See you in first period: Parents teaching at NHS

It’s an early Monday morning at Northwood; students are just arriving at school. Two people stand in a classroom, one younger than the other.

“Have a good day,” career management teacher DeLisa Cohen tells her daughter, Madison Cohen.

“I’ll see you at lunch,” Madison replies. Giving her mom a hug, she walks out of the classroom to talk to her friends before first period.

Currently eight faculty members have children who attend Northwood, and others have had children attend in the past. Carpentry teacher David Pendergrast recalls how the mornings would go for him when his daughters were attending Northwood.

“They came with me in the morning,” he said. “They’d do their make-up in my room, so they pretty much got ready [at school].”

While the mornings are a simple matter to handle, having a teacher for a parent affects their children in different ways.

“[Having a parent teach here] kind of restricts my freedom in school… But it doesn’t affect me that much because I don’t take art and I’m not artistic,” said junior Daniel Burwell, son of art teacher Leslie Burwell.

Other students, such as sophomore Jennifer Greenlee, daughter of English teacher Kathleen Greenlee, also feels restricted.

“I have to try to be on my best behavior, because she hears things,” Jennifer said.

When it comes to treatment by other teachers, many students feel they are treated like everyone else, but some feel differently.

“At first, [teachers hold me at higher expectations]. I don’t think they mean to, but once they get to know me, it’s okay,” said Jennifer Greenlee.

Madison Cohen had more to add.

“So many teachers run to my mom about work I don’t finish,” said Cohen. “[Some] teachers threaten to tell my mom if I do something wrong.”

There can also be technical issues with teachers and their children, such as class scheduling. Principal Chris Blice explains how the school fixes this problem.

“We try not to create those situations if we can avoid them,” said Blice.

In some cases, though, teachers do teach their children; such was the case with CTE business education teacher Jane Pendergrast when her daughter attended NHS.

“I had my youngest [daughter] as a student and she did fine,” said Pendergrast. “I sat her in the back of the room and I treated her like everybody else.”

English teacher Kathleen Greenlee had her son on her roster, but had him removed. She said that she could handle teaching her child, but it would not be fair.

“I would likely be harder on [my children] than other students just to ensure there is no room for mention of favoritism,” Greenlee said.

Another dilemma these teachers have is what their children should call them in the classroom. Are they Mom or Dad, or are they called by their surname?

“My oldest one, she didn’t call me anything because she avoided me,” said Jane Pendergrast. “[She] needed it to be her space.”

Science teacher Sarah Robertson said that as a teacher, she has higher expectations of her daughter.

“I probably do [expect more out of my children],” said Robertson. “They know how tough it is to be a teacher and I expect them to understand that and to give respect and to give [school] their all.”

Kathy Greenlee has similar expectations for her children.

“I expect my children to do their personal best,” Kathleen Greenlee said. “To respect their teacher at all times, adhere to school rules and guidelines. I expect the same of all NHS students.”

Just like any other parent, these faculty members are approached by their colleagues about concerns they have about their children. Sarah Robertson explained how she has dealt with the situation before.

“[I told the teacher] ‘Don’t treat her any differently; she doesn’t want to be treated differently,’” said Robertson.

Although it can be a struggle when it comes to expectations, behavior and scheduling, it’s all about balance.

“It’s understanding that there are two different roles,” said DeLisa Cohen. “[There’s] no separation in caring, but it’s letting your child act as an individual.”


— By Morgan Yigdal