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Adair again: A special teacher's lively honor

December 17, 2006|by BOB MAGINNIS

If you were lucky, at some point in your school career you had a teacher who was special, who taught you as much about life and how to live it as he or she did about English, math or whatever they were assigned to teach.

And when the course was over, you might have thanked that teacher, promised to keep in touch and perhaps even given them a small gift. You probably would not have offered to name one of your children after them.

This is the story of one student who did just that because she never forgot the teacher who inspired her to be better and braver than she thought she could be.

Her name is Nicole "Niki" Perini, better known locally as the artistic director of the Authentic Community Theatre Inc. In the past two years, ACT has put on two original productions, including a musical, "Alice in Hagers-town," which was staged at the Maryland Theatre.

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The teacher who inspired her - and provided the name for her daughter - is Adair Eves.

Eves retired July 1 after 32 years in the Washington County Public Schools, mostly as a language arts teacher. She was also Washington County's Teacher of the Year in 1995.

The schools where she taught, among others, included Surrey School (since closed), E. Russell Hicks, Smithsburg and Boonsboro middle schools.

The last was where she met Perini, who she described as "her buoyant, effervescent self, even then."

Listening to Eves, it is easy to see how she inspired her students.

"I believe in teaching the person first and the subject second. The subject is important, but the person is more important," she said.

"I just know the power of words. It's words that can transform us and words that can lead us to our destruction. Consider the words of Christ, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Susan B. Anthony, Adolf Hitler and Idi Amin," she said.

If follows that someone so passionate about words would be tapped as adviser of the school newspaper, The Boonsboro Beat.

Perini wrote for the paper and later became its editor, but Eves struggled to recall any clashes on stories.

That's because after having taught an estimated 3,500 students over the years, she said it's tough to remember specific incidents.

When former students greet her in public, she said she remembers less about what happened and more the essence of the student.

"Niki has extraordinary talent - her exuberance and her willingness to open her mind to anything and her willingness to put a positive picture frame around every situation," she said.

As they prepared the paper for publication, Eves said she had a tendency to be less than sweet.

"I'd go around snapping and grumbling about deadlines. She probably developed considerable patience by dealing with crabby adults," Eves said with a smile.

After Perini graduated, Eves said they had less contact, although she saw her former student in a play in Shepherd University and later attended Perini's wedding.

"Then she started a family and I didn't hear from her for a while. And then I got a call from her a few months ago and she said she had some exciting news," she said.

Perini told her she had decided to name her newborn daughter "Adair Eves Perini" after her favorite teacher.

Eves said "Adair was my great grandmother's name and I have a cousin named Adair. 'Eves' comes from Evesham (an English town) near Stratford-On-Avon."

Perini's memories of her child's namesake are much clearer.

"I met her when I was in 6th grade - 11 going on 12, in her language arts class. I remember her reading to us, the expression in her face and voice," Perni said.

"I remember this one time when she said something and Ray Bennett, another student, said, 'Ew, that's like a girl' and Ms. Adair said, 'Excuse me, Mr. Bennett, what would be wrong with that?'" Perini said.

Perini also remembers the plaque that hung in Eves' classrom, which said, "I know I'm special because God don't make no junk."

When she joined the school paper staff in 7th grade, Perini said she was surprised when Eves named her assistant editor.

"I was just amazed and scared to death, too," she said.

The experience built her confidence, Perini said, but it also taught her how to take those ideas that sometimes come "out of the clouds" and turn them into something real.

Eves was also Perini's English teacher in 8th grade and her former pupil remembers her mentor's passion for the underdogs and the people on the margins every debate.

Listen to those on the extremes on both sides of an issue, Eves told her, because that will be the beginning of finding the middle ground.

But as passionate as Eves was about words, Perini said she also stressed the need to be passionate about all subjects in school.

Eves had given her a pass, she said, which told other teachers that if the Perini had finished her work, she could go to the newspaper office and work there.

But one day Eves "called me on the carpet and said she loved what I was doing on the paper, but she wanted me to direct some of the passion to other subjects," she said.

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