Have We Forgotten to Give the Teaneck Twirlers Their Flowers?

Malyeka Charles, Staff Writer

Here at Teaneck High School, we as whole need to be held accountable for not giving the Twirlers the recognition they deserve. Oftentimes we overlook their dances and the significance the Twirlers have in our school’s culture. As a school that takes pride in our school spirit, it’s upsetting to see how the school as a whole doesn’t give the people who amplify our school spirit the recognition they deserve. I hope we change our ways for the better and move forward in the right direction. I decided to take a step in the right direction by interviewing Captain Shannon-Milan Lambert and Advisor Ms. Christine Mayers. 

Flag Twirling started at Teaneck High School in the 1970s by Cheryl Miller-Porter, an African American woman and former teacher which the student center is named after and you may have seen her plaque or poster as well. While going to college at Hamptons University, an HBCU, she was fascinated by the marching band culture and decided to bring it to Teaneck High School. While she was a teacher at Teaneck High, she was also the coach and advisor for the Twirling Team. There are twirlers in the school as stated by Ms Mayers that have aunts, mothers, grandmothers, and so on that were Twirlers as well because it’s an institution that has been a part of our school for many years. Even Ms Bettis who is now a counselor at Teaneck was once a twirler. 

The current advisor for the Twirling Team was never a twirler in high school, but how did she end up being an advisor for the team? Ms Miller-Porter was about to retire around the time Ms Mayers became a teacher and asked her to take over for her with the Twirling Team, which seemed overwhelming at first and unsure of her abilities to be an advisor, however Ms Miller-Porter assured her she was never a twirler herself either. Nonetheless, Ms Mayers persevered and recognized she was just the person to take over to which she has come a long way to being phenomenal at what she does. It wasn’t an easy job and it isn’t now but she says, “it’s now become a labor and love, it’s still a labor, but I enjoy watching the girls grow.” She even took pride in telling me about a former twirler, Sydney Clark, who now attends North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University which she has seen in the news achieving amazing things and brings her joy to see how far Sydney has come. 

As I had a conversation with both Ms Mayers and Milan, they both expressed that the football team is always seen and recognized in plenty of ways, however there’s never any recognition for the people who are cheering them on. Many people think it’s easy to be a twirler and that anyone can do what they do, but that’s far from the truth. The girls on the team are always practicing to perfect their dances or learning new ones, even on days when everyone has a break or a couple days off from school and we all don’t see the sweat and tears. In addition to having the dances perfected, they have to also know how to hold and wave in a certain manner. It’s not any easier being a captain, as Milan expressed to me that she and the other captains on the team have to brainstorm dances, help teach the girls on the team the dances, have patience to work with twenty or more girls and other uneasy tasks that come with being a captain while still managing the tasks of being a student. In addition to learning the dances at practice, the girls have rigorous exercises that do as well like running multiple laps. 

It may seem like anybody can become a twirler, however there are skills and traits that are somewhat needed. It’s not easy to have someone the same age as you to tell you what to do, therefore you have to be open-minded, teachable, and willing to be respectful towards the captains of the team. Being able to dance to some extent because the team is willing to work with you, but like Ms Mayers says, “you can’t have two left feet, you don’t have to be Beyoncé, but it would help if you could stay on beat.” In addition you have to be dedicated and able to balance your school work with twirling because you are expected to excel in classes as well. Girls should be encouraged to try out for the team because it’s an outlet to display your talents through dances and being creative with your movements in addition to it being a great opportunity for something seniors can put on their applications. For those that like to learn and do Tik Tok dances, you should take part in trying out twirling. 

As I previously stated, twirlers have significance towards the school’s culture and spirit not only due to its history, but also because of how they amplify the school’s spirit. What started out as a small organization transpired into something bigger. The twirlers aren’t recognized because people don’t take them seriously because they’re not seen as a sports team or sports organization and they’re brushed to the side. Ways to show the twirlers support is by recognizing the hard work they put in, giving them a post on social media, amplifying them in the morning announcements, and showing up to games to show them support are some of the many ways we as a whole can give the twirlers their recognition which the Captain Milan stated in our interview. “They contribute to the culture because they bring the pep to the rallies, the school spirit at the school performances, and a lot of times school spirit can be lacking in certain places and the twirlers are very helpful at hyping up the school making people proud to go to Teaneck High School. It’s one of the things that sets us apart from other schools and when we go to other schools, no one has what we have in terms of the twirlers,” this quote from Ms Mayers helps you grasp the significance of the twirlers and how they contribute to our culture. I hope there’s a change to come along with giving the twirlers their flowers because with everything they do, they deserve to be recognized and we as a school need to do better at showing them support.