All photos taken by Beatriz Oliveira
As the years have passed, the science department has grown closer and closer.
However, last year, Gregory Simone, one of the adored chemistry teachers, transferred to a different district. The staff had created strong relationships with Simone, so this departure has affected them all.
Simone taught at Malden High for seven years and lived far from Malden which made it difficult to drive back and forth every day. Simone was starting a new chapter in his life with his family and had found work at Dracut High.
“Mr. Simone… is awesome. This hasn't changed just because he's in a different district. And he had a great opportunity. He just purchased a house and there was a position open at the school in the community he’s living in, which happens to be 45 minutes from here. So it was one of those—really good for him, really bad for us—scenarios,” Malden High principal Chris Mastrangelo clarified.
Teachers in the department collectively agreed that Simone was a great teacher at Malden High and even though they miss him, they are still happy for him. “I mean, Mr. Simone was incredible. It was a huge loss. You know, we're happy for him that he did what was best for his family, but we definitely miss him. He was an incredible teacher. He had a great rapport with students so we're definitely feeling the loss of that member. The fact that we haven't filled the position is tough because that means increased class sizes and missing a very strong department member,” said lead science teacher Shannon Votaw.
“I miss him like mad! I hate walking past his room all dark,” exclaimed Suzanne Brill, another teacher in the department.
“We were all pretty sad about it, we’re sad that no one’s replaced him, but how do you replace Mr. Simone,” Julie Grillon, a physics and computational science teacher said. Grillon also added that a handful of the teachers in the department named one of their group chats, “We Miss Greg.”
Students of Ms. Webbers taking a quiz.
Not only has Simone’s leaving affected the department emotionally, but it has also directly affected their jobs.
Some teachers were put into extra classes this year since the school could not fill the missing chemistry position. Brill was put into teaching environmental science, biology, and chemistry this year. “It directly affected me as far as I had taught chemistry for six months of the year before, so when Mr. Simone left, there were some [chemistry] classes I got one to two days before school started for this year and that was a big surprise because it gave me three subjects instead of two,” Brill explained.
Some staff believe that the chemistry position is empty because of the teacher shortage in the country. Jessica Webber, a biology and biotechnology teacher explained, “We are so sad, it’s such a huge loss for MHS… It’s too bad because we can’t find another chemistry teacher which I think comments a lot on the state of education in teachers.”
Chemistry is an incredibly hard position to fill, and the teacher shortage did not help the department.
After Mastrangelo learned that Simone would be teaching at Dracut High, Mastrangelo called Dracut High and asked the principal who their second candidate was in hopes of finding a new chemistry teacher. Unfortunately, Simone was their only applicant. “I thought I was being really resourceful, and just fell flat on my face,” Mastrangelo said.
Students dusting for fingerprints in Ms. Kirby's classroom.
Malden High’s science department is viewed as one of the closest departments in the school. The staff all teach on the fourth floor of Boyle because that’s where all of the labs are, which is thought to be one of the reasons as to why this department is so connected.
“Just by the nature and the design of the building, we have collegiality, because they're all in the same part of the building,” Mastrangelo explained. He continued, “I've seen having our science department in the same part of the building, how tight they are, so it's kind of been the inspiration for the rest of the school.”
The science teachers agree with Mastrangelo and enjoy working with each other in school. “The science department is really cohesive, meaning we get along really well and we work together a lot… In general, lots of us are friends with each other and just enjoy each other's company so that’s really nice too,” Michael Berman, a biology and environmental science teacher commented. “The science department is so strong. I think it's probably the most veteran department we have,” Mastrangelo added.
Students focusing on their quizzes in Ms. Webber's class.
“I really like my coworkers, they’re one of the main reasons that I’ve been here for so long, especially the science department, but even outside of the science department I think we have a great staff here,” said chemistry teacher Kate Haskell.
“I enjoy working with my coworkers. I feel like in the science department, we are a very close group. Mainly, I mean, proximity, we're all in the same location. It's not like we're scattered throughout the building. But I think we in general enjoy working with each other. There's a lot of collaboration, a lot of sharing materials, sharing of new ideas, welcoming of new ideas, so I think overall, it's a very positive experience and a very cohesive department,” Votaw added.