10 Teachers Join Faculty for 2018-2019 School Year

Andrew Coulibaly and Jack Uhl

Every year students walk into their new classes, and for some of them, they are greeted not only with a teacher new to them, but a teacher new to RHS.

Ten new teachers joined the staff for the 2018-19 school year, bringing the total number of teachers to 89, not including support staff. Of these 10 new teachers, five are in the math department, marking it the largest shift in a single department. Science has three new teachers and both the choral and English departments each acquired one as well.

Every year, for various reasons, teachers move on to other schools usually prompted by job offers or in some cases, retirement. This prompts an extensive hiring process that is directed by principal Billie-Jean Bensen with the aid of assistant principals and department heads, who interview candidates and for those who are hired, assign them to classes in their prospective department.

“RHS gets new staff every year based on projections from the county, and my job is to put together this big puzzle based on how many kids want to take a certain class,” Bensen said. “As a principal I want our master schedule to be driven by what the students want to take, not what the allotted amount of teachers there are.”

Math resource teacher Marcus Wiggins has the largest shift in his department with many math teachers leaving last year for various reasons. All five teachers specialize in different focuses in math, and all of them have teaching experience at different schools for multiple years.  

“Last year I was the only new [math] teacher. Everyone was pretty much set in their way when you bring in five new teachers,” Wiggins said. “It takes a little bit of time to get to know each other but we have been spending that time having the conversations to make sure that we have a family atmosphere in the Rockville math department.”

Math teacher Christopher Orlando has taught everything from Geometry, pre-algebra and multivariable calculus during his 25 years of teaching, 17 of which were spent at Bethesda-Chevy Chase (B-CC) high school.

“There are different kinds of students, not better or worse, just different; there’s been a change but it’s been a good change,” Orlando said. “Everyone’s been very helpful and nice.”

Students have taken to Orlando saying he seems well informed and that he genuinely enjoys teaching, junior Madison Dieffenbach said.

“It seems like he knows what he’s doing and that he likes what he’s doing,” Dieffenbach said. “He actually cares, and genuinely wants you to succeed. He provides a lot of opportunities for us to learn.”

While math saw the biggest change, many other departments also brought in new teachers. Choral music teacher Cynthia Diehl has been teaching for 15 years and loves her job, she said. She and her husband recently moved from Kissimmee, Florida for better opportunities.

“Here, teachers are paid better. It’s a big difference from Florida,” Diehl said “When you really want to do better and remain in your profession you go where the money is.”

Diehl directed five choruses in Florida and led them to the yearly Florida state Choral championships, where the top choruses across the state compete. She plans on expanding RHS’ choir size.

“I like what we’re doing already, but the goal is to expand the choir department. So ideally I’d like to go to three choirs,” she said.

The science department welcome three new teachers and one is resource teacher Sidney Hankerson who is a first year teacher in MCPS. He has spent 16 years in education, previously teaching Algebra and Chemistry at Washington Academy and High school in Somerset County, Md. Hankerson said he hopes to build on many of the successes from last year.

“My main objective is to continue the great work done by the previous RT [resource teacher] Mr. Bilock and ensure all students are prepared to pass the Maryland Integrated Science Assessment, MISA,” Hankerson said. “ I would like to see more students select advanced Physical Science courses such as IB Chemistry, AP Chemistry, IB/AP Physics I and II in their junior and senior years.”

With another school year and many classrooms filled with new teachers for both new and returning students, each one offers something different. They all draw on their past and now all contribute to the same goal of supporting students and increasing RHS’ prestige.