in 2005, his senior year of High School. He recalls the day, “I felt really cool.” After pausing for a moment, he added: “No, actually, I was really cool.”
The much-loved Science teacher’s compassion for students is rooted in his experiences from high school. Hickel was most impacted by teachers who understood that students have responsibilities and activities outside the classroom. He valued the relationships he was able to build with these teachers as a result of their patience and understanding. 

The impact of his own teachers led Hickel to strive to be a considerate and understanding teacher while also pushing his students to succeed.

Physics student Mary Rillens Lee ‘22 commented, “You can feel his energy when you walk into the classroom and see his passion for teaching in how he helps students.”

“I love what I teach. It’s my hope that my interest, passion, and enthusiasm about science make students think differently about the world around them,” Hickel noted. 

Physics isn’t an easy class, but Hickel’s energetic approach complemented by his relaxed nature makes him approachable and the course material more accessible. 

“No matter how long it takes, Mr. Hickel is always determined to make sure I understand the material before I walk out the door,” Lee reflected happily. 

Parts of Hickel’s relaxed high school self keep him in tune with a high school student’s schedule and priorities such that he can relate to his students and build relationships with them. 

“He is who he shows his students he is. He isn’t a different person outside the classroom,” reflected Hickel’s friend of seven years, Providence Academy Math teacher Ms. Erika Greene.

Daniel Hickel shows off his senior smile for fellow members of the Class of ’05.

Greene commented that this authenticity is very important to Hickel. He truly loves having meaningful connections and relationships with his students. She believes he has the perfect balance of being his energetic, friendly self while also expecting respect and proper conduct from students.

Always eager to help his students, Hickel advises, “Don’t take life too seriously.” 

He reflected that throughout all his schooling, jobs, and life in general, he has always been able to make anything fun. 

He added energetically, “Because if I didn’t, I would go crazy!” 

This mentality is truly present in his teaching and, according to Hickel, was also present when he was in high school. 

Hickel embarrassingly recalled the day he dissected a pig in biology class, during which he unraveled the intestines and wore them like a necklace. In hindsight, it wasn’t the most respectful decision, but, seasoned by more prudence and maturity, the same lighthearted, goofy mindset permeates his personality today.

Hickel recalled another high school memory in which his chemistry teacher accidentally started her sleeve on fire with a Bunsen burner. Despite the fact that her students had to spray her with a fire extinguisher, she was able to laugh about it afterward. This taught Hickel that science can be fun and accidents happen, but you can always laugh about it in the end.

Whether Hickel is smiling enthusiastically while his students launch tennis balls for a physics project, or using his distinctly expressive voice to teach a lesson, he never fails to get his students excited about his life’s passion: science.

Teachers Tell the Truth about High School: Mr. Jones Takes a Trip Down Memory Lane

High school. In a word, “formative,” at least according to Thomas Jones, PA Upper School band director. 

“My years in high school were formational. There was of course a lot of academic progress, but also social progress and learning a lot about life.”

Thomas Jones poses for a senior picture as he prepares to finish his high school career. PAW photo courtesy of Mr. Thomas Jones

After spending time looking back on his years in high school, many things stood out to Jones. Not surprisingly, his time in band was at the forefront of his memories. From enjoying concert band with friends to playing in the drumline, he fondly recalls the music that permeated his academic career and countless hours in rehearsal.

Another prominent memory of Jones’ high school career was the environment his school provided. 

Thomas Jones holds his diploma with a smile as a new chapter of his life begins.  PAW photo courtesy of Mr. Thomas Jones

“High achievement was expected, but there was a relaxed atmosphere at the same time,” noted Jones.

This was impactful for Jones because it helped him thrive both as a student and young adult. He is thankful to have had every resource at his fingertips, while also never experiencing the burden of someone hovering over him. 

Jones reflected, “It gave me guidance and structure to point me in the right direction, but also gave me space to find myself”.

Jones’s years in high school gave him the tools to succeed later in life. As a band director now, not only does he look back fondly on the musical aspect of his time in school, but also on the experience as a whole. 

“Enjoy people and their company, whether they agree with you or disagree with you. Just enjoy different people,” reflected Jones. 

For Jones, his high school years were very positive overall. He graduated having learned not only what was required of him academically, but also about himself and how to succeed in college. He advises students currently in high school to strive to discover who they are and what they believe in. From there, he says to be confident in those discoveries and seek out friends and opportunities that reinforce those beliefs. 

Being on stage is a norm for high school conducting, but it had a curious beginning for Jones. While in high school, he had a unique opportunity to air on TV. Although excited about this accomplishment, Jones felt awkward when his principal decided to broadcast the segment to his entire school to watch during class. 

Despite later being voted “most likely to be on TV” by his classmates, Jones still recalls the incident with a touch of embarrassment.  He humorously offers a final word of advice to students, “If you know you’re going to be on TV, don’t tell your principal about it.” 

Girls’ Houses on the Run

Secret clues, hidden house leaders, scrambled words, and running around the school; what else could high schoolers approaching finals week need? House period last Wednesday, December 2nd brought all of these exciting activities to the Upper School.     

Zeta house members enjoy themselves as they run to the next scavenger hunt location. 

During the last period of the school day on Wednesday December 2nd, each of the eight girls’ houses were given clues to 11 locations around the school. After solving a clue, the girls rushed to each location, where they found a house leader waiting for them. The house leader then gave each group a letter and the clue to the next location in the scavenger hunt. 

Ms. Julie Behrens, math teacher and Beta House Advisor exclaimed, “It sounded like a herd of elephants running through the halls as they were giggling and enjoying themselves!”

Senior house leaders Mary Francis Walker ’21, Sofia Caballero ’21, and Julia Dailey ’21 pose with their letters.

After going to 11 locations and finding all 11 letters, each house had to unscramble the letters in order to find out what words they spelled. “G-R-E-E-N-E-’S R-O-O-M” was the golden ticket to victory. These words led each house to the final location of the scavenger hunt, the classroom of Ms. Erika Greene, the Head of Women’s House. 

Upon reaching her classroom, the girls found a flag with their house name on it. They then had to bring the flag to Mrs. Kate Gregg’s office in order to win. 

“It was really exhausting because we ran up and down so many flights of stairs! It was a good team bonding experience for our house, though,” Marie Heyda ‘23, Epsilon house member, commented.

Beta house member Koral Horstman ’23 stands victorious with her winning house’s flag.

Beta house came in first place, going to all 11 locations and retrieving their flag the fastest of the eight girls’ houses. They won the grand prize of 100 house points, which will contribute to the points needed to win the house competition at the end of the year. 

“People were actually smiling and enjoying themselves, which is so important, especially with finals coming up,” Liv Klammer ‘21, Beta House Leader, reflected.

At this time of year, houses would normally be gathering together, making Christmas cookies, and enjoying sweets. However, planning activities looked a lot different due to distancing requirements this year. It required adaptability and resilience, which the house leaders enthusiastically used to bring excitement back into house.

The girls’ house leaders spent two weeks brainstorming ideas for an exciting final activity before semester exams. After sifting through several ideas, they finally landed on the scavenger hunt. 

“There’s just something about running around the school together and solving clues that brings people closer,” Klammer commented.

Both house members and leaders had a blast, making the scavenger hunt a huge success. It truly did make up for the loss of some Christmas activities this year.