By Essie Johnson
Mr. Chidester is best known for his Pop Funko bobblehead collection and his love for anime. Many students have found that they enjoy Mr. Chidester not only as a teacher but also as a friend. I had the pleasure of interviewing him, and I am extremely grateful to be able to share the experience I had with him. I went in after school last week on Wednesday, which is the day that the Pop Culture Club was meeting. I walked into his room and it was lively, the members of the club were playing Dungeons and Dragons and looked to be enjoying each other and the game. When we sat down for the interview, I could tell he was just as nervous as I was.
My first question for him was a very basic one: “Why are you a teacher?”
He replied with “I would say I wanted to become a teacher because so many people in my family are teachers. Aunts and uncles; my parents weren’t, but I was constantly surrounded by and talked with teachers. I looked up to them, and characters in favorite movies were teachers– you know, the mentor character and role.”
Me: ”So did you always want to be an English teacher?”
Chidester: “No, originally I wanted to go to Utah State and major in Japanese, you know the weeb in me. But I stayed here at SUU and I just thought about my favorite subjects, and that was Computer Technology and English. I decided to go with English because of how open and freeing it was.”
Me: “So why do you think your room has become such an open and safe space for everyone?”
Chidester: “One: super sweet question, I love it. And I would say that I think it’s super important that students get to express themselves, and celebrate that. And you know I love also celebrating the academics and other things students are doing, but there’s so many times where students want to talk about movies, or video games, drawing art, you know, just who they are. And they don’t get to focus on that because everyone is so focused on grades. So that’s what I would say, students love talking and nerding out and getting to know each other, and this is the place for that. There is no agenda or qualifications or requirements or anything like that to be in here. You can come in and meet someone else.”
Me: “How many clubs do you oversee?”
Chidester: “Two, the Open Community Club, and the Pop Culture Club.”
Me: “What has been your favorite teaching experience so far?”
Chidester: “That’s hard, is it cliche to say “all of it”? I always tell people my favorite moment of teaching is during the day when I’m actually teaching–the grading stuff is expected and meh–but the actual teaching and interacting with students, I love the clubs and the club activities. My first year teaching I got to dance in front of the school dressed as Mrs. Claus and that was before Open Community Club. But I would just say [those] general teaching days. I love free writes. When a former student comes to visit, I feel so bad for the current students because I just drop everything to go see that student, so that’s always a teacher’s favorite moment because you feel remembered. I selfishly try to build my curriculum around my favorite things so I’m always having a good time.”
Me: “So what is your favorite book to teach?”
Chidester: “Favorite book to teach? Fahrenheit 451, The Odyssey is really good, and Frankenstein is good, but [my] favorite book to teach is Fahrenheit 451 [because it] is really fun to teach.”
Me: “Is Covid-19 more or less of a problem than you expected it to be?”
Chidester: “It has not changed as much as I thought it would, however, it is not as big of a deal as it should be. We’ve gotten really relaxed, students are getting tired. More [students are] getting quarantine[d]; I’ve had more quarantine now than I did [at] the beginning of the year. When we first started everyone was so tired; everything was so frigid.”
Me: “Has quarantining been a bigger problem for you recently?”
Chidester: “Putting everything online is extra work, but after Covid is gone and everything is back to normal, I can’t imagine not putting everything online. I want it to become normal, where if a student feels sick, they can access things online instead of coming in, and coming in sick. I think it’s benefitted us, but it is hard.”
Me: “What is your favorite book to movie adaptation?”
Chidester: “Hmm, while I’m thinking what is your favorite?” he asked me.
Me: “Mine probably is The Perks of Being a Wallflower. The book and the movie made me feel the same way, and I’ve never seen that before.”
Chidester: “[The] Perks of Being a Wallflower is really good. I watched the Netflix series The Queen’s Gambit, then read the book, and both of those were really good. This is really hard.”
After that question, Mr. Chidester took fifteen minutes trying to think of his favorite book to movie adaptation, to no avail. However, he did mention his love for Japanese and Russian literature and his favorite anime, Inuyasha. Mr. Chidester is an amazing teacher at our school, so if you see him in class or in the hallway, be sure to thank him for all that he does (and don’t forget to geek out with him too)!