Teachers are, in fact, real people who live real lives. Most of their day may be spent sitting in uncomfortable desks, scrutinizing their students’ chicken-scratch or wondering how long they’ll have to administer lunch duty. But when that 2:50 bell rings and students shuffle out the doors, only then do teachers come out of their shell to experience life to the fullest.
Perhaps they embark on summer adventures, scaling summits before sunrise and traveling the world with a group of strangers, like Megan Trotter during her Moondance. Or, like Dawson Zimmerman, they have the ability to whistle like a Disney princess and recite the first three seasons of SpongeBob verbatim. Maybe they secretly train for marathons like Monica Tarnawski.
For most of the Wesleyan staff, sitting at home, grading papers, listening to station 91.9 “WCLK – The Jazz of the City” and going to bed around 8:30 is simply a false stereotype that accompanies the title of a teacher. Beneath the layers of modest, business casual attire lies the beating hearts of men and women who live and serve unapologetically.
Two teachers who exemplify the life of creativity and individuality are Stephen Mihalko and Whitney Panetta:
Lalley: What are some of your most interesting passions or talents?
Mihalko: I’m a musician; I play the banjo, the guitar, bass guitar, sing and played viola in the orchestra for six and a half years. I’ve got my knitting here as well.
L: When did you get into knitting?
M: At the end of last spring.
L: What made you decide to start?
M: All of my AP classes were over, and I’ve always enjoyed making things, so I said, ‘Ok I can make things for people and for myself with this.’ I just went to hobby stores and picked some stuff up and here I am.
L: How did you learn how to knit?
M: I learned exclusively from YouTube. There was a little knitting shop over in Lawrenceville that I went to for some pointers.
L: What are some of your favorite things that you have knitted?
M: I knitted a scarf for a Christmas present. I’ve done a few other scarves. When my mom found out I could knit, she asked me to make pillowcases for her six siblings and her parents, so that has been my big hobby for a while. I made a little blanket for when it gets cold in the winter. I’ve crocheted drink coasters, a case for my crochet hooks—just to be extra meta. Scarves, pillows…
L: What was your reaction to all of the knitting hype during Freshman Retreat?
M: Why? Why? Why is this happening? It was just confusion. I’ll just go with it I guess.
L: Would you say that was the peak of your career as a knitter?
M: Yeah, that’s a pretty fair statement.
Lalley: What are some of your hidden talents, passions or hobbies?
Panetta: I really love cooking…and chickens.
L: Tell me about your chickens…
P: We’ve had chickens for five years. [My husband] Nick and I just started talking about how fun it would be to have chickens in our backyard because it’s become pretty popular…the whole urban farming [thing]. So, we went out and bought four chicks. Now we have 10, and we’re on one-third of an acre in the Atlanta city limits, so were not on a huge piece of property. But we have 10 chickens who just hang out in our backyard all the time.
We’ve had roosters in and out. We originally wanted chickens just because we wanted eggs, but they’re really fun to have, they [each] have chicken personalities.
L: What’s one of your favorite things about having chickens?
P: Naming them is one of my favorite things. I think my all-time favorite name was in our first group of chicks. One of them was a Rhode Island Red and I named that one Richard Parker because I had just finished watching the Life of Pi and was inspired…and they say Richard Parker like 17 million times.
Richard Parker was supposed to be a female, but she turned into a rooster; he was the meanest rooster in the entire world. He could not care less about Nick, but he would run across the yard to attack me. It was a huge rooster, so we had to give him away.
But out of our current batch, our friendliest chicken is Severus Snape (from “Harry Potter”). We have a Jessica Day because I love “New Girl,” and we have one named Linda because our former neighbor loved our chickens and would go in our backyard and feed them all the time.
There’s no rhyme or reason to how we name them—we just spout off random names.
L: How many chickens do you currently have?
P: We [currently] have 10 chickens. The chickens average an egg every couple of days. We have some chickens who lay an egg every single day and some that lay it every couple of days. We get white eggs, brown eggs, some that are brown with dark brown spots, blue eggs and green eggs.
These teachers are only representatives of the passionate and talented Wesleyan faculty. So, whether they house a chicken dynasty in their backyard or create an entire fashion line and interior design brand from only Hobby Lobby yarn, Wesleyan teachers exemplify what it looks like to live life without limits.