Male teachers at Maryville Middle School gave new meaning to the phrase “Winning ugly” when they helped students raise $800 in 3 minutes for the American Red Cross relief efforts in Haiti.
The male teachers were good sports and participated in a “womanless” beauty pageant at the culmination of a month-long effort to raise money for Haiti. The students collected $3,919 in the weeks before the male beauty pageant held on Feb. 24. All total, they raised $4,786.59.
Kellie Walker, seventh grade health teacher, said the pageant came about when a student introduced the idea of doing an assembly and having the kids bring money, with all the money going to Red Cross. Walker brought the idea to eighth grade health teacher Maria Coulter.
“We had been collecting in classrooms about a week at this point,” said Walker. “I brought it up to Maria and she said, ‘Let’s do a male pageant and have the male teachers dress up as females.’ The students didn’t have to pay to get in. They had to pay if they wanted to vote. We had 13 male teachers, and the top five made it to the talent portion. The kids took it and ran with it.”
Justin Cook, eighth grade math teacher, said he was shocked initially when asked to participate. “At first I said, ‘Are you serious?’ and Kellie said the students came up with idea for an assembly. In my head, I went a million miles an hour, but then I said, ‘Let’s go with it.’ I knew the kids would have fun with it, and it could be a lot of fun, but I was really nervous,” Cook said.
When Walker explained the top five would have to go through a talent contest and question/answer session, Cook said he almost panicked. “That’s when my heart went to my stomach. I don’t have talent. I can play sports,” he said.
Cook ended up in the talent portion, as did Andy Kerr, seventh grade science teacher. “After it was all said and done, I’m glad I did it. It was so far outside my comfort zone,” Kerr said. “I don’t do stuff like that, but it’s amazing what we do for our kids.”
Jason Lambert, seventh grade math teacher, said he was fine with the competition, and he took it in stride. “I don’t mind doing that kind of stuff. I don’t care to do weird and crazy stuff,” he said. “I’ve got the reputation of being a crazy person.”
Coulter said Lambert’s “dance partner” drew a rousing response from students.
“We had Algebra I teacher Scott Harness do a ‘Dancing With the Stars’ moment. He was our secret special guest,” said Coulter. Harness played himself while dancing with Lambert, who was dressed as a woman.
Lambert said students see Harness as very no-nonsense and business-like. But when Harness wanted to help with the fundraiser, Lambert knew just how Harness could participate.
“He told me, ‘You know, lots of people wanted me to participate in the pageant and dress up, but it’s not my thing,” Lambert recalled. “He said he wanted to do something, and I said, ‘I need a dance partner.’ He is big into that. He and his wife take swing dance classes.”
Lambert said they practiced secretly for a couple days before the Feb. 24 show. “Then we broke out and did a tango using music from Hernando’s Hideaway, a 1960s hit,” Lambert said.
Coulter said when Harness came out to dance with Lambert, who was dressed as a woman, the student couldn’t believe what they were seeing. “They erupted, and the kids all stood up. To me, that was the best moment of the whole event - just the kids’ reaction,” she said. “It was our most fun moment watching the kids’ reaction to Scott doing the dance with Mr. Lambert. They said Mr. Harness did it for them.”
Coulter said Harness’ participation in the competition drew the loudest ovation in part because no one expected him to be in the show.
Coulter said the five women judges were just as shocked by the routine and how well the two teachers performed it. “We thought, ‘We didn’t just see that.’ It just floored us how good it was,” Coulter said. “We weren’t prepared for it. We thought for a talent they might kick a soccer ball or throw a basketball.”
Walker praised Cook, who eventually won the title Miss Maryville Middle School. “This guy spent four weeks learning the Single Girl’s Dance,” she said.
Coulter said where Cook won over Lambert was in his walk. “We had posing, walking like a diva, accessories and talent,” she said. “Justin killed the runway. He did Shania Twain, ‘Man, I Feel Like a Woman.’”
Cook said he didn’t know what to do when it came time for the catwalk portion. “The catwalk was an out-of-body experience. Once I stepped out there, it was like being in an out-of-body experience,” he said. “It was fear, nerves and terror.”
Coulter said she had her own challenge with the male contestants. “I tried three times to get them to sit like women,” she said.
Cook said all the male contestants were incredibly nervous. “But in the end, it was awesome. The kids came together,” he said. “Seeing what they actually accomplished and what they can actually do, that was really cool. It was totally worth it.”
Walker said that after the event the student had three minutes to vote for their favorite teacher in the competition. “They got to vote for 3 minutes by putting money in pouches for each teacher. They raised $867.67,” she said. “That’s how excited they were at seeing their teachers do something out of the norm.”
Cook agreed. “Out of the norm is an understatement,” he said with a laugh.
Coulter said she was proud of the students for giving of themselves to help with the relief effort in Haiti. “They were so happy,” she said. “They were so selfless.”
Walker said she had a feeling the show would go over well with the students because the male teachers bought into the idea and prepared for the event. “I knew that it was going to be bigger than expected when I heard how long the guys were practicing for their talent,” she said.
“You can tell they had a ball,” Coulter said of the teachers and the students. “I’ve been here 25 years, and it was the most fun I had ever had.”