OAKLEAF – Mark Miller wondered what past wrong he had committed to succumb to his first very public task of the school day Feb. 22 at Oakleaf Junior High.
Hidden behind a pair of designer sunglasses, the history teacher walked into the circle of students preparing his mind to kiss Bubba J. the donkey as part of the school’s 2nd annual "Kiss the Donkey" fund raising event for Future Farmers of America.
"What have I done to deserve this," Miller questioned, setting his eyes on the target as giggles emanated from the circle of grinning faces. Miller lumbered up to the donkey as eighth grade student Ashlee Hughes, whose family owns the equine beast, stood patiently and professionally keeping him in place.
FFA members sold votes for 50-cents each. Faculty and students "voted" for which teacher they most wanted to shamefully kiss the donkey ending a week of celebrating agriculture as part of FFA Week that ran from Feb. 16-23.
Before he crouched down to donkey level to grab Bubba J. by the snout and follow-through on his new duty, Miller’s wife and fellow teacher, Karen Miller, opened her purse and applied red lipstick to her husband’s pucker. The giggles grew louder in volume.
Word had spread throughout the school how Miller was still in second place as of Wednesday. That’s when a group of his gifted students began to conspire a plan to put him over the top.
"The students all got together on the last day and brought in the money," said Lauren Hendricks, first year agriscience teacher and FFA club advisor. "I said, ‘What did Mr. Miller do to you?’" His unique teaching style, some students said, is what raked in $77 worth of votes, the highest at the school.
Fellow gifted teacher, Casey Leone, said she witnessed the students’ grand plan come together in mid-week. That made her gladly chip in $10 to ensure Miller’s winning spot.
"He’s pretty tough on them," Leone said smiling. "He’s very tough and sarcastic in a loving way. He challenges them, in general."
One of Miller’s students – Rebecca Marks – said she was thrilled to have taken part in the winning vote. She agrees with Leone’s take on Miller’s classroom style.
"He’s a lovable fuzzball," Marks said repeating the words Miller uses in class to describe himself.
Sixth grade science teacher Michelle Leslie, who grew up on a farm in Pennsylvania, had been in the lead prior to Thursday, before the Miller conspiracy mushroomed to new heights.
"I’ll come kiss him anyway," Leslie said before the crowd of about 75 students gathered. "I grew up on a farm, so donkeys are nothing new to me. We had cows and geese and chickens."
In total, the event raised $213 to help fund FFA club trips and buy much-needed supplies for the students who are Hendricks’ agriscience classes. This school year marks the second year of the Oakleaf Junior High FFA Club, which has grown to 67 members under Hendricks’ guidance.
About 200 students and faculty at the school took part in the "Kiss the Donkey" event, Hendricks said. Also, during the week, FFA’ers sold flowers for $1 each to raise funds.
When asked if he felt humiliated having to kiss a donkey, Miller said he was actually honored that he received the most votes.
"I am a compassionate, caring, loving teacher," Miller said with a tinge of, well, sarcasm. "I don’t know why they’d do this to me."
Leslie will have to wait until next year to kiss Bubba J. Standing around the crowd of student and faculty onlookers, Leslie smiled and enjoyed the competition.
"All my students said, ‘That’s not fair. We wanted to see you kiss the donkey’," she said.
Until then, Hughes and her family will take Bubba J. back to the family farm in the Branan Field area.
"It’s cool, I guess," Hughes said. "It’s a good way to make money for our club."
"The students all got together on the last day and brought in the money. I said, ‘What did Mr. Miller do to you?’"
–Lauren Hendricks, first year agriscience teacher and FFA club advisor
STAFF PHOTO BY ERIC CRAVEY
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OAKLEAF--Mark Miller received the most donations and had to kiss Bubba J. on Feb. 22.