Educating Young Minds
The substitute science teacher, Mr. Twist, stood in front of the
classroom eyeing the students as if they were a bunch of insects. Next
to him, stood a small table where Joey Nelson’s pet guinea pig sat
absolutely still in a little wire cage. Mr. Twist pointed a long finger
at the furry animal and said, “Now boys and girls, I have a question
for you.” He paused. “If you pick up a guinea pig by its tail . . .
what will happen?”
Then Mr. Twist grinned. But it wasn’t a happy grin. He looked like he
“You there!” He pointed to a strawberry-blond girl. “Who-o-o are
you?” the teacher asked like she had just escaped from prison.
The girl swallowed hard and blurted out, “Katerina Kaminsky. But you
can call me KK.”
“And the answer to my question is young lady?”
“Ah, well,” KK began slowly, “if you pick the guinea pig up by its
tail, I think it might throw up, Mr. Twist.”
“Incorrect answer!” the teacher shouted and banged his fist on the
table Everyone’s eyes shot wide open.
“You’re all a bunch of idiots!” Mr. Twist yelled at the students
as if they were the dumbest seventh graders in the world. Like he was so
smart. And maybe he was, especially since he was so old—at least 23.
Aliyah Jackson sat next to Joey and tried to come to his rescue. She was
the principal’s niece and very smart, so everyone was thinking she
would get the answer right. She raised her hand and said, “I think the
guinea pig would scream, but not like a person would scream. You know,
more like if you stepped on a cat.”
The teacher banged the table and shouted, “Incorrect answer!”
The students sat speechless. Joey’s pet took a tinkle.
Mr. Twist opened the class roll book, slowly scanned it and pointed to a
No one dared to breathe.
The teacher’s lifeless eyes surveyed the silent room like a snake
looking for its next meal. Then he grinned and said, “Okay, let’s
see if Jade Rivera can answer this question. Again, I ask, if you pick
up a guinea pig by its tail, what will happen?”
“Which one of you is Jade?”
Mr. Twist’s voice rose and he demanded, “Which one of you is
Jade had clearly heard the teacher, but she just looked straight ahead
with her lips shut tighter than a clam out of water. KK knew the reason
why at this particular time Jade wasn’t answering the teacher. Since
she was Jade’s best friend and the kind of person who tries to smooth
things over when there’s a problem, she spoke up. “Jade isn’t
answering to, or going by, the name of Jade right now, Mr. Twist. Her
name this week is Lateeshamá. That’s La-tee-sha-má.”
A quizzical look spread across the teacher’s face and he slowly
“Yes, sir. She’s going to be an actress when she grows up, and
she’s trying to figure out what would be a good show business name.
Last week it was Desiree, and next week she’ll probably try out
another name. Anyway, Mr. Twist, she will only talk if you call her
Jade glanced over at KK and gave her a smile that said, “Thank you.”
“Alright,” Mr. Twist said calmly. But the way he was breathing
heavily through his mouth, he looked like a volcano spewing ash and
about to erupt. “So La-tee-sha-má,” he continued, “what is the
“To what, sir?” Jade asked.
Mr. Twist’s voice still remained calm, but he started breathing even
harder. “If you pick up a guinea pig by its tail . . .” The teacher
paused and took a deep breath, “What. Will. Happen?”
“I’m not really sure. I don’t know much about them, so all I can
do is put myself in the animal’s place. That’s what Ms. Wise, our
principal, is always saying, ‘When you don’t understand another’s
feelings or actions, you need to put yourself in his or her place.’ So
I’d say if you pick up Joey’s pet by the tail it will bite you!”
Everyone liked that answer. Especially Joey, who gave Jade a thumbs-up.
Mr. Twist didn’t like it so much. “Alright, you little snots! I will
tell you the answer!” His eyes filled with glee as he moved an open
hand toward the little cage and said, “If you pick up this guinea pig
by its tail . . . ” His thin lips then stretched into the wickedest
grin ever seen, and he roared, “ITS EYES WILL FALL OUT!”
The entire class gasped.
Then dead silence.
Everyone’s eyes were on the little guinea pig, hypnotized by its tiny
black eyes that were now rapidly blinking.
Paralyzed by fear, the students waited for Mr. Twist to grab Joey’s
pet by the tail . . . and do the deed.
CHAPTER Two: A Case for Animal Abuse
Jade’s classmates, frozen in their seats, waited for the worst. Jade
who wasn’t the type to wait around for anything, jumped out of her
chair and scrambled to the front of the room. With one swift movement,
she snatched Joey’s guinea pig out of its cage and ran out the door
straight for the principal’s office.
Then KK jumped out of her chair and followed Jade right out the door. As
they raced to the principal’s office, Mr. Twist let out a howl. He
sounded like a wounded animal that had just stuck its foot in a
“Ms. Wise, Ms. Wise! Help! Help!” The girls shouted as they ran into
the principal’s office. Ms. Wise’s mouth dropped wide open as Jade
handed her the trembling animal and shouted, “Mr. Twist wants to take
out the guinea pig’s eyes!”
“What? Explain, sweetheart!” Ms. Wise never could remember Jade’s
current name, so she always called her “sweetheart.”
“Mr. Twist wants to take out—remove—displace—GOUGE OUT the
guinea pig’s eyes!”
The girls rapidly told Ms. Wise, in detail, about Mr. Twist’s question
of the day for science. Then Jade asked to call her lawyer.
“My word, sweetheart, I don’t think we need an attorney to handle
this situation,” Ms. Wise said very sincerely.
That’s one thing about Ms. Wise: she was very sincere. A real person.
Never a phony. And she looked like a model when she wore these dresses
imported from West Africa and the way she changed her hair all the time.
Today she was wearing these amazing braids intertwined with beads. But
best of all, she was smart.
“Do you really have an attorney, sweetheart? Why? You’re only 12?”
“Yes,” Jade replied. “My nana, Grandma Gomez.”
“I didn’t know that your grandmother was an attorney. And to think
she’s still practicing. She must be in her seventies by now. She was
born in Mexico, right? Did she go to law school there, or here?”
“She didn’t go to law school.”
“Then she’s not an attorney, sweetheart.”
“Oh, but she is! My grandma told me that the definition of an attorney
is: Any person legally empowered to act for another. She said that makes
her my attorney, because she will always have the strength and power to
act for me no matter how old she is.”
“But she must be legally empowered,” noted Ms. Wise.
“Oh, she’s legal,” Jade said. “Nana’s has a green card and
everything. And next month she’s going for her U.S. citizenship.”
Ms. Wise couldn’t argue with that, so she handed the office phone to
Jade who dialed her home telephone number and after about ten rings,
Grandma Gomez answered. Jade quickly explained the situation in English
with a spattering of Spanish when she wanted to emphasize something.
“No, Nana, I’m not exaggerating. Si, Nana. Bueno. Gracias. Love you.
“Now what?” asked Ms. Wise.
“Nana is calling the Humane Society to get somebody out here to
protect Joey’s guinea pig.”
“I don’t know if the Humane Society will come out for a guinea
pig.” Ms. Wise cuddled the little animal in her arms.
“Oh, they’ll come. Nana does a lot of volunteer work for them.
Especially when a pet snake gets loose. She’s great at capturing
snakes,” Jade said pride.
“That’s remarkable. Did she say anything else?”
“Oh, yes. Nana said that Mr. Twist is obviously a very big jerk and to
tell you that you should fire him on the spot. And if you feel that you
can’t, she can come down and take care of him for you.”
“Oh, my, I don’t think that will be necessary,” the principal
“And do you know what else Nana told me, Ms. Wise?”
“I can’t imagine.”
“She said that the guinea pig’s eyes would not fall out if you
picked it up by its tail, because guinea pigs don’t have tails.”
“Well, how about that.” Ms. Wise’s shoulders relaxed and she
smiled down at Joey’s quivering pet.
The girls had a feeling that Mr. Twist knew this all along and that he
kind of enjoyed trying to scare the class. Mr. Twist was definitely one
big jerk. They just hoped Joey Nelson wouldn’t have nightmares about
his pet, and everyone was glad to learn later, from Grandma Gomez, that
guinea pigs don’t dream.
CHAPTER Three: Big News in Social Studies
After the Humane Society came to the rescue of Joey’s guinea pig, it
was time for the girls’ last class of the day—Social Studies. As
Jade and KK entered the class, with a late pass from Ms. Wise, the
teacher had the T.V. turned on for an Arizona Special Report. At that
very moment the President of the United States was speaking from the
base of the Superstition Mountains just a few miles away.
With his staff behind him, the President made the following statement:
“This wilderness land will remain nationally owned, never to be sold
to the public, so everyone can enjoy its natural wonder and beauty.”
Unbelievable! The President was right here in Arizona.
He continued, “Today and tomorrow, I will be touring this federally
designated wilderness with my staff to ensure that all is being done
to protect it . . . .”
Jade didn’t hear anything else, because she turned to KK and said,
“Hey, do you realize this is our chance to meet the President?”
“How do you figure?”
“Well, we’re going camping with my family tomorrow in the
Superstition Mountains and we can meet him there while he is touring the
“But that’s a humongous area, Jade. It’s not very likely that we
will run into him.”
Jade just smiled and threw up her hands. “It’s worth a try isn’t
Excerpted from "Jade Rivera Saves the President" by Amy Robinson. Copyright © 2018 by Amy Robinson. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.