Tag: Celina Wong

The Matchim Advantage

Words: Celina Wong

Photos: Zach Grable

What was your life like eight years ago? Many of us were in elementary or middle school, when our biggest concern was who we were going to sit with at lunch. For teachers and parents, many of you were in the process of building your careers and families.

Eight years ago, David Matchim walked through the doors of Centennial High School and vowed to create a prestigious band program. Now, Matchim has been named Music & Arts 2018 Music Educator of the Year and has created one of the best wind ensembles in the entire country. He attributes the foundation of his success to the book, The Happiness Advantage, written by Shawn Achor. The book describes seven basic principles that readers can use to create a more positive outlook on their lives. Its purpose is to correct the idea that happiness leads to success, not that success leads to happiness.

Matchim stumbled upon this book during a rough time in his life when he needed guidance.

“I had a tough year where I was feeling particularly negative, and I was questioning whether or not I still wanted to be a music director,” Matchim stated. “I was searching for ways to change my outlook, or perception, on what I was experiencing. I ended up doing an internet search, and that’s when I came across The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor.”

The Happiness Advantage is based on the philosophy of positive psychology. It proves that people function and perform better when they are in a good place emotionally.

“It’s kind of like a car. When it’s well-tuned, it operates better,” Matchim illustrated. “For me, I needed to see that there was actual research done that shows that physiologically we do better, if we think positively. That’s what really sold me [on the book].”

The book has changed Matchim’s perspective on his life.

“What I like is that the book isn’t about being positive all the time. It recognizes that we’re [all] human,” Matchim explained. “The book really talks about living life with rose-tinted glasses, rather than with rose-colored glasses. It’s not about being naive and thinking that everything is going to be perfect all the time, but seeing the good things that are happening that we may have been blind to otherwise.”

Javeria Diaz-Ortiz, a four-year band student, struggled in her sophomore year and voiced to Matchim that she was considering quitting band.

“[Matchim] said, ‘Everything is fine. You can do whatever you need to make yourself comfortable, but I just want you to know that I want you in this band,’” Diaz-Ortiz recalled. “I will always remember that interaction because I feel like I can depend on Mr. Matchim. It really changed my opinion and perspective on him and I know I can go to him if I have any problems.”

Diaz-Ortiz is not the only one who has experienced the pressure that comes with a competitive band program. As a result, Matchim has found an approach that helps his students relieve some of their stress.

“I have recently had a number of teachers come up to me and say, ‘What is the magic trick?’ Some people who don’t know me think I run the program kind of like a dictator and that I’m really hard on people all the time,” Matchim said. “But, I don’t think that’s the case.”

For Matchim, the key to helping students achieve their goals is to be involved in the process.

“I can have high expectations, but I think the difference is that some people put the expectations on others, and don’t try help them achieve it,” he shared. “That’s the biggest thing. People have to feel that you’re on their side. If I set an expectation, I try to make sure I’m an active participant in getting people there.”

Similar to Diaz-Ortiz, Matchim faced a few obstacles where he too felt like he was not doing the best he could to succeed. He related this back to one of Achor’s principles, Falling Up.” It discusses the idea that failure and suffering teaches us how to be happier and people are ultimately more successful because of it.

“I would say, probably four years into my career here at Centennial, I wasn’t meeting my own expectations about where I wanted the program to be. I got very discouraged because I thought I wasn’t doing a good enough job, as I was constantly looking ahead and I wasn’t looking at where we came from,” Matchim noted. “I think that for me, reading the book, and the whole “Falling Up” principle, made me realize that failure is okay, and it is a part of learning. That is something that a lot of people are really afraid of. After reading the book, I understood a little bit more that even though we are not meeting the expectation yet, we’re making progress there.”

One idea that Achor emphasizes in The Happiness Advantage is the idea of a support system. He thinks that “the most successful people invest in their friends, peers, and family members to propel themselves forward.”

Matchim applied a similar approach with his ensembles.

“The joy is that [the students] have relationships with each other, and not just me. Sometimes, they are honest with each other. I’ve heard students tell someone they need to work harder. I have also seen people say, ‘You’re doing a great job; keep doing what you’re doing. You sound amazing,’” Matchim added. “I think the community we have in the band program is why we are largely successful because they want to play well for each other. It’s not about me. It is more important to me that they feel like they have each other.”

Matchim takes the main idea of the book that happiness creates success and applies it to how he teaches his students and creates a safe environment within the band room.

“It’s really about community. I would like to see it happen in other places in the school too because we’re better with each other,” Matchim said. “I think there are a lot of insecurities to try to keep up, and at the end of the day, going back to the book, I think it is because everyone is feeling like they are going to be happier if they are more successful. But, every time they are successful, they move the goal post further away. [They] keep doing that and [they] aren’t ever happy. [They] have to be happy in [their] own shoes.”

Before Matchim established a sense of community within the band program, he used competition to fuel his students, as that was the broad stereotype of Centennial that was painted before he began to work there.

“I figured that I was going to use [competition] and they’re all going to try to be better than each other all the time, and that’s why the band is going to be good. We were good, but we weren’t great. My numbers in the band program were staying about the same,” Matchim explained. “Then, I realized that something that was missing, that what they needed in band was the sense of community. That’s when I shifted gears and a lot of that had to do with the book. I tried to get them to be supportive of each other, and not just better than the person next to them.”

Matchim has also seen the effects of this book in himself and others around him.

“If you want to do something that you are passionate about, you’re going to be successful in it. I think with the Shawn Achor book, the reason I am experiencing success is because I love what I do. Now that I am 35, I have a lot of people who are in pivotal places in their careers and I’m noticing that my friends that are nailing it —regardless of what field they are in— love [their jobs],” Matchim stated. “There are outliers. There are a lot of people who are successful and unhappy. But, the bulk of people who pick something that they love are doing that.”

Along with the book, the people of the community have helped Matchim win the award of Music Educator of the Year.

“What feels good about it is that these are community-nominated awards. There are a thousand plus people nominated for this, who are supported by people from their community, parents, graduates, administrators, other teachers in the county. Other people are recognizing what we’re doing,” Matchim explained. “What is cool is that the source of the award is that people are recognizing and appreciating the work that is happening. And I think that’s huge. If you love teaching, the way that I do, and if you love music, then you want to know that your community values you and values what you’re bringing to the table. That’s what feels really great about it.”

In an exclusive interview with The Wingspan, Achor expressed how he is moved by the work of Matchim, as he paved the path for thousands of students who have sat in his band classroom.

“I wanted to help the helpers by validating that their behavior and mindset really matter,” Achor said. “In a time when anxiety and depression are at historic highs in our schools, when you see champions like David Matchim, you realize that hope exists for positive education.”

As Matchim traces the foundation of his happiness and achievements back to the novel, Achor feels like the book has reached its purpose.

“If David was the only person who read The Happiness Advantage, I’d feel like the book was a success,” Achor said. “He took the words and made them come to life for the students and teachers in his life.”

With the title of 2018 Music & Arts Music Educator of the Year, Matchim has received recognition from those in other states who admire him and his band program.

“I think that’s cool for our students to know that there are other people, music teachers, and music kids who know about our program,” Matchim explained. “That’s more of an opportunity to feel thankful, and then people end up putting in more support. It’s just a nice cycle to be in. I hope it’s always this way. It may not always be this way, we’ll probably have highs and lows, but I think right now, this is a pretty cool place to be.”

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This article is featured in the 2019 Senior Issue.  To see the full issue, Click Here!

For more breaking news and photos, follow The Wingspan on Instagram and Twitter @CHSWingspan.

How Many APs Are Too Many?

Words: Celina Wong

Photos: Delanie Tucker

Although it feels early, students are preparing their schedules for the next school year. Many students opt to take Advanced Placement (AP) classes, which prepare them for the notorious AP tests in the first weeks of May. Centennial offers a wide variety of these courses ranging from AP Comparative Government and Politics to AP Chinese IV Language and Culture. Even though these courses allow for students to skip some general education classes in college, AP courses teach at a faster pace and hold its students to a much higher standard. AP classes are highly coveted, but the question is: how many is too many?

Senior Binderiya Undrakhbold has taken 11 AP classes throughout her four years at Centennial. Through her experience, she doesn’t think there is a set number of APs a student should take.

“If you enjoy pushing yourself and have an interest in a lot of different things, I think students should be able to take as many as they want,” Undrakhbold said.

However, Undrakhbold does believe there is a direct correlation between the AP workload and home life.

“At Centennial, AP Chemistry and AP Calculus BC are two of the hardest classes offered,” Undrakhbold explained. “Students definitely need to put in their own time and hard work to succeed in those classes because at the end of the day, they are college-level courses.”

Undrakhbold proposes that students should not base their course registration on their peers; rather, they should choose the ones that spark interest.

“Take AP classes that you feel the most interested in. Take classes that you know you will enjoy, not just because everyone around you is,” Undrakhbold advised. “I currently take AP Human Geography and I love the documentaries we watch in class and I’m really glad I’m taking it.”

Undrakhbold suggests that students should branch out and find different study methods when preparing for these classes.

“I think students should experiment in different ways of studying,” Undrakhbold stated. “A lot of us think and feel that there is only one way of studying, which is reading the textbooks, taking notes, and memorizing it. But, there are so many other efficient ways to retain information and prepare for tests.”

Jennifer McKechnie, the Intermediate Team Leader (ITL) of student services at Centennial High School, has a similar point of view to Undrakhbold about the number of AP classes a student should take.

“I would say it really depends on the student,” McKechnie said. “Every student is unique and every student is going to have their individual needs based on what they are interested in, what they are good at, and what their career goals are. I don’t think there is one set model or one set number.”

McKechnie detailed a few benefits of taking these higher level courses.

Sophomore Kiran Vepa plans on taking six AP courses next year.

“I think [AP classes] prepare students for collegiate level work and the rigor that is expected at the college level. Students are also getting exposure and the chance to explore that topic in an in-depth level,” McKechnie explained.

While the academic benefits are great, there is a great deal of stress attached to these courses.

“The stress comes in when a student is taking multiple, or way too many AP classes,” McKechnie stated. “[To limit stress], one of the things we can do is connect students with tutors. We can also look at how overwhelming the classes may be. If it is towards the beginning of the school year, we look at reducing the workload by, maybe, going down to an honors level class.”

According to McKechnie, students should not feel obligated to take AP level courses because it is the norm, or to fit in with their friends and classmates.

“I think there is a lot of pressure in this building to take everything at an AP or [gifted and talented] level, so we want to explain to students ‘It’s okay, you don’t have to do everything at an AP level,’” McKechnie added. “Do the classes you are good at, and the ones that you love, at a higher level. You don’t have to do everything.”

McKechnie also mentioned that AP classes are not mandatory and that students can still be successful without them.

“Kids get into Harvard and really good colleges without having several AP classes on their transcripts,” McKechnie said.

McKechnie provided some advice to help these students avoid stress and to become more well-rounded.

“I think students should have something outside of academics, so they are not overtaxed with a lot of APs,” McKechnie shared. “Students should give themselves time to participate in other things like clubs and sports because colleges will look at that as well.”

Ellen Mauser, another guidance counselor at Centennial High School, detailed what she thinks is essential in order to maintain a healthy school life.

“I’ve been stressing balance [to students]. I think that is key for student well-being,” Mauser added. “If they can find balance within their schedule, they have less of a chance to be anxious and stressed.”

Advanced Placement classes have their pros and cons. Although APs can prepare students for the college world and allow incoming freshmen to jump into their desired majors, they can potentially cause more stress and impact the work and school balance. Because there is not one set number of APs someone should take, students can experiment in different courses to see where their interests lie and even consider taking certain classes at a higher level. The question may not be, “how many APs is too many?” rather: “what is the right amount for me?”

To read this article in the March print issue click here.

For more breaking news and photos, follow The Wingspan on Instagram and Twitter @CHSWingspan.

A Day in the Life of Mr. Anderson

Words: Celina Wong

Captions & Photos: Jordyn Blanken, Liam Lovering, and Keith Hitzelberger

The Story Behind the Story: Photojournalists Reflect

Three photojournalists, Jordyn Blanken, Liam Lovering, and Keith Hitzelberger have recently conducted a photo essay that detailed the daily work of Centennial High School’s head custodian, Allen Anderson. Following the publication of this piece, these photojournalists detail the motivation and background behind this essay, as well as what they hope the school can learn from it.

“We [needed] someone to photograph and follow, and we chose Mr. Anderson,” Blanken explains. “We followed him for the full day and recorded everything he did and everyone he had contact with.”

Lovering also addresses the inspiration behind choosing Anderson as the topic of their piece.

“His job is fairly unique because he interacts with teachers, the faculty, and students, but at the same time, he helps maintain the school, and acts as a security officer,” Lovering explains. “He’s kind of like a Renaissance man at the school.”

Hitzelberger adds what challenges they faced as they were conducting this day in the life.

“We had to figure out who could miss what classes— and of course— who could show up at six in the morning,” Hitzelberger mentioned. “After that, we had to figure out how to capture his main job, which is keeping the school running.”

The team also documented the aftermath of vandallism within the school.

“We saw vandallism in the bathroom and someone might not have thought about it, but [Anderson] has to take time out of his day to clean the bathroom,” Lovering said. “He wanted to go home early to Christmas shop for his kids, but instead he had to clean up after [some student].”

After publishing this essay, Blanken explains what she hopes the school will learn from this.

“I want people to realize that the school is not a trash can,” Blanken said. “We have to take care of the school that we walk into every day. I want people to have respect for the building and for Mr. Anderson.”

Arriving at 6:12 in the morning, Mr. Anderson is one of the first people to enter the building.  During this time, before many people enter the building, he completes his morning routine of the school security check and ensures that the temperature of the school is acceptable.  He also spends time unlocking all of the classrooms of the teachers that are absent.

As students begin to arrive at 7:10 AM, and the day begins to unfold, Mr. Anderson uses this time to fix any minor issues that arise, such as checking the temperature and replacing a chair. He also checks his schedule for the day, signs off for packages in the front office, and returns a student’s pass for absence that was found in the hallway.

At 9:25 AM, Mr. Anderson prepares the cafeteria for lunch, ensuring that all tables are in place and that facilities are working properly.  During lunch, he stays in the cafeteria and monitors all students, while also performing any and all tasks that are needed.

After lunch until about 12:45 PM, Mr. Anderson is in the cafeteria cleaning the tables and floors. At 12:49 PM, he goes to student services and the culinary arts rooms to be sure that nobody needs any assistance.

While Mr. Anderson is monitoring the hallway, he receives a call informing him that he will be getting a dog. He quickly shares the good news with Principal Dillon and Resource Officer Carneal along with showing them a picture of the dog.

Mr. Anderson heads back to the cafeteria to finish cleaning. At 1:03 PM, he receives a call telling him that there was an act of vandalism in a bathroom. He goes to see the damage and finds that someone has draped paper towels around the bathroom and has partially torn out a metal plate from the wall that protects high voltage wires.

Mr. Anderson spends the end of his day sweeping the floor, wiping down the tables and taking out the trash. He then waits for his night staff to arrive for their daily briefing regarding after-school activities and what needs to be completed that night.

For more breaking news and photos, follow The Wingspan on Instagram and Twitter @CHSWingspan.

The Teachers’ Perspective on the Lack of Resources

Words: Celina Wong

Throughout Howard County, there has been a spike in overcrowdedness of high schools. At Centennial High School, there is an evident change in the student population. Hallways are filled, the cafeteria is packed, and many new portables are acting as additional classrooms. Teachers are now starting to notice this overpopulation because of their lack of resources.

“I’ve been pretty lucky this year with books for my classes this year, but I know the numbers at Centennial are going up, so it is a concern,” said Jeremy Whitaker, current World History AP and honors teacher.

Whitaker notes that this has had a major impact throughout the social studies department at the school. Recently, teachers have resorted to photocopying sections of their books and uploading them online.

“I know photocopying doesn’t really seem to be very efficient or very cost effective. It’s very expensive to photocopy a textbook,” explained Whitaker.

Staff members have also begun utilizing previous editions of the textbook in order to account for the large influx of students.

“[Teachers] have also resorted to using old, outdated books. I’ve seen teachers pulling books that haven’t been in circulation for 15 years, so that the kids have enough resources to roughly follow along,” stated Whitaker.

One successful solution that the social studies department has adapted is borrowing books from other schools.

“I’ve reached out to other schools in the past and some of the World History books are from Atholton or Wilde Lake,” said Whitaker.

Lauren Mancini, a freshman and senior English teacher, has experienced this deficit in another way: supplies in the classroom. This ranges from the posters on the walls to the pens on the desks. Although this differs between each classroom, teachers are now in a compromising position to pick and choose what they truly are in need of.

“Sometimes, it comes down to a choice between supplies and books,” stated Mancini.

The school has recently received new computers to use in classes. These have replaced some outdated and faulty laptops.

“We just got Chromebooks, so there obviously is a lag between when we need something and when we get it,” Mancini explained.

Despite these setbacks, both teachers feel as though their responsibilities lie with making sure they are doing their best to help their students, as well as respecting the county.

“My responsibility is to be the best advocate I can for the kids,” Whitaker said, “I think it’s my job to provide for my students, as well as properly represent the county.”

For more breaking news and photos, follow The Wingspan on Instagram and Twitter @CHSWingspan.

Through a Tiebreaker, Centennial Cross Country Captures the Howard County Invitational Title

Words: Celina Wong

On September 8, 2018, the Centennial Girls Cross Country team scored big by beating Howard High School in a tiebreaker, securing the Howard County Invitational title.

In cross country, the top five runners are considered to be ‘scoring runners.’ Whatever place each runner earns tallies up into a total point value. During this race, the top five runners from both Centennial and Howard had the same total score.

Centennial’s sixth runner, junior, Apoorva Ajith, broke the tie score of 65 points, beating Howard’s sixth runner by a mere six seconds.

“I was elated,” said Ajith about the win. “I was proud of my team and myself and just happy I made a difference to help the team win.”

Ajith explained how this title sets the tone for the rest of the season.

“I think this [win] shows how serious we are about the state title and it really boosted morale for us to just keep pushing.”

Senior captain, Cora Blount, commented on how the underclassmen will perform next year without the support of the seniors.

“I think it will be hard for the underclassmen because they’ve had us on the team since freshman year, but the juniors will be able to fulfill the role.”

The girls also competed on the iconic Bull Rull course on September 22. Blount and Alison Betler placed 12th and 19th, respectively. Overall, the girls scored 217 points and placed 8th. Centennial High School will continue to fight for their spot in the county at a tri-meet on Wednesday, October 17, at River Hill High School.

For more breaking news and photos, follow The Wingspan on Instagram and Twitter @CHSWingspan.

Spirit Week: Seniors vs. Freshmen Perspective

Words: Celina Wong

From Monday, September 24, to Friday, September 28, Centennial High School students show their school pride by participating in spirit week. The week is designated for students to celebrate homecoming by dressing up in different themes on each day. The freshmen and the seniors lend their perspectives on how spirit week is for them.

Spirit week is always a highly anticipated week because it offers a break from the regular routine.

“Without spirit week and extracurriculars, school just feels like education. Spirit week makes high school three dimensional,” said senior Alana Germroth.

Seniors set the tone for the school and an example for the underclassmen. Germroth feels that seniors have a significant impact during this iconic week.

“As seniors, I feel like we have to be role models and encourage other people in all grades to do it,” Germroth noted.

For the freshmen, spirit week is a whole new world that they did not experience in middle school.

“We didn’t have spirit week days that were planned out by the school, but now that we’re in high school, we have that opportunity and we want to take it,” stated freshman Michelle Hershfeld and Sarah Arcuri.

This year, a group of freshmen have decided to participate in an alternative spirit week. Student Government Association (SGA) President, Stacy Lee, commented on the most controversial day, gender switch day.

“I definitely don’t think it’s a great idea, but it comes down to you do what you want to do. [SGA] just wants to emphasize that we want people to be respectful to certain groups.”

Seniors are examples for the rest of the school, while freshmen are experiencing a whole new world. Around the school, it is easy to see people, from freshmen to seniors, dressed up in pajamas, or Hawaiian shirts, and especially in their class colors in order to show their school pride.

For more breaking news and photos, follow The Wingspan on Instagram and Twitter @CHSWingspan.