Teachers Dr. Perry, Mr. Davis and Mrs. Gould have been teaching long enough that some of their students are the children of their former students from their beginning years at RM.
Teachers Dr. Perry, Mr. Davis and Mrs. Gould have been teaching long enough that some of their students are the children of their former students from their beginning years at RM.
Lincoln Reed

After 28 years, teachers who have seen it all weigh in

In the fall of 1996, a group of new teachers joined RM together. Instrumental music teacher Mr. Peter Perry, math teacher Mr. Matthew Davis and photography and digital art teacher Mrs. Kim Gould were among this group, all of them fresh out of college. Today, they have been teaching at RM for 28 years. As they themselves grew as people and teachers, they have watched the RM community grow with them.

“I really do believe it’s one of the greatest places on earth,” Dr. Perry said, who has been the Instrumental Music teacher at RM for the past 28 years. Dr. Perry’s first job out of college was working at RM and he has been here ever since. 

There’s a reason that Dr. Perry hasn’t left—the environment and the diversity. “This is about as cool a diverse place to be and the neat. Everybody’s coming in from a very different point of view, and we can sit down and make music together,” Dr. Perry said.

Dr. Perry has seen RM through many years and has experienced a lot of change during that time. He touches on how he’s grown the program exponentially ever since he first started in 1996. “At this stage in my life and my teaching, I say that RM has both shaped me as much as I’ve shaped the program here,” he said. 

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Since Dr. Perry took his position, all of the instrumental departments have exploded to unprecedented enrollment numbers. “When I came here, we had 20 kids in the band and 15 kids in the orchestra and had about an 11 piece marching band. We’ve been able to grow that to have a program close to 200 people,” Dr. Perry said.

This is about as cool a diverse place to be and the neat. Everybody’s coming in from a very different point of view, and we can sit down and make music together.

— Dr. Peter Perry

Not only has Dr. Perry grown the program here at RM, but he has also grown the strategic tools that he uses in his classroom environment to enhance instruction, specifically the use of technology. He explains how there is a very large disparity between modern technology and how that technology is being utilized in the classroom, whether it be instrumental music or any other subject for that matter. “There’s a vacuous hole in teaching technology in any kind of ensemble teaching, you know, music education, it sort of has its corners,” Dr. Perry said. 

There is a difference between understanding what technology is versus how to properly utilize technology as an effective tool in the classroom for whatever it may be. There are different tools for different subjects, such as writing tools for English and visualization tools for Math. “Hammer those students to start incorporating technology, because this classroom, it’s already a nontraditional classroom in the fact that it’s not rows of chairs,” Dr. Perry said.

Dr. Perry has some general advice for any people considering teaching and what he thinks they should consider before entering the profession. “Teaching is a calling. It’s a lifestyle,” he said. “I think especially in this time in the world, we have a teacher shortage because of some of the misplaced anger people had during the pandemic.” 

Both Dr. Perry and Mr. Davis had obstacles to overcome during their first year, but for different reasons related to teaching.

BC Calculus and Higher Level (HL) IB Math teacher Mr. Davis began teaching at RM when he was 22 years old. 

The first year was the hardest for him, especially because he was hired to RM a week after the school year had started. “Every day I would go home and feel like, ‘Okay, tomorrow I’m going to teach three new lessons that I’ve never taught before,’” he said. “That can be overwhelming day after day.”

However, Mr. Davis is grateful for the support he received from fellow math teachers in his first year. It is common for first-year teachers to be assigned classes that a more senior teacher also instructs, so they have someone to learn from. “The people in the department just sort of took care of the newer people and things went smoother for me because of that,” he said.

With 28 years of experience teaching the same courses over and over, Mr. Davis has gained confidence in his teaching abilities. “I bet I would be amazed if I looked at a video of me from 1996,” he said.

Over the years, Mr. Davis has seen RM grow in both a communal sense and a physical one. Before the current, larger RM building was opened in 2007, the population growth in Rockville was so swift that the old building was overflowing with students. “We had up to 12 portables…we couldn’t even use some of our tennis courts because there were portables on them,” he said.

Mr. Davis has watched many RM traditions come and go. A favorite was the unofficial Friday afternoon softball games in Monument Park with students and other IB teachers in the late 90s. “We ended up having so much fun that we…teachers formed a team and played in City of Rockville or Montgomery County softball leagues,” Mr. Davis said.

Another highlight of RM for Mr. Davis is the classes he teaches. He has taught BC Calculus since 2001, but in May of 2023 he was invited to grade AP exams in Kansas City for the first time. “It was really fun to be a whole bunch of people from around the country who teach the same subject I do, but sometimes in different ways,” he said.

The IB HL Math class Mr. Davis currently teaches was not around when he began teaching. “I like that we sort of created that class here since I’ve been here,” he said.

As students began taking more accelerated math tracks that allowed them space in their senior-year schedules, the class was added to give students the content needed to take the HL math exam. It was first taught in 2008 with eight or nine students. “I remember we ordered a class t-shirt,” Mr. Davis said. “We just had fun figuring out stuff that year.”

However, one of the biggest factors in Mr. Davis’s long career at RM is the math department. Teachers like Laura Goetz and Grace Kim have been teaching alongside Mr. Davis since the beginning of his career, and he values the community the department has created. “Even if [we] weren’t teaching together, we would eat lunch together on Fridays. We would talk to each other about just what else was going on,” Mr. Davis said. “The people I’ve gotten to work with in the math department are…if I didn’t have that I’m sure I would have gone somewhere else.” 

For Mrs. Gould, it is student relationships that have kept her at RM for so long. Mrs. Gould is in her 28th year here at RM; she currently teaches Photography 1-4 along with Digital Art.

Her wedding in 2004 is a prime example of the positive relationships she builds with her students. “At the time, I was coaching cheerleading and some of the kids who were going to be seniors were actually at my wedding,” she said. “And the father of one of the cheerleaders performed [at] my wedding.” 

One of Mrs. Gould’s favorite reasons for having social media is how it has kept her in contact with many of her former students. 

Mrs. Gould also takes inspiration from her students. “I see my students as activists. They have things that are important to them, that matter,” she said. “And they aren’t afraid to stand up and stand for those things.”

One of the hardest things about teaching for Mrs. Gould is dealing with the lack of attendance by students. “I think it’s more frustrating, definitely as a teacher trying to teach when people aren’t here,” she said.

There is also a darker side to working in the public school system that Mrs. Gould dislikes. “The violence, that’s huge. That makes me really sad, I never thought I would be feeling unsafe at my job, ever,” she said.

After working at RM for many years, many things have changed, so Mrs. Gould has had to adapt and evolve with time. Dealing with the proliferation of cell phones in school is one challenge she faces. “Technology was different. Didn’t have to worry so much about ‘Are they on their phones? Are they listening to what’s going on?’” she said. 

Another challenge for Mrs. Gould has been balancing her work-home life. “Trying to balance giving everything to my students and then giving everything to my own children…is pretty much impossible, to be everything to everyone all the time,” she said.

With all of her experience, Mrs. Gould has a lot of useful advice and knowledge to share, especially when it comes to new students and upcoming teachers. “Don’t be afraid to talk to us,” she said. “We’re here because we care and we want to be a positive influence…so find your person, your trusted adult. I know that sounds cheesy but there’s somebody on this staff that you will connect with. But you’ve got to take that first step.”

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