From then to now: 20 years of RCMS

Mr.+Shah%2C+a+science+teacher+at+RCMS%2C+explains+how+much+he+appreciates+technology+for+teaching+purposes.++
Mr. Shah, a science teacher at RCMS, explains how much he appreciates technology for teaching purposes.

Mr. Shah, a science teacher at RCMS, explains how much he appreciates technology for teaching purposes.

Credit: Lona Fried

Credit: Lona Fried

Mr. Shah, a science teacher at RCMS, explains how much he appreciates technology for teaching purposes.

Tina Gao and Lona Fried

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The classroom is filled with the chatter of students as they work on projects using school computers and personal devices, yet 20 years ago, the students would’ve been working with paper and pencil. Over the past years, Rachel Carson Middle School has changed in student population, use of technology and scheduling.

Mr. Shah, a science teacher at Rachel Carson, said, “Being here since the beginning gives me a little sense of pride, as if this is the house I built.”

On Sept. 8, 1998, Gail Womble, the first principal, opened RCMS. According to the Rachel Carson Middle School website, the school was named after Rachel Carson because the FCPS school board decided more schools needed to be named after females. The school board thought that naming a school after Rachel Carson would encourage young girls to pursue math and science.

Originally, RCMS started out with only 835 students, but over time, the student population has almost doubled in size. The gradual increase in the number of students has presented many challenges.

Because of the increase in the student population, new teams have been added to the school. In 1998, six teams were present in both seventh and eighth grade. Now, there are 12 teams in total. Because of the new teams added, space has to be used more efficiently. Rooms that were originally empty, such as the rooms in the middle of the pod, are now used as full-time classrooms.

“We’re using spaces now they haven’t used before,” said Mr. Treakle, a librarian that has worked at Rachel Carson MS since the opening.

Even though space is being used efficiently, eight trailers were needed and have been added to the school.

The large student population also affected teachers and the way they teach their students. The number of students in each class has drastically increased, making it harder for teachers to communicate with each student.

“You can’t reach every kid as quickly in a class of 30 or 32 as you could in a class of 20,” said Mr. Shah.

However, the increased number of students has also made the student body more diverse and has given students the opportunity to be exposed to many other cultures. 

The growth of the student body isn’t the only change that the school has endured over the last two decades. Many teachers think that technology has made the biggest change to the school. New technology, such as cell phones and laptops, has greatly changed the way teachers teach their classes.

“I think education has gotten way more sophisticated because you have access to a lot more information,” said Mr. Shah.

New technology has also made communication between teachers and students a lot easier and faster. Teachers can now assign work online using sites like Google Classroom or Blackboard. Students can also communicate with each other about group projects or ask each other questions outside of school. Rachel Carson classrooms look and function very different now than 20 years ago because of the new technology.

Another change that occurred recently is the change in the schedule. Two years ago, in 2016, the school schedule switched from an anchor day schedule to a block day schedule. The new schedule was liked by some teachers, but a few preferred the anchor schedule. The block classes gave teachers more time to teach and made it easier for them to plan lessons.

“I think in a lot of classes having that extra time to work is a good thing on most days,” said Mr. Treakle.

Although there have been many changes in the past 20 years, Mr. Treakle has noticed one thing that has not changed: “I love this school for a lot of reasons but one is that there’s this certain atmosphere among teachers, among the whole school, the students, of stressing respect and there’s just a community feel to it, friendliness.”

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