21 years is a long time to go to high school. But that is how long I have been a part of the Hilliard Darby High School community. As of this year, I am now a graduate from both the personal and professional privilege and honor of a lifetime.
In 1996, I was asked to be a part of a small but mighty group of teachers and administrators, who would be, literally, building from the ground up the second high school in Hilliard, Ohio. We started with designated freshmen and sophomores in the “old” Hilliard High School, the “new Transition Building”, and spent the year dreaming, designing, and planning for our new Hilliard Darby High School as it was being built. Being a part of an original teaching staff opening a brand new school is an experience not to be replicated. With our students, we made decisions on our school colors, our school mascot, our school fight song, inaugural traditions, and much, much more. We were a small close-knit group, some of us brand new teachers, full of energy and optimism; some of us seasoned, with a sense of commitment and renewed hope. We all had a sense of pride and family within the community we were creating.
When Darby opened its doors in the fall of 1997, I was an intervention specialist, working with students with special needs. I had a unique position of working with my students and families for multiple years. I had the privilege of watching young, struggling children mature into self advocates who knew their strengths and weaknesses. I was with those kids at Darby as they learned hard lessons about themselves, from taking responsibility and ownership for poor choices, to tearful, hard earned, proud Darby Graduation Days. I was and am so grateful be a part of these kids’ lives everyday.
As my teaching career began to evolve into a shared school and district administrative role, the first of my own four boys became a Panther along side me. At Darby, I watched and walked beside him as he had his own share of disappointments and growing pains, finding his passions and sharing his gifts. As all teenagers do, he struggled to find that balance between security and independence. For the past fifteen years, as each Cochran boy, one after another, walked through the halls of Darby High School, I supported and honored their growth, perseverance, achievements, and autonomy. Helping with team meals, chaperoning, fundraising, practicing, tutoring, and cheering, the sense of family and Panther Pride never left me.
My four boys didn’t follow in each other’s footsteps at Darby High School. They each forged their own paths to become the men they are today. Together, we experienced class projects, homework, exams, girlfriends, ex-girlfriends, baseball games, cross country meets, volleyball tournaments, high school musicals, drama programs, athletic events for which Cochran Spirit Leaders led the crowds of Panther Nation cheering for one another, and countless orchestra, band, and choir concerts.
The one true love for all four boys was one period each day at Darby, one 47-minute period for 15 years: an inclusive community of voices in Dr. Michael Martin’s class. High school turmoil, stress, drama, and anxiety were erased as harmonious voices joined their hearts and souls together under the direction of Dr. Martin. Throughout the years as I listened to those young voices raised together as one voice, they have never failed to move me. The profound depth to which these musical experiences has impacted and changed each of my boys’ lives can never be measured in time or words.
Hope for our future is walking the hallways of, not only Hilliard Darby High School, but in high schools across our nation. Kids today are kinder, more aware, more resilient, and more responsive than ever before. How grateful and honored am I to have spent nearly half my life, being an integral part of daily living and learning amongst teenagers at home and in the halls of Hilliard Darby High.
“With heart and voice we raise, Our Alma Mater true…Time will not erase our love for Hilliard Darby High.”
I am proud to continue to work in the Hilliard City School District, and I will always keep Darby in a special place in my heart.