Mr. Webb inspires with stories

Although the first priority of a high school teacher is technically to instruct his students in the material outlined in official curricula, many students agree that their teachers are also responsible for aiding teenagers in their transition into adulthood. Using their wealth of life experience, teachers, according to several Ames High students, should include real-life lessons in their teaching plans. English teacher James Webb is perhaps as famous for his humorous and moving stories as he is for his boisterous laugh or his shiny head. In his decade-long career at Ames High, Webb has built a reputation of being a wise instructor and a poignant story teller, with an arsenal of memorable tales. Each spring, on the Friday before prom, Webb draws slews of current and former APLAC students to his classroom for his colorful “Prom Story.” Although he said that he comes off as a “jerk” and an “idiot” in the story itself, which details the hilarious misadventures of Webb and his date during their senior prom, Webb does not think admitting stupidity or immaturity is a bad thing. “They all see that everyone makes mistakes and does stupid stuff, and ultimately we’re richer human beings for coming through those things,” Webb said. “I think that’s a very important part of [a teacher’s] job. And if they can laugh at me, then that’s okay. I don’t have anything to prove.” Junior Charlotte Mann, who is currently Webb’s student in APLAC, said the stories help make Webb more accessible as a teacher. “The stories make him more relatable,” Mann said. “After he told us a story early in the year, I immediately felt more comfortable approaching him with questions outside of class.” Senior Bridgit Burke-Smith agreed, and added that Webb’s openness in class inspired her to put more work into English assignments outside of class. “When a teacher opens up to you that much, you know he actually cares about you and your work,” Burke-Smith said. “Over the course of my junior year, I decided that if he cared enough about his students to put himself out there, I was going to care enough to do a good job with my assignments.” And although Webb tells funny stories and jokes around in class with his students, he has secured their respect and trust with his easy-going disposition and wide array of literary knowledge. Junior Bridget McFarland said she also respects Webb’s patience with some of his more difficult students. “I actually do like Mr. Webb contrary to what he believes, even though he owes me breadsticks,” McFarland said. “Webb helped me realize that I don’t want to become a teacher because I don’t want to be stuck teaching people like myself.” Senior Alyssa Bovinette attributed Webb’s relatability to his sparkling noggin. “Webb has a lovely head of hair,” Bovinette said. Despite some of his students’ tongue-in-cheek responses, Webb said he does not plan to stop telling his signature stories any time soon. “I tell stories because the students may not remember everything I teach them about literary analysis, but at least they remember human connections,” Webb said. “I think that’s one thing that might be more important for them to learn at this age.”