The retirees

Four teachers announce their retirement and prepare to say goodbye to Cleveland

Clarion photo Minying Zhen
Jeff Zerba
Retirees 2023- Mr. Running (Clarion photo Emma Bass)

Erik Running
Geometry 1-2, and Algebra 3-4
If you weren’t a teacher, you would have been? Probably something in journalism. I was involved in the newspaper when I was in high school. I enjoyed doing that. Enjoy just talking to people and learning their stories. So whether, you know, print, radio, TV, something like that, where you get to explore other avenues and talk to other people.
Describe your perfect day of teaching? Perfect day of teaching is when students ask questions. When they’re asking questions, that means they’re thinking, and if they can come up with questions that I could not anticipate, that’s even better. So when you’re thinking on your feet, as opposed to something that you’ve got prepared, I think that makes for a better learning experience for everyone.
What do you plan to do in retirement? I like my summers. As much as I like my job, I like not working even more. So I can ride my bike, play golf, read a book, work in the garden. Travel here and there. Any specific plans? No. But always trying to keep my eye open for something new to do. You know, keep myself busy.
How many years at Cleveland? Total? This is my 21st year at Cleveland. And my 34th year overall, 35 If you count a year of substituting before I got hired by PPS.
What was your favorite class you taught? My favorite one — the IB math apps class, math apps 3-4. I loved teaching that class. I love making high level math accessible. And I like it when students who do not necessarily focus on math, see the applications of it in the real world, and they say, ‘Hey, this isn’t all stupid stuff.’
What is one thing you try to get your students to take away from your class? Know when to take yourself seriously and know when to take yourself not seriously. I think that there are times where you need to buckle down and get the work done. And there are times when it’s good to, you know, tell jokes and enjoy yourself. But balancing that I think is critical.
Favorite classroom decoration? *Pointing up to a Squirtle and Geodude pokemon dangling from the projector string.*) When my oldest son was little, there was a Time magazine article that had all the original 50 Pokemons, and we would have to go through those every night. I had a student ask me what my favorite Pokemon was and I said, Geodude, because I teach a lot of geometry. I said, I am the geodude! And so a student brought that in for me and I put it up there. — Sophia Jordan

Retirees 2023- Dona Ester (Clarion photo Emma Bass)

If you weren’t a teacher, what would you have
done? I would like to be an Astronaut. It was my pa-
sion since I was a teenager.
Describe your perfect day of teaching? It is Monday morning and the students arrive before the bell rings and greet me at the door and they have the “password” ready to tell me. They would use the bathroom pass for real needs and fast. They would enter the room and grab their reading books. They would answer all my questions all together in Spanish and during the story we were building together, the students would yell: ‘Claro que Si!, claro que no!, vale!, perfecto!, ¡Qué ridículo! at the proper moments. Then, they would offer cute ideas for the story. Naturally, they would ask me about new posters in the room showing their curiosity and excitement to learn the new language. Then by the second period, somebody would come and ask me to close the door because everyone would be singing along to “Cielito Lindo” in a loud and happy voice. The class would be 50-minute long and the group would have between 12 and 14 students who would use only Spanish during class. Students would share stories of their moments speaking Spanish outside of the school and I would never have to give a grade, I would only share compliments to all of my dear learners. And we would part ways saying, ‘Gracias por la clase.’
What do you plan to do in retirement? I plan to take walks, visit the public library more often and go to museums with my grandchildren.
How many years have you been teaching at Cleveland? In total? I have been teaching since 1969 and since 2015 at Cleveland High School. I arrived in the USA in 2015 and taught in Iowa for 15 years before.
What will you miss most about Cleveland? I will miss the excitement in the students’ eyes when he understands and he is able to communicate in Spanish with me. It is priceless. I will miss the nervousness of the first day of school every single year. I will miss the students’ laughter when I dance in the room. I will miss searching for props to bring to the lesson. I will miss watching the students grow during the four years in the building. I will miss planning a lesson that could excite the students. I will even miss the students’ lies about little stuff. — Evie Miller

Retirees 2023: Ms. Brighouse (Clarion photo Emma Bass)

English 1-2/3-4
If you weren’t a teacher, what would you have done? I originally was thinking about going into nursing, but changed my mind — I would prefer no messy clean-ups.
Describe your perfect day of teaching? It sounds bad, but honestly, I really like planning days with no kids around. That way I can be in my classroom, doing grades, getting stuff organized and preparing the students.
What do you plan to do in retirement? Anything I want! For right now, there is still lots to do around my house, and since I like staying busy, I’m looking into finding a fun, part-time job working with other people. There’s nothing specific right now. I’m “just dreaming” about certain ideas, and even looking on
How many years have you been teaching at Cleveland in total? This is my ninth year teaching here in total. In fact, my first teaching job was at Cleveland in this very room. Then, I worked at Marshall for 20 years and Franklin for three before coming back here to Cleveland.
How many different subjects/courses have you taught in your career? I have taught every level of English except for 11th graders. I also facilitated student council and government, as activities director and the leadership teacher.
What was your favorite class you taught at Cleveland? Why? Leadership! I liked working behind the scenes, putting things together and seeing kids work together and be inspired.
What will you miss most about Cleveland? Jan Watt. Can I say that? I have made so many friends here on the staff that are so supportive, and that I will always remember. — Molly Bernardo

Jeff Zerba (Clarion photo Minying Zhen)

Jeff Zerba – Health, wrestling coach
If you weren’t a teacher, what would you have done?That’s a good question. I was studying in college to be an agricultural engineer before I switched to teaching. So I would be either that or I would be working at my dad’s winery right now, probably.
What is one thing you try to get your athletes and students to take away from wrestling and/or your class? As in wrestling in life, you get what you put into it. The harder you work in wrestling, the more you get out of it. In life, the higher you work on yourself, and what you need to do to have the kind of life and lifestyle you want, the more successful you’re going to be.
What do you plan to do in retirement? All the things I haven’t been able to do for the past 33 years. My wife and I travel quite a bit. So there’s places that you can’t travel to in the winter, because you’re teaching and coaching. But a lot of it’s just kind of having time to do other things. Like take care of myself, exercise, hang out with my dogs and cats, and find other things that I want to do. One of the big things I’m going to do is I started adaptive skiing. I’m going to go to Idaho and do a lot of adaptive skiing up there.
Favorite wrestling memory? I would say my favorite wrestling moments are when wrestlers come back and they talk about the life lessons that they learned in wrestling. That they learned how to persevere and they learned from mistakes they made or the losses that they had or failures in their life, kind of like in wrestling matches when you lose a wrestling match. That shouldn’t be the end all, be all, it’s like ok, assess what do I do? How do I get better? And I think wrestling teaches a lot of life lessons. It comes down to the kind of the human beings that walk out of our wrestling room.
Favorite teaching memory? I fell out of my chair once, about five or six years into teaching. And I fell out of my chair while I was popping a wheelie. And I fell out here in the back and the class was just horrified. Oh, no. What do we do? Is he ok? And one person in the back was laughing hysterically. And everybody was looking at them, like how could he be laughing? Is he ok? And it was a wrestler I had, I fought them. And they’ve seen me fall out of my chair at wrestling practice. And they helped me back in and everything was good. So that was pretty funny.

Do you plan on continuing your advocacy
I testified in front of the school board last year,  about a bill that they were trying to put on the table. They have to have every school accessible by a certain time. And I don’t know when that is. But if asked, I am  there for advocating for the accessible for an accessible building and equal access and equal rights to it. You know, I’d also advocate for, you know, basically just equal student rights within the building. — Henry Light