Tuesday, July 11, 2006


Mr. Otto was the geometry teacher at Washington. His room was on the first floor. I had him during my junior year.

Otto's room had tables. Two students sat at each one. I was put next to class of 1990's Jason Krings. Jason and I got to be friends that year. He was a pretty cool dude. We sat at the second table from the front, in the middle aisle. Class of 1990's Rick Halada sat in front of us. Rick and I used to mockingly threaten to beat the shit out of each other all the time. Rick was cool too. Cindy Hayes and Chris Staudinger sat at the table behind us.

Anyway, Otto was an older teacher. He was a good guy. But it seemed like he was stuck in the 1960's. In fact, with his short hair and old-looking glasses, he looked just like a student picture out of my parents' high school yearbooks.

If you've ever taken geometry, you might recall that what you learn early on, must be continually used throughout the year. So if you get lost early, you might as well give up. That was my case. I think I got a D in the 1st quarter. The second quarter found me with an F. There was a rule that in order to pass a semester, you had to pass two out of the three things - each quarter plus the final exam. If you fail two of the three, you failed the semester. Even if you had an A+ and two F's, you'd fail. So I had to pass the final exam in order to pass the semester. I was sunk. The first day back, after the exam, Otto was out sick. Mrs. Sullivan (mother of fellow graduate Beth) was the substitute. She had Otto's gradebook, and showed each of us our results. I got 50% correct on the exam. In other words, I failed. But wait! As we found out later, Otto graded the exam on a curve. And 50% was the cutoff point for passing. So I passed the semester! If I'd had one more wrong on the test, I'd have failed. Score!

In the second semester, I got "F" "F" and "F." Oh well.

Since I was totally lost, I pretty much gave up. I simply showed up for class, and would joke around with Jason for the hour. I remember one time Otto looked at me and said, "Burt, you're 1,000,000 miles away. And Jason, you're not helping him any." But the best was yet to come.

Picture the scene. Otto was up at the chalkboard, explaining the pythagorean theory or something. Everyone had their compass' and protractors out, and were busy doing stuff on paper. Well... everyone but me. I had never even opened my books that day. Instead, they were all closed and were neatly stacked in the upper right corner of the table. Instead, I was leaning back in my chair, reading the Satanic Bible. What a sight. Being so close to the front of the room, I'm surprised it took Otto so long to notice me. But when he did, he blew a gasket. He slammed his pointer stick onto his desk, then yelled, "Burt, follow me! And take that damn book with you!" Otto then lead me down the hall and up the stairs to the second floor. I was sure I was on my way to see Mr. Wood. But no! We passed right by his office. Otto then turned around, pointed to Wood's office and said, "This is where I should be taking you. But I'm taking you to a counselor. And believe me, you need counseling!"

When we got to Mr. Boehlke's office, Otto sat me down in a chair. Then he went off on some sort of bizarre tirade about hippies in the 1960's throwing horse shit on police cars, and how they're now yuppies making $70,000/year jobs. He carried on for a couple of minutes, then left. Mr. Boehlke and I looked at each other in stunned silence. Then the normally reserved Boehlke burst out laughing. He then said to me "Mr. Otto has to kick someone out of his class maybe once every five years. You're the one. Congratulations!" We both laughed.

I assured Boehlke that I wasn't a Satanist, and that it was only an interesting book. He was fine with that, but pleaded with me not to read it in Otto's class anymore. Five minutes later, I was back in class, with no repercussions.

In my trapper keeper, I had some rubber tubing which I'd stolen from Mr. Conrad's class the year before. I came up with a cool idea. Using both my compass and Jason's, I connected them together with a pencil. Then I tied the rubber tubing around the top of each compass. In other words, I made a makeshift crossbow. And it was awesome. It worked great! That thing would could shoot a pencil or pen incredibly fast. Of course our compass' would no longer work. Oh well. I still have it. In fact, you can see it below. Instead of a pencil, it's held together with a pen now. It's so perfect. You pull back on the tubing, and you can actually set the pointy end of the pen or pencil on the "sight" - which is the part where you stick the pen in. Geometry was fun. But I didn't learn much.

I believe Otto had formerly been the coach of the girls basketball team. I think he still assisted from time to time. I believe he ended up retiring a few years after we graduated. As far as I know, he still lives in Two Rivers - a block or two east of Magee. If I'm not mistaken, a small college scholarship in his name is awarded to a high school graduate every year.


At Tue Jul 11, 01:04:00 PM PDT, Blogger Jeff G said...

'trapper keeper' - crumps, haven't heard that since, well, when did we graduate?????

At Tue Jul 11, 01:32:00 PM PDT, Blogger Greg Pagel said...

Mr. Otto was a good teacher. I liked him, even though I was too lazy to do all the homework.

My DAD had him for geometry in, like, the 19th century or something.

At Tue Jul 11, 02:25:00 PM PDT, Blogger Lisa said...

Wow, that's funny, my parents had him for a teacher too!!

Mr. Otto was my favorite teacher in high school! Math was never my strong point and he's the only reason I ever got a grasp on geometry.

I know he had a passion for basketball too and helped out on the boys varsity team.

He definitely stands out as a very dedicated and enthusiastic teacher and one I always respected!

At Tue Jul 11, 07:40:00 PM PDT, Blogger PJ said...

Burt...I'm right there with ya as far as never completely grasping geometry. I studied my ass off and only got a C in that class. I sat with Jeff Scwake and we did get scolded a time or two for goofing around. I remember Dan Bast in there also and Jen Lane...all the guys would drool each day as she entered class and took her spot.

At Tue Jul 11, 08:45:00 PM PDT, Blogger MarkC said...

You all must remember the slamming of the chalk on the board making 3 dots in the shape for a triangle. I believe that symbol represented "therefore". Then Mr. Otto pointing to the steps in his proofs with his middle finger as he held the chalk between his thumb and pointer finger.

The middle finger thing was funny to a dorky 14-year-old (me)! The man had the stongest looking and largest hands and fingers I've ever seen. Thank god he didn't flick us on the head with those fingers like Mr. Kelstrup...was that his name?

Mr. Otto was also an avid bee-keeper. I'm not sure where his bees were kept, but can can remember seeing the land with the bee houses. You had better get on that bit of info, Burt.

At Wed Jul 12, 05:33:00 AM PDT, Blogger Brandon P. said...

I guess I was in that class too. I don’t remember who else was in that room but I definitely remember Jen Lane.

Mr. Otto was a good guy and a great teacher. He had cool glasses.

At Wed Jul 12, 06:24:00 AM PDT, Blogger MarkC said...

Mr. Otto also has a son named Bob. One of the few names that is the same when spelled backwards... ottO boB
What's that called??

At Wed Jul 12, 07:10:00 AM PDT, Blogger MarkC said...

Just popped into my head... Bob Otto, ottO boB is a palindrome!

At Wed Jul 12, 07:18:00 AM PDT, Blogger MarkC said...

After a little looking around... Bob is a palindrome and Otto is a palindrome, but Bob Otto is not. Here's a great palindrome... Was it a rat I saw!

Enough of this foolishness... heading out to Deere Run to catch Michelle Wie play a practice round for the John Deere Classic. I'll head back out on Thurs and Friday to witness her MISS THE CUT.

At Wed Jul 12, 07:37:00 AM PDT, Blogger TWORIVERSWALRUS said...

I was going to say palindrome also. I guess it's sort of correct.

You're right about the bees. I'd forgotten all about that.

At Wed Jul 12, 07:40:00 AM PDT, Blogger jenny said...

mr. otto was my favorite teacher. i loved his class and i love geometry. he was my dad's basketball coach and in 1957 they won the state championship!
he did indeed have an apiary near the fairview golf course where all the knew housing/condos are now. bee keepers are special patient people and mr otto is indeed special. he is a sweet soul and a great teacher! he still lives near my mom and looks exactly the same. bless his sweet heart!

At Wed Jul 12, 12:17:00 PM PDT, Blogger mimikatemom said...

Mr. Otto was one of my favorites and Mark you beat me to all the good comments. He did have the hugest hands and gestured with them often. He was forever breaking chalk against the chalkboard without skipping a beat and he had the ability to freehand a completely straight line on the chalkboard. Very hard to do. Being severely numerically challenged I fared better in geometry than algebra or trig. Was less abstract I guess. I am completely left brained.

At Wed Jul 12, 02:37:00 PM PDT, Blogger jenny said...

"say it if you know it!" does anyone else remember this statement?
i also remember him breaking chalk all the time. He could shoot the broken chalk into the waste basket from any where in the room! he always made it!

At Wed Jul 12, 04:13:00 PM PDT, Blogger TWORIVERSWALRUS said...

Ha! I remember that.

I never said anything.

At Thu Aug 17, 12:47:00 PM PDT, Blogger JasonK said...

Someone forwarded me an e-mail bringing this to my attention. I have no idea who it was for I tried to return an e-mail and was unable. Anyway, this is Jason Krings and what you say is true. However I have another story that you may have forgotten about. Because Burt never paid any attention in class his favorite pasttime was passing papers with strange and disturbing commentary on them to me. At the end of the year we had to turn in all our assignment (proofs etc.), and as I hurriedly assembled my papers together I did not notice that several of these twisted papers were included. A few days later Mr. Otto had a talk with me, he looked at me as though I had a third head or was the ant-christ or something. He told me that I needed help, but he REALLY DID TAKE ME to Mr. Woods office. I sat there as Mr. Wood read Burt's ramblings to me. One in particular I can remenber. "Can you imagine F#@%ing Tammy Berhman?". I'm not sure how I replied,but I did get a shitload of detention out of it. As far as I know Mr. Otto still thinks I am Anton Levey. Leve'? whatever.

At Thu Aug 17, 04:29:00 PM PDT, Blogger TWORIVERSWALRUS said...

Wow. Hey Jason! I had totally forgotten about that. But I do remember it now. What I remember most is that you didn't mention my name to Wood. Thank you for that.

Well, I simply assumed you never mentioned my name to Wood, as he never came after me for it. If you had, I'm sure he would have.

At Sat Aug 30, 05:31:00 PM PDT, Blogger Rohrerbot said...

This guy is truly a good man. One of the few I have met in this world. Several years ago his wife passed away. I came home for Christmas and was with Kim Nokes. We passed his home and saw him sitting alone in his dining room looking at pictures. We stopped there and he opened the door to invite us in....he remembered our names and we had a wonderful talk. He still live close to that lot where our old school used to be but he doesn't beekeep anymore.


Post a Comment

<< Home