Saturday, July 21, 2018
Politics

Hillary Clinton's high school history teacher lives in Pinellas Park

ST. PETERSBURG

Ask yourself: What would your ninth-grade history teacher say about you becoming president of the United States?

It has been more than 50 years since Pinellas Park resident Steve Zebos taught a poised, blond ninth-grader named Hillary Rodham in his advanced class, history of the non-western world. He remembers her well, and he would be thrilled to see her elected president.

"For one solid year, she made an A+ average in the study of Japan, India, China, the Soviet Union, Pakistan. As a 15-year-old she'd knock Donald Trump today out of the box just understanding these different cultures, the people, the political processes, and the topography of these countries," said Zebos, 86, who is registered without party affiliation but sounds like he could lead Hillary Clinton's fan club.

"Even then she was more well-versed, in my opinion, than he is today," Zebos said. "I thought Hillary had very, very high character."

Zebos has followed Clinton's career closely over the decades since their days at Maine Township High School East in Park Ridge, Ill., and he and his student greeted each other when she campaigned at the Coliseum in St. Petersburg on Monday.

Her campaign staff had invited him to the rally, and they spoke briefly before she took the stage.

"She came up to me and she said, 'I remember you!' " Zebos said of the former secretary of state who moments later told the crowd she had just seen an old high school teacher of hers.

To hear Clinton's stump speeches lately and her recollections of being the daughter of a small businessman making drapery and granddaughter of a factory worker, one might assume she grew up disadvantaged. In fact, Park Ridge is a leafy, upper middle-class suburb of Chicago.

Few if any other teachers at the high school could afford to live in Park Ridge, Zebos said, and young Hillary stood out even though "her classmates were the cream of the crop" mostly planning to attend top colleges and universities.

Zebos, who went on to become a scout for the Chicago White Sox and Pittsburgh Pirates, is not the only Tampa Bay resident who remembers Clinton's high school career. George M. Cantonis of Belleair was a year behind Clinton in high school.

He declined to discuss her except to say that she was among at least 20 top student leaders in their school and to confirm that she was likable in high school.

A strong Republican, Cantonis said he knows he will not vote for Clinton but has not decided whether he will vote for Trump.

Contact Adam C. Smith at [email protected] Follow @adamsmithtimes.

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