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Easy teacher

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If you glimpsed Jim Scanlan mounted upon his 1400 Suzuki Intruder in full mulleted glory, you wouldn't guess he spends his afternoons barking at 14-year-olds.

"Stop it, drop it, eyeballs on me," the graying teacher tells his Irving Middle School social studies class.

Scanlan has taught in District 11 for the past seven years and at Irving for the last four. Most of his students are aware, though not particularly interested, in his leisure pursuits.

"How many of you people know what I do in the summertime, on the weekends?" Scanlan asks.

"Ride your bike!" a boy in the corner interrupts.

"Go streaking!" Chimes a voice from the back.

Much hilarity ensues.

While he's made the pilgrimage to the annual biker bash in Sturgis, S.D., for the last four summers, Scanlan enjoys a solo trip through Kansas, Missouri, up to Iowa and back home through Nebraska.

Scanlan is sure to note that his hog is bigger than most Harleys and solo jaunts of this magnitude are not something all bikers do.

Even a cross-continent bike trip probably seems preferable to explaining the causes of the Civil War to 25 students who look as if they'd prefer to be anywhere else.

As the first installment of Ken Burns' Civil War series plays on the video monitor, the darkened lights provide a pretext for distraction. Whispers become mumbles, mumbles become outright chattering.

"Kids! This is the easy way," Scanlan says. "If you want to, we'll get back in the textbook and you guys'll be reading that and doing a section review for me real quick.

This alternative quiets things down, for a minute.

Scanlan's much more eager to discuss a future project, which involves raising funds for new textbooks with the aid of a cow and a football field.

"I'm going to measure it off into 5,000 square units, I'm gunna sell each one of those square units for a buck and then I'm gunna get a little cow and I'm gunna stick the cow on the playing field and wherever that cow shits ... that person will receive $1,000 and we'll get $4,000. ... Until someone tells me I can't, I'm gunna do it."

-- John Dicker

photo by Creighton Smith

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