Not-so-maddening monikers

Teachers take nicknames in stride


In everyday life, seeing nicknames in the workplace or friend groups is not an unusual occurrence. However, people don’t often think about some of the strange nicknames given to teachers by their students. 

Tech ed teacher Austin Rayburn enjoys what his nicknames do because of the laughter they bring to his students, even though he doesn’t necessarily like the names. 

“I think it’s probably made some kids have a little bit more fun while they’re working. Maybe that’s increased productivity. But I don’t necessarily love it,” said Rayburn.

Nicknames like “Daddy RayRay” and “Papa Johns” have interesting origins–if they’re remembered. 

“I don’t know who started it all. It’s kind of funny that I get called those names that are associated with being a father when I’m, like, not even 30,” said Rayburn. 

On the other hand, father of three Ryan Johnson is impressed by the creativity his name required. 

“It was pretty creative. I never thought of a kid thinking of me as a dad figure and then tying that to pizza, so you know, it was, I guess, creative,” said Johnson.

Students have even built relationships with teachers around these nicknames, using them to help connect on an even deeper level with these teachers. Junior Robert Cogswell has made a connection with Rayburn that helps him feel more comfortable with him. Cogswell has even given him some nicknames of his own. 

“If I can just say, ‘Hey, Rayburn,’ or, ‘Hey, Mr. Burns.’ I feel like he’s the only teacher I ever used a nickname for because there’s that kind of connection there,” said Cogswell.

Even though many of these nicknames are used in ways that are safe and appropriate, some students have abused them. 

“Certain kids can’t handle the informality…which then can cause some behavioral issues. So, I think the worst thing about it is some kids can handle it, and some can’t, which leads to other problems,” said Rayburn.  

Students, however, are more concerned about how the teachers feel about these nicknames and the disruptive capabilities that these nicknames hold.

“As long as it stays within certain boundaries like if it’s appropriate, or as long as it’s not trying to hurt someone,” said Cogswell. 

Some teachers do not particularly like their nicknames because of the informality or disrespectful tone. 

“I don’t particularly enjoy the nickname Papa John’s. There certainly could be worse. But no, it’s not my favorite.”

Despite some of the difficulties that come with these nicknames, Johnson and Rayburn look forward to future experiences with their current and evolving nicknames.   This is especially important to Rayburn, who will be transferring schools to work closer to family and friends in the following school year. 

“I’m guessing I’ll end up with some sort of a nickname because I’m actually going to be teaching with my brother, so there’s going to be two Mr. Rayburns. One of us is going to have to come up with something. I guess we’ll see what they come up with.”