The School Newspaper of Winston Churchill High School.

The Observer

The School Newspaper of Winston Churchill High School.

The Observer

The School Newspaper of Winston Churchill High School.

The Observer

New Teachers on The Block: WCHS’ newest cast

Photo by Kendyl Grossier
From left to right, Michelle Zibrat, John Haas, Rachel Sonnenberg and Kevin Brown. Each of these teachers have been given new opportunities in the Arts, Social Studies, English and administration departments for the 2023-2024 school year.

In the past year, there have been immense changes in the WCHS community, whether it is the parking situation, PMD policy or most importantly: WCHS’ additions to the teacher and administration staff. With new teachers, assistant principals and other administrative positions, there are many new faces to get to know. 

WCHS’ new office and administration staff include Ms. Rhonda Applebaum, Ms. Kimberly Feher, Ms. Nicole Walker, Mr. Patrick O’Brien, Mr. Zachary Higgins and Mr. John Haas. 

Having worked at multiple other MCPS schools, Haashas been a part of the MCPS community for 25 years. Haas has been able to experience plenty of different communities as a teacher and administrator, including teaching at White Oak Middle School and being an administrator at Paint Branch High School and Rockville High School. Here, he hopes to experience the WCHS community and what it has to offer. 

“I am here for a new experience working with a different community population, ” Haas said. “I have absolutely enjoyed the transition. The students, staff and community have been great to welcome me to the Churchill family.”

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In addition to big changes in the administration department, but also in academic departments ranging from arts to social studies. The English department, specifically, lost a majority of their teachers last year due to various personal reasons. However, WCHS has done a great job filling those spots with the newest additions of Ms. Kellie Alagic, Mr. Peter Coulson, Ms. Emily Shao, Ms. Sylvia Granados-Maready and Mr. Kevin Brown. 

Brown is no stranger to the WCHS community. Having worked here for 11 years in the past and coming back after being with Hallie Wells Middle School for two years and Thomas S. Wootton High School for four. One thing that brought Mr. Brown back to the WCHS community is the strong friendships he made with his co-workers. 

“Coming back to WCHS is like putting on an old baseball glove,” Brown said. “This school year, I am striving to inspire curiosity and insight to my students.”

In addition to the English department, there have also a few additions to the Social Studies staff, including Ms. Ratna Oetamam, Ms. Olivia Henry and Ms. Rachel Sonnenberg. 

Teaching 9th Grade Honors US History and AP NSL, Sonnenbger also has a history with the WCHS community. Although she is new to WCHS, she is not new to the area, as she was a teacher at Herbert Hoover Middle School for the past four years. One of her goals for this school year is to bring joy to her students when teaching them social studies, as well as getting involved in the WCHS community as a SGA co-sponsor. Her main motivation for coming to WCHS was her students. 

“Having taught at Hoover the past few years, my students have always told me ‘You should come to Churchill,’” Sonnenberg said. “I’ve always wanted to teach high school, and was immediately interested when I heard there was an opening here.” 

The last department to have new additions was the arts department, with two new teachers in Ms. Stephanie Conyer and Ms. Michelle Zibrat. Zibrat has taught in the MCPS community for nine years, with eight of these years being at various elementary schools within the county. While there have been some difficulties adjusting, Zibrat was able to use the support of  her peers to help her navigate through WCHS. 

“While it’s a trek to get here from where I live, WCHS has a reputation for rigor and high standards that appeals to me,” Zibrat said. “While I love to have fun in the classroom, I also expect the best from my students. I aim to make them the best they can be, and Churchill seemed like a great place to find folks with that level of excitement for learning.”

With a new environment can come a lot of nerves and uncertainty. But with the help of WCHS students and staff, the new additions to the WCHS community have been able to adapt as smoothly as possible. Overall, the students and staff at WCHS have given these new teachers and staff a positive experience and an optimistic look for the upcoming year. 

“In addition to being new to teaching, I’m also new to MCPS and, in some ways, new to Maryland. However, the other members of my department have been a huge help,” Coulson said. “I’ve also appreciated students’ patience and open-mindedness as I test out and troubleshoot new activities and classroom arrangements. The first year of teaching is always challenging, but the transition would have been far more difficult without their support and guidance.”

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About the Contributor
Kendyl Groisser, Online Managing Editor
Kendyl Groisser is a senior and the Online Managing Editor for the 2023-2024 school year. This is her third year taking journalism at Churchill. She first started writing articles at her summer camp which influenced her to take it at school as well. During her free time, she enjoys playing on the Churchill Lacrosse team and hanging out with her friends.

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