Chemistry teacher Jerrod Bardwell struts in through the side door of other chemistry teacher Steven Appier’s class, thermos in hand, smirk on his face. As Appier is lecturing his students on how to convert mass to moles, Bardwell realizes he is ahead of Appier for their notes today. With nothing but a chuckle, Bardwell walks out. It is a successful class period for him.
The next day, Appier decides to step up his game. He skips a few example problems. He flies through the slideshow. He disappears for half a minute, and returns with a sneer. He has won today.
Chemistry teachers Appier and Bardwell will deny any sort of relationship.
“[Bardwell] is not the smartest person,” Appier said. “I kind of feel a responsibility for him to help make up for his deficiency. But in some ways, that is endearing, so I kind of like him.”
The basis of the teachers’ is built upon the constant bickering and taunting of each other. The co-workers were, at first, just that. But now with a common hobby of kayaking and grading quizzes together, a stronger friendship has formed, with more teasing than ever.
“[Being around Appier] is kind of like having a terminal disease,” Bardwell said. “You can’t really get rid of it, you just kind of have to learn to live with it.”
To a random stranger, one would think these two hate each other – that they wouldn’t have any other common interests besides chemistry. But all teachers have secret lives and hobbies, according to Bardwell. And Bardwell and Appier just happen to share more than one common hobby: kayaking.
When they aren’t grading SR₂QRs, the two men spend days making fun of each other and racing. Not racing by foot or in cars, but racing down streams, rivers and even lakes in kayaks.
Appier and Bardwell bond while paddling down bodies of water, chatting and working to get to a finish line sometimes over 300 miles away. They will race against each other sometimes, borrow each other’s boats and also ground crew for each other.
Originally, the out-of-school bond of kayaking started with ground crew, which is when someone in a truck follows the racer beside the river. Appier was originally the only kayaker of the two. Then he asked Bardwell to ground crew for him, eventually getting Bardwell hooked on the sport.
“You wouldn’t think so with his limited abilities,” Appier said. “But he was actually pretty helpful. I could not have done as well as I did without his support.”
During the one specific race, the Missouri 340, Appier pulled over whenever necessary on the side of the river. Bardwell waited for him with water, Advil, sunscreen and anything else Appier might have needed. At one stop, he even whipped out an old hose connected to a pump, creating a riverside shower for Appier in the middle of the long race.
Even though they now share this aspect of their lives, Appier would never admit that Bardwell isn’t half bad at kayaking, and Bardwell wouldn’t admit that he is grateful Appier got him hooked. But they are happy to admit that they now have something outside of test scores to compete over.
Junior Chemistry 2 student Ross Fosher has had both Appier and Bardwell as a teacher through his years in chemistry. He has experienced both of their taunting every day.
“In a grueling job like a chemistry teacher their casual and fun friendship keeps them going,” Fosher said.
Beyond teasing, competition is another huge part of their friendship. They will compete about anything, even if it is as partners, rather than against each other.
Competing with each other is something the two have decided to do within the last few months. One week in Appier’s seminar, his Link Leader, Madeline Long, brought up the idea of auditioning for the TV show The Amazing Race. And Appier and Bardwell took it seriously.
Their almost finished application video is hoping to get submitted before the link is taken off of the show’s website. They don’t exactly have high hopes of being accepted, but are ready to be challenged.
“You know,” Appier said, “It is probably easier than climbing Mt. Everest, or some stupid idea we would think of otherwise. So we thought hey, if they take us, let’s give it a shot.”
Neither teacher is sure if the other man will bring much to the table. Bardwell is worried that Appier won’t problem solve well. Appier isn’t sure if Bardwell will do anything well. But it would be a challenge they are still excited to take on. That is, as long as they don’t get sick of each other in the process.