Seeing double: teachers with children at Whitman


Student Mary Claire Hisle and math teacher Ralph Hisle both attend Whitman. This was the Hisles’ last year in the same school. Photo courtesy Mary Claire Hisle.

By Anna Labarca

As the bell rings and students rush to leave for their next class, sophomore Tommy Rhodes meets his friends to go to lunch. Walking down the hall, Tommy quickly pops into Laura Rhodes’s classroom: “Hey mom, what’s going on today?”

For many students, the thought of being with their family every moment of the day is unusual or off-putting. But for a select few, it’s their reality. In addition to the Rhodes duo, there are five other teachers with children at Whitman: math teachers Ralph Hisle and Michelle Holloway, psychology teacher Marisa Del Savio, environmental science teacher Kelly Garton and engineering teacher Rachel Stender.

Although some students actively look for times to see their parents—like having lunch together—students with parents at Whitman generally don’t have to spend much extra time with them thanks to the busy school day.

Still, being a student at the same school as a parent has unique benefits. Laura Rhodes couldn’t think of a disadvantage to having a child at Whitman. When she came to Whitman from Churchill in 2016, transportation became much more convenient, she said.

“My daughter was here and my son was at Pyle at the time when I was at Churchill,” Laura Rhodes said. “So it was a lot harder to mobilize to get out of school and then get to where I needed to be.”

Whitman doesn’t permit teachers’ children to be in their class to avoid possible favoritism, unless a teacher is the only one at the school who teaches a certain subject. Such was the case with junior Katie Stender-Moore, as Rachel Stender was the only teacher for some of Katie’s engineering electives.

“I had her freshman year, I was her teacher assistant sophomore year and I have her again his year,” Katie Stender-Moore said. “I really like having her as a teacher because we’re really close, so it’s not awkward at all.”

Although having a close relationship with their children in class may not create bias, teachers still have to be cautious not to treat their children’s friends any differently.

“I’ve had kids that I know from outside—from sports and things like that—who have been in my classes,” Ralph Hisle said. “You have to treat everybody you know very equitably so that you’re not showing bias to one person or the other.”

Having a parent at school also means that teachers expect more from him, and he has to be more on top of his schoolwork, Tommy Rhodes said.

In the end, however, having a child at Whitman has strengthened their father-daughter relationship, Ralph Hisle said.

“I enjoy having Claire here; we get along very well,” Ralph Hisle said. “We have extra time to spend together. At first I was worried, people had said ‘Oh it might be hard,’ but it has been totally wonderful.”