Every day, math teacher Keary Ryan walks down the third floor hallway to teach his classes, the same hallway he walked down as a student 31 years ago. When engaging in conversations with students in the Bexley Anti-Racism Project, social studies teacher Anna Schottenstein reminisces about her passion for volunteering as a Bexley student. As intervention specialist Kara Whitlatch coaches on the sidelines of a Bexley field hockey game, she is reminded of the team spirit and friendships formed during her time as a Bexley athlete.
While many graduates relocate far and wide for their career, some alumni have the opportunity to relive their Bexley years by teaching at the same school they graduated from.
Ryan said he has always had a passion and talent for math, which inspired him to teach the same courses he took several years ago.
“Math always came easy to me, and I could do it in my head,” Ryan said. “I teach AP Calculus AB and Algebra, both of which I enjoyed taking in high school.”
After teaching around the Columbus area, Ryan said he decided to come back to teach at his high school alma mater.
“I was sort of reluctant at first, but I went for it because I think Bexley is the best school in Columbus,” Ryan said. “It’s a great community with a wonderful school system with wonderful people, and I think it’s the best place to raise kids.”
Schottenstein said that while Bexley has always been a tough school academically, the culture has become more intense due to the pressure and stress students put on themselves.
“We offer more AP classes now compared to when I was in high school, and I think as a result, there’s a culture of ‘I have to take every AP class whether I like the subject or not’ instead of taking the classes you enjoy,” Schottenstein said.
However, Ryan said he thinks academics may be easier now than they used to be. Back then, students were held to higher standards compared to now, he explained.
“There were no office hours, no retakes, no Math Resource Center,” he said. “It was basically sink or swim.”
Whitlatch said the highlight of her high school years was playing on the field hockey team, which led her to become the head coach of the team once she became a teacher.
She said field hockey has become more well-known and more commonly played by high school students.
“We played on a terrible grass field, so the turf now totally changes the sport of field hockey,” Whitlatch said. “Plus, there are a lot more opportunities to play now such as clubs, which didn’t exist when I played in high school.”
She added that quality moments with teammates and the lively team spirit at games inspired her to coach field hockey at Bexley.
“I really wanted to coach at Bexley because I loved the sport and still wanted to be around it,” Whitlatch said. “When I heard a coaching job was available, I thought that would be a great way to get involved with field hockey again.”
Girls powderpuff football was a big deal during Ryan’s high school years, he said. There were tournaments, playmaking and consistent practices, he added.
“I remember when I coached as a junior and we beat the seniors,” Ryan said. “My friends were so excited that they picked me up and carried me onto the field.”
Aside from sports, Whitlatch said one of her favorite activities included planning the Homecoming parade.
“Homecoming has changed a bit since [students] now don’t get to have a parade or play powderpuff, but TPing houses and the school is still a tradition,” she said.
Ryan said he was involved in several other extracurriculars such as Student Council and Vocal Ensemble, as well as clubs.
Schottenstein said she would have loved to have more volunteer-based and social justice clubs in high school, such as BARP and Bexley Sleep Out.
“I wish that there were more clubs based on interest,” she said. “I know that I had a passion for community service.”
Schottenstein said she is grateful that social media wasn’t around when she was in high school because now it makes students feel more left out.
“Social media is very distorted, meaning that people don’t post a lot of bad things, so it looks like everyone around you is constantly doing well when the reality is that’s not the case,” she said. “It can make you feel more isolated, and I think it has a huge impact on students’ confidence and their sense of belonging.”
After teaching at rural and urban schools, Schottenstein said that students need support regardless of the location, which led to her decision to come back and teach at Bexley.
“I went to Bexley as this average student who teachers always thought was happy and doing well, when really I wasn’t,” Schottenstein said.
She explained that she wants to be the teacher that can help the students similar to her and be someone who students can talk to.
“I wanted to open students’ eyes to a world that you don’t necessarily see growing up in our community,” she said.