An elderly lady ambles down the fourth floor hallway, peering into classrooms as she goes along. Her son and associate principal Jeff Storey follow her, along with a gaggle of curious students.
“It looks the same but it doesn’t feel the same,” she murmurs to herself.
Fern Coffin was a teacher at East from 1960 to 1968, a mere two years after the school opened. She’s 101-years-old and wanted a tour of the place one last time to observe all that had changed. She was a College English Prep teacher in what is now a math classroom, room 412.
According to Coffin, the classrooms are one of the only things that haven’t changed. Except for the blackboards transforming into whiteboards, of course. Back then, the main office was located where we now have the counseling center, and the building only had four floors, opposed to the five we have now. The library we have now was built in the 80’s, rooms 414 and 415 were housing it back then. We didn’t even have a mascot yet.
Coffin remembers walking to school everyday with her sack lunch, a mile and a half there and a mile and a half back. And the time she saw the tornado, of course.
Coffin was angrier than anything—they made them take cover while she was in the middle of a test. Her irritation of being interrupted quickly subsided when her students and she were rushing down the main stairwell and caught sight of an actual twister coming towards them.
“It looked like it was right on the football field,” Coffin said. “But I’m sure it was a long way off.”
Coffin was a quiet teacher who really loved her job. She stressed weekly themes, which we now refer to as essays.
Her son refused to take her College English Prep class, because he was afraid that he’d get her as a teacher. Coffin didn’t mean to be, but she came across as a strict teacher who was very serious about her profession.
Perhaps the thing Coffin finds the most comforting about East, however, is the consistency in the disposition in the students. That was her favorite part about teaching back then—never having to send a boy to the principal’s office—and after just a mere 15 minutes observing the kids in a few different classrooms, she came to her conclusion: as for the students, nothing has changed.
“The girls are as pretty as they were then,” Coffin said. “The boys were handsome too, and very energetic. It was just a nice group. Very well behaved students, and you still are.”