Former teachers hold class for alums

By Sammy Roth


Two weeks ago, former history teacher David Coombs returned to the Middle School to teach two classes. For 40 years, Coombs had taught teenagers on that campus, but on this day, his students were adults.

In an event organized by the Office of Advancement, Coombs and six other current and former teachers taught classes for alumni and parents of alumni. The event, which took place on the morning of Homecoming, also included a wine-and-cheese reception and tours of the new middle school campus.

“It was wonderful seeing so many people, some people I haven’t seen for 30 years,” Coombs said. “It was very exciting.”

Coombs gave two lectures on the 1066 Norman conquest of England, a topic he covered many times in his 40 years at Westlake and then Harvard-Westlake. Former English teacher Joannie Parker, who spent over 20 years at Westlake and Harvard-Westlake, taught a class on Women Poets.

Visual Arts teachers Marianne Hall and Kevin O’Malley taught two photography classes, alongside Director of Admission Elizabeth Gregory, who started out as a photography teacher at Westlake.

Science teacher John Feulner taught one astronomy class and former English teacher Bob Archer taught one poetry class and one class about the importance of teaching literature.

Senior Advancement Officer Jim Pattison said the teachers were chosen based on a survey sent to a group of alumni, and that the idea for the event came from two sources, one of which was an alumni brainstorming session.

“One of the comments made was that alumni have very fond memories of their teachers, and that anything where they could see/meet their teachers would be well-received,” Pattison said.

“There have been parents who have always commented that they would have loved to take a class their son/daughter took while at school,” he said.

Another goal in having the event was to give alumni and parents of alumni the chance to see the new middle school campus, Pattison said. Arul Thangavel ’99 was glad for this opportunity.

“It’s utterly amazing,” Thangavel said. “It’s nicer than where I went to college.”

Many of the alumni at the event hailed from the class of 1999, which had its 10-year reunion later that night.

None of the teachers who took part in the event had ever taught on the new middle school campus. Parker said that coming back to teach on a foreign campus made little difference to her.

“It’s very beautiful here, but the dynamic was the same as always,” Parker said. “The students were wonderfully responsive, and it was the same pleasure I’ve always had here.”