The Big 10 with Jeff D'Alessio, Aug. 5, 2018

The Big 10 with Jeff D'Alessio, Aug. 5, 2018

Now showing at two local multiplexes: 'Eighth Grade,' the critically acclaimed comedy about that awkward stage of adolescence. With that,we asked 10 area eighth-grade teachers to share their cringe-worthy stories from their own eighth-grade experiences.

JAKE NAVAREZ
Now: Urbana Middle School
Then: Scammon School, Chicago

"Science projects were the worst. Coming up with what to research and determining how to do so was pretty difficult for a kid who was not creative.

"On top of that, I was horrified by public speaking.

"With projects due around the corner, I found inspiration from a YouTube video showing how an onion, marinated in Gatorade for about half an hour, can charge a third-generation iPod Nano using the electrolytes it absorbed from the beverage. Believe it or not, this became my science project.

"Watching the video about a million times helped me convince myself that this was going to be the best science project in the world. The steps were simple, too. Poke a hole through an onion. Soak it in Gatorade for 30 minutes.Connect the onion and iPod Nano via charger. Watch the magic unfold.

"When it was my turn to present, I confidently explained the science behind the onion's ability to charge an iPod. I was hyped to show my classmates how intelligent and cool I was.

"I wish I could tell you the iPod began charging. I wish I could tell you that the classroom erupted in an applause for witnessing the impossible.

"Absolutely nothing happened. All I had in front of me was an onion soaked in Gatorade connected to an iPod that was as dead as the grade for my science project. Never again will I depend on obscure YouTube videos for science projects, let alone charging my devices with vegetables soaked in any kind of liquid."

JILL CAPPA
Now: Jefferson Middle School, Champaign
Then: Saints Peter and Paul School, Naperville

"I'll never forget old Miss Dookin, a former nun whose famous line of 'multiply by the reciprocal of the divisor' still haunts me to this day.

"She was a chain smoker who unsuccessfully attempted to cover the smoke scent with a very distinguishable perfume.

"One day, the scent was so putrid that I had an allergic reaction and my eyes swelled to the point that my classmates told me I looked like Kermit the Frog. For the rest of the school year, I, unfortunately, became known as 'Kermie' by my classmates."

JENNIFER SMITH
Now: Monticello Middle School
Then: North Clay Junior High, Louisville, Ill.

"My most embarrassing moment happened at lunch one day. I hadn't been feeling well all morning, but I wasn't ill enough to go home.

"I made it to lunch and was sitting at a table with my friends when I knew I needed to make a run for the restroom. Unfortunately, it takes some time to unwedge oneself from a tightly packed lunch table.

"I barely made it clear from my table before projectile vomiting on another table. At least I got to go home and didn't have to face my classmates for a couple of days."

BRAD JONES
Now: Hoopeston Area Middle School
Then: St. Joseph Middle School

"Ah, eighth grade. I had gotten contacts to replace my Coke-bottle glasses, but still had braces. I was just about as skinny as possible, and not really coordinated.

"Several eighth-grade parents decided it would be a fun idea to have a dance, so they rented the Legion in St. Joe and hired a DJ. It might have just been a parent with a big stereo.

"Anyway, the big night arrives — it is 1979 — and everyone shows up. Some were dating, but most showed up single. I remember the two lines of chairs against the wall facing each other with boys on one side and girls on the other. The dance floor was deserted on fast songs and packed on the slow ones, except for two guys.

"Brad Brown and Hank Gordon could dance. Not just goofy, jerky dancing, but really cool, smooth movement — you know, real dancing. They were dressed the part, too. All I could do was watch them with awe.

"Oh, and I had my first kiss that night, after the dance. It must have been cold outside, as she was wearing a fur coat. I remember being terrified, nervous and awkward all at the same time. The first time I ever kissed a girl and I could feel the warmth all the way down to my toes.

"Nothing romantic ever came of it, but we always have been friends, and will remain so."

ROBBY DINKINS
Now: GCMS Middle School
Then: Wilmington Middle School

"The best part of middle school was the eighth-grade trip to the state park in Kankakee. This consisted of playing a bunch of games and going out into the trails and exploring.

"Well, let's say it didn't go as planned. As a group of us were exploring with our teacher, Mrs. Jack, we decided to break off on our own since we knew the way back to the bus, which was positioned at the end of the trails. Well, that's what we thought. I guess the information we missed was they were going to move the buses so the hike wasn't as long.

"So myself and three others were running around, not thinking anything of it until we got to where we thought the bus was supposed to be. At this point, we start to freak out a little bit. We sprinted around looking for someone from our school — or anybody, to be honest — and after three hours, we knew we were in deep crap.

"We ended up getting found by an older lady on horseback, who led us to our principal's car. He said 'Get in' and didn't say a word to us.

"Needless to say, Wilmington Middle School never went on that trip again. Oh, and we all got an in-school suspension on the last day of school."

KRISTINE KETCHAM (picture from earlier years)
Now: Holy Cross School, Champaign
Then: St. Mark Grade School, Peoria

"My grade school years were steeped in incredible shyness — and even though I had some loyal friends at St. Mark's, one of my greatest fears was music class.

"Twice a year, our music teacher held a class 'talent' show that seemed to count for a disproportionate amount of our grade. As an eighth-grader who had never even been taught to plunk out 'Chopsticks' on the piano, musical talent was in obvious short supply.

"Nonetheless, the show must go on; therefore, I'd pull out one of my favorite LPs — usually the Carpenters or Barry Manilow — and nervously warble along.

"Whew. Finished. Until second semester ..."

KATHY SCHUETT
Now: St. Matthew School, Champaign
Then: Benjamin Franklin Middle School, Springfield

"I was skinny as a rail, wore big glasses and bell bottoms, had curly hair that I hated, had a crush on Chachi from 'Happy Days' and knew back then I wanted to be a math teacher.

"My parents bought me my own desk, stocked with Bic Banana markers, my very own grade book, a manual pencil sharpener, a chalkboard with chalk and math workbooks. I would come home after school and 'play school,' teaching my younger sister. My sister would pay attention for a while and then when she had enough, she would walk out.

"This didn't deter me at all. I kept teaching without her."

DEREK HALFAR
Now: Teaching at his alma mater — Mahomet-Seymour Junior High

"The eighth-grade class had to vote on a song that would be played at eighth-grade graduation. The class voted and 'MMMBop' by Hanson was the overwhelming winner.

"What made it worse was the song was also to be played during our high school graduation, too.

"By 2001, our taste in music improved a little and we had 'Freebird' play at high school graduation instead."

MICHAEL GRANT
Now: Teaching at his alma mater — Bismarck-Henning Junior High

"It was the start of a new school year and you know what that means — eighth-grade picture day.

"School picture day meant I had to do something I dreaded the most — wear a shirt with buttons on it. My mother and I went through many battles and the only shirt I would wear with buttons was my Cubs Sammy Sosa jersey.

"Now, it is 2018 and I am the PE teacher at Bismarck-Henning Junior High. I am, in fact, living my dream. I get paid to wear sweatpants and a T-shirt."

GREG GISINGER
Now: Arcola Jr./Sr. High
Then: Cerro Gordo Jr./Sr. High

"My eighth-grade year in Cerro Gordo, a group of us guys had become tired of your basic TP-ing of trees so we decided to TP a house. The problem was, the rolls kept getting stuck on the roof.

"I decided to climb the roof to get the stuck rolls of toilet paper. While on the roof, as I was picking up rolls and tossing them to my buddies, a window right next to me opened and the homeowner nearly gave me a heart attack.

"I ran down the roof and jumped off onto a trampoline. We all took off and have a fun story because of it."

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