What was inside the wooden box Mrs.Baker pulled from her desk drawer in The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt?

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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By March of Holling Hoodhood's seventh-grade year in The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt, Holling and Mrs. Baker have become quite friendly (as opposed to the beginning of the year when Holling is convinced his teacher hates him). He is preparing for tryouts for the cross country team, and Mrs. Baker gives him tips on how to improve his running form, modeled after Jesse Owens.

Later Holling offers Mrs. Baker tips on how to have a very successful teaching observation. Wryly, Mrs. Baker thanks her student for helping her be a better teacher (something he has absolutely no experience with, of course). Holling is equally unimpressed with his teacher's qualifications for giving him running advice--until she pulls a wooden box out of her bottom desk drawer.

In the box is a silver medal from the 1956 Olympics, held in Melbourne. Mrs. Baker was part of the four-by-one hundred relay team, and Holling is stunned. She tells him:

"Don't look so surprised. You didn't think I'd spent my whole life behind this desk, did you?" 

Obviously Holling, like most students, assumed exactly that; he had never thought about Mrs. Baker having any kind of a life outside of teaching, though clearly she had one.