New semester, new teacher

Selene Rubino

Unexpected switch-up in math department leads 12 classes to change teachers

This semester, students in 12 math department classes returned to discover their teachers and room numbers had been changed without any prior notice. Though surprising, the switch-up was actually the least drastic in response to Mathematics Department Chair Bob Van Hoy’s retirement midway through the first semester.

Van Hoy’s retirement came as a surprise not only to the school but Van Hoy himself. Due to a variety of personal reasons, Van Hoy took personal leave halfway through the second grading period, and didn’t return. Because of Van Hoy’s position, administration needed to find a replacement math department chair as well as a teacher for four AP Computer Science classes.

Initially, two long-term substitute teachers, Teresa Perry and Diane Bodwin, were hired to cover the open classes, and math teacher John Conlin was designated the new department chair. The situation remained stable until doubts surfaced near the end of first semester that whether Perry would be able to continue teaching.

"If we had to change class schedules for all the students taking all these math classes it would be a disaster," Calculus BC teacher Jon Stark said. "We’d have to change the schedules for hundreds and hundreds of students."

The Friday following finals, the entire math department held a meeting to find a way to deal with the open classes. Midway through the teaching year, it was nearly impossible to find a new teacher, as the recruiting season had already passed. In addition, AP Computer Science is not a common subject for teachers. Although it would have been possible to hire different substitutes, the solution was not ideal for the long term.

"The staff all agreed that the best thing for our students was for our teachers to cover those classes," Assistant Principal Trudy Gross said. "So we didn’t have to worry if another substitute would stay the whole semester or whether students would continue to have teacher changes."

Five teachers — Colin Anderson, Brian Dong, Peter Jennings, Jennifer MacDonald, and Emmett Powers — took on an additional, sixth class to cover for gaps in schedule. Out of a total of 79 math classes, 12 experienced changes. Students returning to class on Jan. 4 were understandably surprised.

"I didn’t think that Mr. DeRuiter would stop teaching Calculus BC," senior Vipul Nataraj said. "He was a great teacher, and I guess we were afraid of having a new, unfamiliar teacher, since we did not know who would replace him."

Since most teachers took on additional classes of their current subjects and the state standards are constant for each class, the material should not be substantially different from before. AP courses especially, which prepare for the AP exams in May, won’t differ in content. So far, the switch has been fairly gentle for students.

"Stark’s made it kind of gradual," Nataraj said. "He usually explains something, and then asks how DeRuiter explains it, and tries to make us see how he would like us to think about it."

But the additional course load takes its toll on the teachers as well.

"I’m now teaching five of the same class," Stark said. "If I tell first period and the second period and the fifth, by the time I’m in seventh period I don’t remember what I’ve said and what I haven’t. I have to be very careful of myself during class so they don’t think I’m crazy."

Correction:  There are four computer science classes not four AP computer science classes. The name Peter should be replaced with Martin Jennings. Last updated Jan. 14.