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Episode 100: An Emotional Trip Down Memory Lane with “Dr. Z,” Former Principal of the Old Bingham Middle School

He is a former principal of the old Bingham Middle School in Copperton, and the man who offered Superintendent Anthony Godfrey his very first job in education.

On this special 100th edition of the Supercast, Superintendent Godfrey takes an emotional trip down memory lane with his long-time friend, former boss and mentor, Dr. Al Zylstra.


Audio Transcription

Dr. Al Zylstra:
It's very good to see you.  

Anthony Godfrey:
There's nothing to say except it's so good to see you. I've been thinking about this ever since we had it arranged. We're here at Bingham High School to celebrate the 100th episode of the Supercast, thanks to everyone who's been listening along the way.  I thought there's no better way to celebrate the 100th episode of the Supercast than to invite Dr. Z, the principal who hired me as a brand new teacher into Jordan School District back in the 1990s. The way that he did things, and the way he led our school, and cared about everybody there has really shaped me as an educator, as a teacher, as an administrator and as a person and who I wanted to be and what I wanted my legacy to be. So it's a great honor to have you here, Dr. Zylstra. Thank you so much for taking the time to be here.

Dr. Al Zylstra:
Thank you.

Anthony Godfrey:
I haven't seen you for probably, what's it been now? Since the reunion?

Dr. Al Zylstra:
Since the reunion, we were just talking about that. That was a surprise. Wasn't it?

Anthony Godfrey:
Yeah, it was. I ran into you in Best Buy or Sam's Club or Costco or something.

Dr. Al Zylstra:
You needed a winter coat.

Anthony Godfrey:
Oh yeah.
Yeah, that's right, it was Costco.  People had just talked with me about the reunion and I was a rock star because I brought you, that's what happened.

Dr. Al Zylstra:
That was really something that was, it was special.

Anthony Godfrey:
Middle schools don't do reunions. That's the thing that I found remarkable. Nobody says, 'Hey, you know what? Eighth grade, I'd really liked to relive some of those memories.' Yeah, they do, when you go through eighth grade with Dr. Z though.

Dr. Al Zylstra:
Yeah. Well, thank you. It was our pleasure to be there though. It was a wonderful reunion for those kids. How they grew up and improved their lives. It was great.

Anthony Godfrey:
The sad thing was going to the field and seeing that there was no building left. I get a little bit sentimental about buildings.

Dr. Al Zylstra:
I've been meaning to do that, but I, oh, I've had a hard time bringing myself to do that. A lot of good memories there.

Anthony Godfrey:
Yeah. A lot of good memories. We went through some tough stuff too at that time.

Dr. Al Zylstra:
Yeah, we had three boys die in one year.  That was some tough stuff. And then the boilers kept breaking down and flooding the gymnasium and the cafeteria. But it was good, the community really accepted us.

Anthony Godfrey:
Especially since the pandemic, but just in general, as time goes on, we lose memory of exactly when things happened.

Dr. Al Zylstra:
Some things get better, some things get better.

Anthony Godfrey:
It's true. How long were you principal at Bingham middle school?

Dr. Al Zylstra:
I think, five years, six years, and then I went to West Hills. I opened West Hills and I was there for three years, and then from West Hills, I went to Crescent View and finished my career Crescent View.

Anthony Godfrey:
Yeah, I remember you were at Crescent View.  When did you retire?

Dr. Al Zylstra:
When I was 62, in 1999.  Sometime in there.

Anthony Godfrey:
Sometime back in the 1900s.  Well, I gotta tell you, I have a lot of vivid memories of working for you and they shaped the way that I do things. Sorry, I do a lot of this now as I get older. You told people you love them before telling people you love them was cool.

Dr. Al Zylstra:
Yeah. That's part of the podcast every morning. You're loved and we expect you to be great. Education is the most important thing you'll do today.

Anthony Godfrey:
And you said, 'we'll see out there' at the end.  I did a video for teachers this year that ended with, we'll see you out there. And every single one of my podcast episodes ends with 'education is the most important thing you'll do today. We'll see you out there'. What's interesting to me is that the first time we did this podcast, which this is the hundredth episode now. What's interesting to me is the first time we did this podcast. It's not as if I planned out, you know, 'what would be a good tagline?
What should I say at the end? Let me think back, let me try to come up with something.' I was just sitting there at the microphone and they said, "well, you need a tagline, you need to say something at the end of each podcast." And it just, it was right there. So it's, it's been right there at the surface every ever since. And it's just one example of the lasting impact that you've had on me and that I know you had on the kids that at Bingham Middle. You told people that you loved them, there were lots of hugs. There were lots of conversations about how are you doing? But there were also lots of conversations about what you expected of people. There were hard conversations about how much better you ought to be doing.

Dr. Al Zylstra:
Well, when we went up to that school, it it was a tough school. When we got there it looked like an inner city school. It had graffiti all over the lockers and all over the rooms, the tiles were coming off the floor. You remember?

Anthony Godfrey:
I remember. They dropped from the ceiling. They drop on top of you in class.

Dr. Al Zylstra:
The linoleum floors would be spinning off all the time. The kids would walk on them and they would come off. When it would rain, remember the rainstorms? We had trash cans all through the hallway. There was a lot of great experiences in there, but this idea of having kids telling them that you love them is been something. When they've come back to see me, one of the things that they keep bringing up is 'you told me you love me.'

 While I was at Crescent View we were having career day. So a lot of people were coming into the school to speak at the different classes. I was at in the office working on my computer and as I turned around, I looked and I saw shiny boots, like paratrooper boots, and blouse pants. Obviously military coming to talk to our kids.  I looked up and saw this handsome, studly man standing in front of me with a uniform on and he had his parade tucked into his collar. He said, "Dr. Z", and I looked up and he said, "You don't remember me?" And I said, "Well, if you tell me your name, I might." He said, I won't give his name, but "Jonathan." And I said, "No, you're not the little Jonathan that I would have in my office every day, because you were too afraid to go to school that I would go to class with you." He said, "Yes", and I said, "Well, what did you learn here?" He said, "Every day that I was in your office, you told me you loved me."

And the transformation! If you would have said to me, 'that young man will end up being an army ranger when he's 20', I wouldn't have believed you. But it was that social connectedness with that child, letting him shadow me during the day, and letting him adjust to the school so by the time he was in the eighth grade, he was able to go to school every day. He had a safe haven with me and he knew that. And so that was just a fond memory of telling people you love them.

Anthony Godfrey:
Well, that blend of love and expectations was just really unique. And like I said, ahead of its time, because we didn't talk about social emotional wellness then like we do now.
And I know that was your focus. And it just became infused into the approach that I've at least tried to take as a teacher and as an administrator, because it was just clearly laid out for me by working with you.

Dr. Al Zylstra:
Well, you've championed the cause. I remember the assemblies that we would have, how the kids would cheer you when you'd come out. Do you remember dropping out of the ceiling? You were in a harness and came down and I said, "where is Mr. Godfrey? Where's  Mr. Godfrey?"
Then here he comes. Then there was an assembly. 

Anthony Godfrey:
I do remember that. Again, don't try this at home or at your school though. That was like I said, the 1900s, we don't do that anymore. I loved doing the morning announcements with you. It was really something. I'm sure you remember, you gave me a budget and you said, 'go down, go to the music store, get some CDs.'

Dr. Al Zylstra:
We went together.

Anthony Godfrey:
Yeah, that's right. We did actually. We grabbed a bunch of CDs and we'd play those.  Now you can pre-program music in the passing time and all of that.  We did it old school with, with the CD and holding up the microphone to the CD speaker, just to kick off the day and kickoff the announcements. I wish, I wish I had some of those recorded. 

Dr. Al Zylstra:
And then we had the student of the day, the genius child.

Anthony Godfrey:
Yeah. Genius child. That's right. I forgot about that phrase, we called it the genius child.

Dr. Al Zylstra:
We had the g
enius child of the day. I had a star cutout for it and they had a piece of yarn around it, and they wore this big yellow star it said 'Genius of the Day'.

Anthony Godfrey:
And you would think that a 14 year old, eighth grader wouldn't want to wear a star around with yarn saying he or she was the genius of the day, and they loved it! Absolutely loved it. We went through a few candy bars too, as I recall.

Dr. Al Zylstra:
Yes, we would always give candy bars, that's right.

Velarde! How are you?

Jeramie Velarde:
I'm good, how are you doing?

Dr. Al Zylstra:
Good to see you! You've grown up to be a big man now.

Anthony Godfrey:
Jeramie Velarde, who was a student at the time that Dr. Z and I were at Bingham Middle School and who now works for Jordan School District and has for quite some time, just joined us.

Dr. Al Zylstra:
Jeramie was always a good boy. And he, and you know, he had a family that was supportive of the school and like most of the people in Copperton, they were very supportive of the school.  So it 's just a pleasure, so nice to see you again.

Jeramie Velarde:
Good to see you too, for sure.

Anthony Godfrey:
Jeramie works for the District if you didn't know that.

Dr. Al Zylstra:
I think I do remember it. And I think your dad worked for them too. He worked at the, he was a custodian at Bingham.

Anthony Godfrey:
When I was getting ready for those assemblies late at night, Jeramie's dad would be working. He would be the only other person in the building and he always put on headphones. So he'd be walking around with headphones on and I was practicing and it would not be hard to convince me that building was haunted when you're there at three in the morning, practicing for an assembly. Again, don't try this at home. But I was doing the last minute crunch, practicing the chords for the song. I was gonna play onstage and you'd be playing the guitar and you'd hear these sounds and you'd stop playing.
And like, 'what was that?' You'd start playing again, and then you'd stop. 'Wait a minute. What was that?' 

Then I went and found Lawrence, Jeramie's dad. And I'm like, "how do you do this?" He said, "That's why I wear headphones, so I don't hear what else is going on in school while I'm here." I got out of there. I went home where I belonged and you know, I don't think I stayed there super late again.

Dr. Al Zylstra:
That building creaked and moaned, creaked and moaned all night long.

Anthony Godfrey:
Yeah, it's all personality. Well, I lived in the apartments a few blocks away and sometimes I'd just stay late and grade papers and then I'd eat with the custodians. What are some of the things you remember about Bingham Middle Jeramie and being there with Dr. Z?

Jeramie Velarde:
Do you remember the, so it wasn't a field day, but all the kids walked out of class, went up to the field. It was like a walkout. I don't know why we did it. We just all planned it, organized it. Instead of you getting upset, you came out and I don't know, played games with us. It was fun. 

Dr. Al Zylstra:
Reorganized it.

Anthony Godfrey:
You kind of, you channeled it, is what you did.

Jeramie Velarde:
And then we tried it the second year, the year after, and it didn't fly over so well. It was like one and done, you know.

Anthony Godfrey:
No repeat performances allowed.

Dr. Al Zylstra:
I remember that.  We made big circles and had everybody hold hands, go around in circles. So they would, you know, we had two or three circles of kids holding hands all the way around. We talked about how important school was, and I had a bull horn, and we just went with the flow with the kids.

Jeramie Velarde:
I remember seeing you skateboarding to work when I was in high school, waiting for the bus. I'd see you skateboarding to work from the apartment to Bingham.

Anthony Godfrey:
That was true simplicity, being able to ride my Cat in the Hat skateboard to work. That was like simpler times, simpler times for sure. But it was great. I loved living up there and seeing the kids around the neighborhood that I either had in class or that I knew from class in previous years. I was single at the time and would just walk downstairs and have a burger at the restaurant that was right next door. I don't know what it is now. It was The Pit! That's right, it was called The Pit. You'd eat there, be thirsty for a long time afterward. That was a pretty salty a place to eat. But yeah, it was nice. That was my little getaway. I'd eat there most nights actually. But doing that, you'd see. You'd just, it was fun to be in the community that I was teaching in. Yeah, it was great.

Jeramie Valarde:
Well, it was great. It's such an eyesore now that the building's gone. 

Anthony Godfrey:
Is the building gone?

Jeramie Velarde:
The building's gone, and it's just nothing. Oh no, not The Pit. I'm talking about Bingham Middle, Bingham High.

Anthony Godfrey:
I go out there about every year, normally in the fall, and just kind of reminisce and walk around. I was on that field walking toward the street and somebody was riding by on his bike, and I'm sorry, I can't remember his name. He stopped, and he was like, "Are you Mr. Godfrey?" He had gone to Bingham Middle. He didn't live in the area, but he just rides his bike out by there. And he was talking about his brother and I remembered his brother. He had English from me and he's an attorney for one of the cities in Jordan District. It was just funny that I'm standing out there on a cold autumn day, just walking around that empty field where the school used to be, and a kid who used to go to school that are just rides by, on his bike out of nowhere. It's just, it's kind of a legendary place. I like that it's set off so I don't just drive by it every day. I like that you can just decide when you want to go and visit it.

Dr. Al Zylstra:
Relax for a minute. One thing I remember going to Bingham Middle, early in the morning, there were always owls hooting. You remember that? There were always a couple of owls hooting back and forth. If you'd get there early in the morning those owls would be hooting. It was really a pleasure to listen to that, a good way to start school.

Anthony Godfrey:
I forgotten about that. I used to take papers to the park. I'd walk over to the park to grade papers.  I would just kind of sit under a tree and grade papers. There was one tree where there was always the same owl up in that tree.
He'd just kind of look down at me and twist his head in the weird way that owls do. Just kind of go, okay, go ahead. It was kind of a magical place.

That middle courtyard, I don't know if I ever went in the middle courtyard very much. But the birds were really loud in there.

Dr. Al Zylstra:
We had a lot of birds in there. But the owls, it was just a pleasure to hear those hooting back and forth. Yeah, that was fun. Good memory.

Anthony Godfrey:
We were talking about the tiles that fell from the ceiling, just randomly, you'd just be sitting in class. I think a few people use those as yearbooks at the end of the year and had people sign their tile. I'd love to see one of those. The sunken cafeteria. We don't have any of those anymore, down in the basement there.

Jeramie Velarde:
I remember running down those ramps. I had to get my Fanta, you know.

Anthony Godfrey:
That's right, that's right. Who were some of the teachers that were there at the time?

Dr. Al Zylstra:
Joanne Mattes was the Assistant Principal there.

Anthony Godfrey:
She lived just at the house next door. Right?

Dr. Al Zylstra:
Mr. Pietro, He was the math teacher. 

Jeramie Velarde:
Rock climber, wasn't he a rock climber? Mrs. Patterson, do you remember Mrs. Patterson?

Anthony Godfrey:
Yeah, Candy Patterson. 

Jeramie Velarde:
Her son, Andy recorded my band. Andy Patterson. Yeah, he's like the recording guy.

Anthony Godfrey:
Yeah, he and his band, I'm trying to remember the name, I have the signed CD from them. They actually auditioned for Clive Davis at one point. But yeah, Candy Patterson passed away. 

Dr. Al Zylstra:
Jerome, Coach Jerome.

Anthony Godfrey:
Oh yeah, he worked in the District for a long time.

Jeramie Velarde:
I think he just retired.

Anthony Godfrey:
Did he?  James Sebaski taught history at the time.

Dr. Al Zylstra:
Just right across the hall from me.

Anthony Godfrey:
On my prep, I would go and grade papers at the back of his class cause I liked his class. So I sat back as a teacher and graded and just kind of overheard some of those history discussions.

Earlier Jeremy, we were talking about the announcements. Do you remember what Dr. Z used to say on the announcements?

Jeramie Velarde:
I do.
He would open it with 'Good morning Bingham Middle' and then he'd close it every day with 'education is the most important thing you will do today.'

Anthony Godfrey:
I told you, everybody remembers. That's really something. You made the most of the opportunity that you had as a Principal to impact lives. You really maximized that. You could just feel that you didn't want any moment to pass without making the most of it.

Dr. Al Zylstra:
Oh, thank you. I loved it. I was just telling you, I'm still using that tagline. I work with parolees and felons at the Department of Corrections, Region 4 in Prove. These are guys that have been in prison or many, many years in jail. So what I'm trying to do is to give them evidence-based information that they can hang their education to. What is needed for them is to have a behavior change. They've all had therapy for years and years and years. So when they come to class, I give them something that they can hold on to, something that they can use. Right at the top, education is the most important thing you will do today. Then I close it with the same thing, you know, don't waste the miracle that you survived. And then, education is the most important thing you'll do today.

Anthony Godfrey:
Well, we're all using it. It sounds like. When I was hired as superintendent I told the story of how you hired me into Jordan School District. Why don't you tell that story and let's see if we tell it the same way.

Dr. Al Zylstra::
You've probably told the better version.

Anthony Godfrey:
We all get to tell better versions as time goes on, don't we?

Dr. Al Zylstra:
It was the job fair at the University of Utah and we had people who were looking for jobs and we needed teachers. I needed an English teacher. So we were interviewing people and we had interview sheets and people had signed up to be interviewed for a job. I had interviewed my people that had signed up for English classes and I looked over to the side and you were sitting there looking at me and I said to you, "Young man, do you have an appointment?" You said "No". And I said, "Why don't you come on over? And I will interview you." You remember that? And then I have interviewing questions and then I'd ask a question and you just stared at me and you kept staring.
And I said, "You know, a good answer would be this." 

Anthony Godfrey:
Yes. I absolutely remember that. And the question that it was, was 'How do you need to improve? What should you do better?' So obviously, I wasn't very humble because at the time I couldn't think of any way that I could improve. I was perfect in every way. And you just said, "Well, a good answer would be to say 'I lack experience'". And I said, "Oh yes, I lack experience. And the ability to answer a question in an interview." Yeah.

Dr. Al Zylstra:
Yeah, and I wrote that down and then I asked another question and you just kind of had that look on your face again.

Anthony Godfrey:
Now wait, I thought it was just one question.

Dr. Al Zylstra:
No, it was more than one. I was coaching, I was coaching here, and I said, "A good answer would be something like this." And you would say, "okay" and you would say it. We got through the interview that way, and I said, "You did a great job, I couldn't have done better myself."

Anthony Godfrey:
Ok, maybe I shouldn't have asked this question. The other part I do remember about it is that that was a time when it was really hard to get a job as a teacher, and it was hard to get an interview.  I really wanted to work for Jordan because I knew it was growing. I knew it was big and growing and I thought there'd be a lot of opportunities. So I went to this job fair and I ran in, everybody ran, it was like they were dropping the rope at Disneyland. I ran in to get signed up and I couldn't get a slot. So I went there trying to look as sad and pathetic as I could, because I didn't actually have a slot.  I went up and talked to you and you said, "Well I have this slot, but it's assigned to somebody."

I said, "Well, I'm just going to go sit over there in case he doesn't show up." So I sat, and that's why I sat and stared at you, just kind of waiting. And then you, I swear, I can absolutely see you just kind motion over. All right, come over. And I sat down and this guy walked up about 10 minutes later, that was supposed to be there for the interview and just kind of walked away because he realized he was too late.  I thank you for giving me that first job.

Dr. Al Zylstra:
You looked like a good one just standing there. 

Anthony Godfrey:
I remember I was late to the second interview, the Bingham Middle School interview, because Bingham Middle was so far out at the time. But you said, "Oh, everybody's late."  We just sat down and we talked it through and fortunately, fortunately, you took that chance on me.

Dr. Al Zylstra:
That was a great decision on my part, another one of my good decisions. One of the few.

Anthony Godfrey:
Would you do me the honor of signing off on this podcast?

Dr. Al Zylstra:
Jordan School District, this is Dr. Z, education is the most important thing you will do today. You are loved and you're expected to be great. We'll see you out there.

Anthony Godfrey:
Thank you.

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