Retro RFH Scientific Teaching Moments

RFH science teachers of the 1970s
Photo/RFH Yearbook

Science! It was truly poetry in motion at RFH, just like the 1980s song by Thomas Dolby. And, no, no teacher blinded anyone with science at RFH, more like made the students see the subject — and more clearly.

There was quite a crew of science teachers in this era, among them, of course, the infamous, or just plain famous, George Giffin. The special breed of teacher personified fun learning. He was also a coach and, most importantly to gawky teens, a teacher of ballroom dance. Called “Giff,” it’s safe to say that any RFHer has had a Giff experience, in the science classroom or not.

His teaching moments had to do with a lot of corny jokes revolving around science, and not, “getting that beat and moving your feet,” as he would say, on the dance floor or just in his classroom, and truly caring. He cared. Giff would even pride himself in attending many RFH reunions and even weddings to get things moving to the beat on the dance floor. Scientifically, though, I’d have to say that most students remember his handling of dissections for the freaked out. Many RFHers believe that with Giff all was possible. He’d like that. There is a scholarship in his memory.

Then there were the cool and groovy (I couldn’t really say who was which) Don Russell and James Parker. Looking back, they were probably not much older than us teens in the 70s. Both were handsome, groovy and hip teachers.

Parker I recall being a very good biology teacher. He always wore a tie and those Huckapoo shirts adorned (more like trashed) with some crazy pattern. He wasn’t particularly funny or anything, but he had a presence that commanded the student audience and his teachings sunk in. He also had a wry smile and God only knows what he was thinking to himself behind it.

Russell ended up staying at RFH for quite a long time … to teach even the kids of some of those in the Class of ’78. He liked to interact with the students and they liked him back, often in the cafeteria or courtyard. He was a cool dude. I can’t honestly say I remember his teaching methods. The girls just thought he was groovy, so they listened.

Ahhhh, then there was Bob Young. He was the leisure-suited one of this bunch. Young was a very nice guy who really knew and loved to teach his beloved Earth Science class. The word around the halls was that he was a bit of a hippy who liked rocks and herbal remedies, let’s say.

Young had a great temperament, perfect for dealing with miscreants in class. The biggest problem with his classroom, though, was he had some cubicles in the back that the pranksters would inevitably settle into and let loose. Yes, there was a lot of forced changing of seats going on in Earth Science.

And then there was Gail Burd. This guy taught chemistry and coached tennis. He was a nice, smart man with a good sense of humor, even when the honor student was dizzied by his knowledge and inept in grasping chemical equations, or something like that.

So, when this student and a class cohort, also clueless and losing interest fast, for no known reason started on a spiral of non-stoppable belly laughing in class, he tried to stop them and ended up joining in uncontrollably — so much so that he had to stop the class.

Now, that’s breaking character! Then again, all these science wizzes were characters in their own right. Learning the personality quirks of the teacher is a science in itself. Best scientific lesson learned? By which teacher?

John Caroli
BCS Wealth Management