Friday, January 12, 2007


Mr. Monka (Ron) was the 8th grade social studies teacher at L.B. Clarke. For the most part, he was a pretty nice guy. He was probably around 50 years old, and wore glasses. He was also quite proud of his Polish heritage.

I had Monka for 4th hour. I sat on the right side of the room, right next to the curtain. Tom Grassman sat behind me. I think the seat in front of me was empty. Jenny Malley sat to my left. And I believe Mark Schreiber sat in back of her. I liked all three of them. So it was a good place to be. Come to think of it, I think the reason why the seat in front of me was empty was because Kevin Dehne had been there for a short time. But if memory serves, Monka separated us. So Kevin got moved to the absolute front of the class.

Other people in that class were Becky Koeppel, Teresa Vohwinkel, Keith Welnicke, Ron Gretz and Brian Belongia. Obviously there were a lot more than that. But I’m drawing a blank right now. Oh wait, maybe Robin Richmond and Chris Staudinger were there too.

Monka had a couple of habits. For one, if he caught you talking during class, he had a tendency to throw an eraser at you. Of course some of us (well, Kevin and I really) would purposely try to get beaned with one. I can remember turning around in my chair talking to Tom, and saying, “Is he looking? Is he grabbing the eraser?” The next thing you know, boom, you were in a cloud of chalk dust. Of course one time he actually nailed Ron Gretz in the eye. Ron yelped, then whipped the eraser back at him. Monka scolded him. But gee, can you blame Ron?

Monka also had a thing about the baskets under our desks. They were designed for putting our books in. Of course they were also perfect as a foot rest – using the desk in front of you. But Monka wouldn’t allow anyone to do that. If he caught you, he’d make you sit on the floor, squatting in the catcher’s position. See my entry on Teresa Vohwinkel to read a clever attempt on her part to get out of doing the squat.

I don’t know what I did. But one day Monka got mad at me and sent me into the hall – desk and all. He had me positioned basically in the middle of the six-roomed wing, but where he could teach and still keep an eye on me. I thought I’d have some fun with him. So I turned my head to the right, and looked in Mrs. Meehan’s room. Then I started to move my lips, as if I was talking to somebody. Of course I wasn’t. In fact, they were watching a filmstrip in there. Everyone’s back was turned anyway. I did this for 10 or 15 minutes. And Monka never noticed. I was getting frustrated. So I decided to get a little animated – gesturing with my hands and arms. Still, it took about 10 minutes before Monka finally noticed. I knew instantly, as his voice suddenly stopped, and the room got quiet. Then I looked in Monka’s room and saw that he was straining his neck trying to get a better look at me. Everyone else in class also turned to look. Then Monka came out and said, “Who are you talking to?” For once, I was honest with him. I said, “No one.” He looked into Meehan’s room himself. And from my vantage point, all you could see was darkness. He was baffled. He turned around, said nothing, then went back to his room. I got a kick out of it. Yes, it was very juvenile. I know.
At some point during the year, my mom ended up going to school for some parent/teacher conferences. I think she met with a couple of my teachers at once. I believe she met Monka, Mr. Kern and Mr. Fencl in that meeting. My mom stressed to them that I was supposed to be wearing my glasses. Truth be told, I’d had glasses since I was in first grade. When I lived in Manitowoc, I actually wore them. But for whatever reason, once I moved to Two Rivers, I refused to wear them. I guess I was just self conscious about them. After all, they were some hideous-looking things. Of course back then, all glasses were big and hideous. Anyway, the three of them assured my mom that they would make me wear my glasses. Kern never bothered to try. He didn’t care. Fencl asked me once. But Monka asked me every single day. I think he was trying to embarrass me into wearing them. Of course I would have been more embarrassed had I actually put them on. So everyday at the start of class, he would ask me in front of everyone, “Burt, did you bring your glasses?” Of course my standard answer was, “Nope!” After maybe six weeks of this, he finally let up. Needless to say, no one ever saw me wear them. Today I’ve had Lasik surgery done. And I’m much happier for it.

See my entry on Randy Ertman for an action story about Monka involving punches and squirt guns.

See my entry on B.J. Lutterman for a story about Monka and Polish jokes.

Sometime after my days at Clarke, my dad used to go to the YMCA and run in the winter time. Sometimes I’d tag along. I didn’t run myself. I just explored the building and would wander around into places I shouldn’t. But anyway, quite often Monka would be there. He’d run too. He remembered me and was always nice.

I’m not sure of the date. But I think it may have been in the early 1990’s, I recall seeing a newspaper article about an incident that happened at Clarke. Apparently one of the teachers got in trouble for being a little rough with one of the students. I believe the incident happened at night, as the teacher was chaperoning a dance or something. Someone once told me Monka was involved. In fact, just recently, someone else told me that Monka had gotten fired for hitting a student. Did it happen? I don’t know. Is it the same incident? Again, I don’t know.

Today I believe Monka is in fact retired. He appears to live in Two Rivers to this day. I couldn’t find anything else about him, other than the fact that he may have gone on an Alaskan sea cruise at some point.


At Sat Jan 13, 05:07:00 PM PST, Blogger Brandon P. said...

Once again your vivid memories astound me. I can't remember who was in any of my classes except for Troy Rezachec. He was in my class in 6th grade in Stodola's class. He was kicking my desk and I turned around and told him to knock it off. After I turned back around, he punched me in the back of the head. Ah, the memories of Jr. High. But, I digress....

Mr. Monka was a pretty cool guy. Was he the one that made you stay after school if you tried to throw away paper from a distance? If memory serves, he would make you hit ten in a row from a distance before you could go home.

Mr. Monka was an avid fisherman and also repaired fishing rods. My mom had him fix one of mine after I broke it horsing in a salmon off the south pier in T.R.

At Mon Jan 15, 07:59:00 AM PST, Blogger TWORIVERSWALRUS said...

Actually Brandon, it was Mr. Kern who made you stay after school to throw paper away. I'm not sure I mentioned that in his entry. But I know for sure that I mentioned it in Nick Novachek's entry.


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