WASHINGTON, PA—With the 2012-2013 academic year beginning this week, longtime James G. Blaine Elementary School teacher Suzanne Pomponio, 39, expressed her astonishment Wednesday at how much fatter her second-graders keep getting.
"I honestly didn't think it was possible for this year's kids to be any fatter than last year's, but boy, was I wrong," Pomponio told reporters, explaining that her students have grown noticeably chunkier in each of her 15 years as an educator. "When they all came in on Monday morning, I really couldn't believe how huge they were. The first thing I thought was, wow, each student must be 8 to 10 pounds heavier than anyone in my 2011 class. And everyone in that class was pretty fat, too."
"The short ones are fat, the tall ones are fat—they're all just so fat," she added. "I didn't even know 7-year-olds could get that big."
Though she's only been back in her classroom for a few days, Pomponio said she has already witnessed nearly all of her young pupils struggle to hoist their overweight frames out of their desks when called upon to approach the blackboard. She also stated that this year's students wear sweatpants and oversized T-shirts almost exclusively, and seem to prefer sitting on benches or playing in the dirt at recess instead of running and climbing.
In addition, Pomponio admitted she had recently looked at the class picture of her first group of students from 1997 and noted how trim they were by comparison, claiming that any single member of her current class would have been considered "the fat kid" back then.
"Sure, there were one or two overweight children in each class when I started teaching, but now every single kid I have is, I hate to say it, just alarmingly obese," said the teacher, explaining that when her students raise their hands to answer questions, the amount of fat hanging off their arms startles her every time. "Most of these kids can't even walk to the bathroom and back without sweating and getting all pink in the face. Eight of my students are on cholesterol medication."
"They also grunt more," she added. "It doesn't matter what physical activity they're engaged in, they grunt when they do it."
As she recalled the round, jowly young faces she sees whenever she looks up from her desk, the veteran educator identified several students as especially rotund. In particular, Pomponio noted a 7-year-old named Keegan who reportedly has to wedge himself into his chair each morning, with a portion of his stomach bulging over the top of his desk.
Pomponio also confirmed that her students are so large they cannot even breathe properly, and said that when the children read silently, it's as if the entire class begins wheezing in unison, with almost every student laboring with each inhalation.
Moreover, Pomponio stated that as her students have gotten fatter, an indistinct but foul-smelling odor in the classroom has gotten more and more pronounced.
"I don't know how to describe it, but it smells like a mixture of sweat and meat of some kind," said Pomponio, adding that while one of her students is no doubt "the jock" of the group, it's impossible to tell whom, given their size. "These kids are only 4 feet tall, and I swear to God, they've got to be pushing 100 pounds, easy. Maybe 120."
"They don't eat their lunches," she continued. "They inhale it. They wolf it down. They're finished eating within five minutes, and you can tell they want more."
Citing such concerns as the astonishing speed with which they fatigue while standing for the Pledge of Allegiance and how winded they become just banging wooden blocks together during music class, Pomponio said she has grown increasingly worried about her students' health.
"I'd really like to address the value of eating healthy during parent-teacher conferences next month, but I'm afraid the message won't even get through to these families," Pomponio said. "The truth is, the parents keep getting fatter every year, too."