When My Huynh heard that John Street would be teaching at Temple this spring, she was determined to snag a spot in one of the former mayor's two urban-politics courses.
"I had a tough time getting in," said Huynh, 20. "I checked online every day to see if someone dropped [the class]."
After a week of waiting, the sophomore political-science major finally got lucky.
"I wanted to take advantage of a course taught by someone who had been mayor of Philadelphia," she said.
She was glad she did, and she was not alone. In interviews yesterday, Huynh and two other Temple students gave Street positive reviews for his first semester of teaching the course.
John Hebert, 38, of Havertown, Delaware County, had grabbed the last spot in Street's earlier class, even though it started at 8:40 a.m.
"It was a unique opportunity," said Hebert, a senior political-science major. "I couldn't pass it up."
Huynh, who was born in Vietnam, grew up in Philly and graduated from Central High School, enjoyed Street's class so much that she recommended it to her friends, several of whom are now enrolled for the fall.
Her only complaint is that Street didn't use the textbook more.
"He wasn't obligated to," she said. "But as a student who paid money for a textbook, I'd like it to be of some use.
"I enjoyed [the class] because he brought in a lot of speakers," Huynh said. "I wouldn't be able to have access to these speakers otherwise. People like [State Sen. Vince] Fumo, [Gov.] Rendell, [Mayor] Nutter."
Street's course was taught in two classes of 30 students each. The 1-hour-20-minute sessions, which end with one class Tuesday, had been meeting twice weekly - at 8:40 and at 10:10 on Tuesday and Thursday mornings.
Street's teaching style, Huynh said, differed greatly from that of many other professors she has had, who often lecture with PowerPoint presentations.
"It's a different approach," she said. "He tells us a lot of stories [about] things he encountered in his life and gives us a first-person perspective through his eyes."
"He is full of stories," Hebert said. "Every time he opened his mouth, the last 25 years of Philadelphia city politics would come out."
Jeffrey Carroll, Street's teaching assistant and a political-science Ph.D. candidate, said that the former mayor interjected his experiences into his teaching whenever possible.
"He never missed an opportunity to share his real personal observations on anything from the election to his role, not just as mayor but as [City] Council president," said Carroll, 29, of Houston.
"The biggest asset was to get the inside picture of some of his biggest projects, like the Neighborhood Transformation Initiative," he said. "To hear about why he cared so much about certain issues, why he got into government."
Beginning last December, when Street was still mayor, Carroll met with him several times a week to plan the course.
"He took this class very seriously," Carroll said of Street. "Even in the midst of wrapping up his administration, he made ample time to prepare for this class."
"He didn't want a traditional blue-book final. So we put together a real budget simulation where each student gets a particular role."
Hebert played the mayor in his section's budget simulation, which ended yesterday.
"I got my budget passed - I'm thrilled," Hebert said. "I got to see what big-city mayors are up against. My hat's off to anyone who gets involved with local politics."
The challenge of being mayor wasn't the only thing that surprised Hebert.
He also found Street to be much more personable than he was expecting, "I guess because he had an antagonistic relationship with the press. But nothing could be further from the truth when you actually meet him."
Carroll, who will be Street's teaching assistant again in the fall, agreed.
"I was very nervous initially," Carroll said. "He's a high-profile person, and I wondered if we would be able to meet eye-to-eye on teaching styles."