When I was teaching at a notorious middle school known for problem students, one of the juvenile delinquents-to-be in my class was a student named Vernon. Now, as you may know, my dad’s name has been mentioned on occasion. Of course Dad’s name was also Vernon. So, having a student named after my dear dad was a real treat.

As I called the roll, I told each of the precious snowflakes in my class that if they preferred a shortened name instead of their full name to let me know and I would be sure to call them by that name. When I got to his name and said Vernon he quickly corrected me by saying:

You can call me Vernster.

I asked again and he said:

I go by Vernster.

Well, by this time several of his friends were laughing in the aisles. I proceeded with asking if  this was his nickname and he dug deeper and said:

Of course. It’s what everybody calls me.

I asked if I called his mother would she agree that he was to be called Vernster. He quickly began backpedaling:

Oh, you don’t need to bother her. She’s at work anyway and if you want to,  just go ahead and call me Vern.

I could hardly wait to get home and call Dad and tell him the story because I knew he would love hearing it. We shared that story many times and began calling Dad “Vernster.” Then we continued with adding the letters s- t -e -r  to everyone’s name. It made for some interesting combinations and tongue twisters. Like Abster, Lindster, Johnster and Chuckster.

LaughI then set to pondering a new name for our stepmother Beatrice. Since the grandchildren call her Granny, I laughed to myself and thought I would begin referring to her as “The Granster”. It has a nice, mafia-ish ring to it and I can hardly wait to tell Abby, Sissy and Kevin. We will share a good laugh and remember how much fun we can have with the simplest of pleasures.

Finally, a quick update on Vernster, my student. I ran into him a couple of years ago and he had the same big smile and greeted me like we were old friends. I reminded him once again of the young boy who wanted to be called “Vernster”. He said:

I knew you would remind me of that and I’m glad you did.

Off he went with a chuckle I could hear all the way home.


  1. There are some students you will remember. Most become a mixture of children. I bumped into a few of them and since they have grown I did not recognize them. Then they remind me who they were. But there is a few who I remember greatly. I wrote a blog on Death of a Student which touched my heart and made me sad for a long time. If you get chance read it and let me know what you think. Sincerely, Barry

  2. Lindy Riverside says:

    Thanks, Barry. My students all made quite an impression on me. I always loved sharing my tales with my Dad because he got such a kick out of them. Many have gone on to do great things and some have taken up the noble role of teacher! They say you never know the impact you may have on those you teach. How true.

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