IT WAS THE YEAR OF THE TEACHER— (it was the year of the snake!) By John Watts



It was the Year of the Teacher.  It was the Year of the Snake.

Educators had been circling it on their calendars for years—at least the organized ones that planned years in advance.

And so it was that the wise leadership on the faculty of Parkland County Public Schools decided to combine the 2 as the set of circumstances would not return again for who knows how long.

Talk about your momentous prophesy!  It was the Year of the Teacher.  It was the Year of the Snake.


How very fitting that both should be happening at once in the same calendar year.  It was too good to pass up.


The superintendent, the school board and several of the highest profile business liaison partners in the community, all decided to search high and low to find that special teacher who would symbolize, better than any other candidate, every unique quality that made those two creatures special and then toast the winner.  A veritable hybrid ideal as it were; representative of what was most valued and in demand for the brave new 21st century.  The epitome of the “NOW” teacher.


It was the Year of the Teacher.  It was the Year of the Snake.

And everyone at Parkland High School, indeed everyone in all of Parkland County Public Schools, knew exactly who this “NOW” teacher was and fulfilled the aforementioned qualities.  Charlotte Louise Shankcraft.

As the wife of Board of Directors Supervisor Wendell Shankcraft, our own Charlotte Louise Shankcraft knew better than anyone all the issues that matter most in running a quality program of service with distinction.  Her track record spoke for itself.  She had attained an untouchable status due to her commanding demeanor and general un-approachability

In fact she had slithered and hissed her way through the tall grasses of the classroom and the boardroom faster and with more cunning than any other candidate had ever, heretofore dared to duplicate.

It was the Year of the Teacher.  It was the Year of the Snake.


Consider her track record:  Charlotte had graduated over 14 cum laude seniors just in the past 2 years alone that had smoothly gone on to Ivey league schools.  12 of her AP students had gone on to be heads of state and judges and other important government officials.  Her overall SOL student passing rate was impeccable with a 99% pass rate and climbing.

In fact the state capital had a framed picture of Charlotte displayed at the Department of Education headquarters trophy case due to her great example of SOL testing excellence, graduation results, and overall track record of handing all required paperwork in on time.  What’s more, Mrs. Shankcraft was proficient in JAVA, blackboard, LOTUS 123, every kind of spreadsheet under the sun, and all of the required internet applications that were vital to impressing the powers that be.

And as any staff or parent connected with Parkland High School would attest, Charotte could run an IEP meeting or any kind of meeting like nobody’s business.  In fact she could read her IEP draft, type up any edits or changes on the overhead, (of course that rarely happened as few were daring enough to suggest changes) and also run and facilitate the entire meeting as well as serve popcorn, with both hands madly typing away and with so many hats to wear.

Perhaps most impressive of all: Charlotte was single handedly responsible for firing over 7 teachers while assisting in the transfer and resignation of 6 others.  She considered it her duty to purge the county of any undesirables that failed to meet the exacting criteria of the counties clearly laid out rubric for excellent teaching standards.


And to piggy back on this–perhaps her most audacious coup of all—this amazing lady also managed to be the Head of the Hospitality Committee for 14 years running while never actually having shown a trace of hospitality herself.  She was famous for sending out “GET WELL” cards to the fallen and stricken while simultaneously reminding them to get  back to work soon “OR ELSE” (which Hallmark had no cards for).

How did she do it you might ask?  Sheer force of will and intimidation.

Put simply: things happened under Charlotte Louise Shankcraft’s watch.


Her kids obeyed and her colleagues were tamed; subdued enough to the point of not posing any kind of threat.

And the friends she gathered around were the kind of friends that were never the hard to read types or the easy going, artistic types.  NO sir.  While she knew intimately all the guidelines and legislative breakthroughs in Special Education, she preferred to offer no accommodations or compassion when it came to the differently-abled colleagues around her.  That was their tough luck if they couldn’t cut it.  This was the REAL world after all.

If standards were allowed to be bent, what was the point in having any?

This applied to all of her friends too—who all coveted the same degree of blind, brutal adherence to the preexisting system of success or failure.

While they all gave generously to charities and had a kind side, when it suited them—and to those that were deemed worthy of it; all of Charlotte Louise Shankcraft’s friends were non visionary and damn well knew it.

That’s why they fought so tenaciously to find leverage and build up consensus.  That’s why they became so devastatingly good at spreading false rumors and levying misleading charges.  And that’s why, no matter how many wonderful local classroom efforts sprung up around the school, the powers that be were determined that the general course charted by Parkland High School would be just as franchised, and just as predictable as any other year, as befits any big bank or large corporation.

And Charlotte Louis Shankcraft sat at the top of the pyramid.

So even though it wasn’t official—everyone knew it would be Charlotte Louise Shankcraft that would get this rare prize.  The certainty of it had spread like wild fire throughout all the school hallways and even back to the parents of the students at home.

It was the Year of the Teacher.  It was the Year of the Snake.

The rumor didn’t even have to be articulated.  With just an all knowing “told you so” expression, faculty could relay their hunch over lunch to each other that Charlotte Louise Shankcraft was the obvious, clear cut front runner for this honor.


After all, this Mrs. Shankcraft happened to come from a long line of Shankcrafts that had quickly risen to the top in Parkland County and made major—some might say traumatic, impacts on the lives of young people as well as parents and faculty.

And the impact was largely one of fear and deep insecurity, forged on decades of hierarchical branding.

Thus it was decided that on June 19th at 1PM in the Parkland High School auditorium a ceremony would be held to honor the Teacher who best embodies those qualities that reflect the Year of the Teacher combined with the qualities of a snake.

And there holding court, in her appointed plush auditorium seat, sat the one and only Charlotte Louise Shankcraft; aligned with her closest aides and confidants.  She barely looked up as she scanned her cleverly tilted I-phone so as not to be too obvious. Her best friend, Home Economics teacher Theresa Defarce, sat knitting beside her and casting un-supportive glances at those brave souls on stage.

First came the trivial awards given out to staff that earned gift cards for doing things like being park attendants and cone setter uppers during bus arrival time.


Next on the agenda was the employee anniversaries and the farewells.  2 Biology teachers and 1 long time Art teacher all were given touching tributes with effective overhead slide shows.

None of the honored staff just mentioned dared to glance towards Charlotte Louise Shankcraft’s way for fear that she not bother to look up.  So they averted their eyes towards her section of the auditorium seating.

This was followed by the “Bully the Bullies  before they Bully You” Committee which fielded a perfectly diverse group of students and sponsoring staff, including the Latin teacher, the Head Football Coach, and our own Charlotte Louise Shankcraft’s  best friend, Theresa Defarce, who put down her knitting long enough to step up on stage.  T-shirts with a young be speckled Teddy Roosevelt and the caption “BULLY!” were passed out for all staff in attendance.  Ms, Defarce then shared updates on how much progress was made in the fight against bullying in the past year in terms of their ZERO tolerance stance.  Phone numbers were given out to report suspicious “PRE” bullying precursors before they blew up into actual offenses.  Role plays were employed in order to tell the difference between teasing among friends and actual bullying.  Finally the BULLYING committee wrapped up its findings by showing names on the overhead for PROTECTED staff and star students that were exempt from bullying charges due to community service and contributions to the school at large.  And as a last talking point for next year, Ms. Defarce reminded the faculty of the ZERO tolerance goal for the upcoming school year as well as some tips on how to use discreet, perfectly legal types of bullying techniques in order to ruin the lives and careers of other “would be” bullies.  By the this time everyone in the auditorium was either feeling very smug about themselves or ready to narc on someone close by whom they suspected all along.

And then came the universally adored part of the agenda in which Mrs. Johnson’s Senior Civics class came out to describe their CARE COMES FROM THE HEART fund raising can drive initiative for all the poor and disposed in Somalia.

To wash down all of this charity came the comedy team of Yerts and O’Brian, the smoothly polished and whacky English Honors Teacher, Fred Yerts and the Head of the Drama Department, Blinky O’Brian.

Both men came out with their, by now well familiar comedy  routines: the mock game show trivia questions that poked gentle fun at the school, the “GO ASK SWAMI” psychic bit, and the point/counterpoint skit.

Most everyone loosened up and got belly laughs out of these 2 funny men and their feel good antics.  Any time a joke or a roast straddled close to the line of being insubordinate or disrespectful, anxious heads in the auditorium would gaze back at Charlotte Louise Shankcraft for a clue as to how to handle the reaction.  Fortunately she gave a “thumbs up” and smiled her approval.

But all of this was mere fodder and dress rehearsal for the main event.

After all–It was the Year of the Teacher.  It was the Year of the Snake.

And as the lights dimmed and the kettle drum rolled—the Principal of Parkland High School and the Governor of the State himself came out to introduce this year’s winner of the combined Teacher and Snake of the Year award.

Before her name was even announced, our own Charlotte Louise Shankcraft was heading towards the podium.  Everyone knew the outcome.

A long biography intro was given as Charlotte waited in the wings.  It was delivered by none other than Board of Directors Supervisor Wendell Shankcraft, Charlotte’s spouse and partner in crime.

The crowd stood in unison, with no dissenters, as in the days of old when the Soviet Union flourished with such brutal unanimity.

The two Shankcraft’s locked arms and kissed.  With this, the school faculty rose their decibel level of fervor to an all-time level.

Charlotte waited for a foothold in all the applause to grant her access.  Then she spoke these words:  “You all are like family to me!”

Gasps erupted throughout the dim auditorium seating.  Teachers and Assistants who never figured to be counted too high in the scheme of things at the high school, took heart in thinking they were part of Charlotte Louise Shankcraft’s extended family.

Former students then took the stage with GIGANTIC acrostic letters:  TEACHER was spelled out on the left.  SNAKE was spelled out on the right.

Each jumbo letter poster was then reversed in order to reveal the characteristic:  Ex. The “T” in teacher stood for TENACIOUS.  The “E” stood for “ENEMY” and so on and so forth.  By the time SNAKE was spelled out—ex. The “S” was revealed to be SADISTIC.

With each unveiled letter, Charlotte glowed in greater appreciation.

At the end, as summer vacation beckoned for all the gathered staff—the current cheer-leading squad came out and draped long, and cuddly carnival snakes around Charlotte Louse Shankcraft’s neck until she was nearly covered to her eyeballs and could see no further.

It was the Year of the Teacher.  It was the Year of the Snake.

And all of the tenuously employed underlings and anonymous gophers and trench workers shuffled off for a very needed summer break to heal and lick their wounds.  In their heads danced thought bubbles of doubt and worry as they contemplated the trap they found themselves in at this point in their career.  While the handful of elite faculty carried Charlotte Louise Shankcraft, with the weight of all her snake necklaces, on their shoulders in triumph for another great year thinking INSIDE the box!




About John Watts

I like to write transcendental community based essays and stories along with photo journalism pieces.
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