Jackson High Teachers, Staff, and Students
At Stonewall Jackson High, you'd be hard-pressed to find a teacher or student who doesn't have some sort of weird quirk or isn't just a prejudiced jerk.
Robert E., Is That You?
Ethan's history teacher has an affinity to another Mr. Lee: Robert E. Lee. Both are passionate about the Civil War, and both wished the South had won. He's pretty closed-minded (shocker!), giving Ethan a D on a paper he wrote called "The War of Southern Aggression."
Mr. Lee is also passionate about re-enacting the Civil War; he even makes participating in the reenactment of The Battle of Honey Hill a requirement for passing his class. If the Confederacy lost that battle, we doubt he would even mention it.
He Takes the Pal Out of Principal
Even though our authors probably had the author of To Kill a Mockingbird in mind when naming his character, Principal Harper has little in common with Harper Lee. He doesn't stand up for his students and their differences, and he totally caves to Sarafine/Mrs. Lincoln's demands. Without any proof, he listens to her schemes and goes right along with her plan to boot Lena out of school.
We felt bad when, in the first season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Principal Flutie got devoured by hyenas. But Mr. Harper makes us wish a traveling circus would come to Gatlin and accidentally leave the hyena cage unlocked.
Cross My Heart, Hope to Fly
Link has had a crush on Coach Maggie Cross since the fifth grade when she was still in high school. Now she's a young teacher, coming back to Jackson High after graduating just five years ago. Because she chaperones all the school dances, Link attends them stag and hopes to catch her eye. Not too surprisingly, it hasn't worked yet.
Other than helping pick up Emily Asher from her taffeta heap when she falls off the stage at the winter formal, Coach Cross doesn't get to do much other than be the object of Link's unrequited affection.
The Rest of the Esteemed Faculty
Our authors don't just spend their time building a fantasy world. They put just as much effort into creating a rich, mundane world, too. Think about it. We meet Mrs. English, the English teacher with a glass eye; Mrs. Abernathy, the art teacher who encourages students to "feel their way to your soul" (9.02.96) during a pottery lesson; Miss Spider, the music teacher impressed with Lena's talent with a viola; Mr. Bates, the Algebra II teacher who reads Guns & Ammo during class. And Bertrand Hollingworth, head of the School Board, is just as bad as Principal Harper, and he's an adulterer to boot.
No One Signs Their Yearbook
There's also a handful of just-mentioned-once students populating the halls of Jackson High, who help us remember the bigger picture:
- Abby Porter of the student council receives the hairy eyeball from Emily Asher because she dares to say hello to Lena. Abby might have been a decent friend to Lena if she wasn't so spineless.
- Allison Birch has bad eczema.
- Scooter Richman can't play trombone to save his life. With a name like Scooter, he clearly needs to take up the kazoo—maybe they could call him Kazooter or something.
- Jocelyn Walker was taken out of Human Development class by her mom because they were watching a video on the birds and the bees.
- Jackson Freeman doesn't believe in global warming.
- Annie Honeycutt wants to make Jackson a green school.
- Alice Milkhouse makes a science fair project by soaking an egg in vinegar and watching what happens. She won't be winning a Nobel Prize any time soon.
- Winnie Reid is the sole member of the Jackson High Debate Team, which must have some pretty lively debates.
- Robert Lester Tate is the two-time spelling bee champ.
Those last two eat lunch with Ethan and Lena when no one else will. And what thanks do they get? Ethan practically mocks them to us in his narration. Maybe the reason Ethan doesn't have any friends other than Lena or Link is because he's kind of judgmental. We just feel a little sympathetic to the underdogs who barely get seven words of text in the whole book.
In any case, thanks to all this detail, we can almost picture the Jackson High yearbook. And to be honest, that's as close to that school as we ever want to get.