All hands on deck

Faculty pull together to work with students in teacher’s absence


Lily Dean

Mole Day festivities heat up as Dr. Bill McIlwee, Science teacher and Madeline Petry, Honors Chemistry student, ignite the methane and soap bubbles on Chemistry student Grayson Henry’s hands, Oct. 23.

**Updated Feb. 2.

With finals rapidly approaching, 118 Chemistry, Honors Chemistry and Qualitative and Organic Chemistry students find themselves without a teacher.

Dr. Bill Mcllwee, Science teacher, has been gone for the past 11 days.

“He is on personal leave with the knowledge of central office, which is proper protocol,” Mr. Charlie Crouther, interim head principal, said. “He is in good health. There is nothing wrong with Dr. Mcllwee.”

His absence has been felt.

“Everyone is really bummed about it in my class,” Rebecca Newton, Chemistry student, said. “A lot of kids, including me, would stay after and have a study group to learn things in different ways, but we can’t do that with subs, especially if they do not know the content. It is making topics harder to re-learn for the final.”

Over the past two weeks, Dr. Mcllwee’s chemistry classes have been manned by a different substitute teacher every day.

“We haven’t really gotten that much stuff done because they have just given us worksheets, Rachel Altice (10) said. “Nobody is really working. Nobody has really been there to help us.”

Mr. Crouther spoke to these chemistry classes, Dec. 11, informing the students that their grades have been frozen as of Dec. 3.  Any work assigned after Dec. 4 will not affect the students’ grades; however, any make-up work, labs or assignments prior to Dec. 4 are expected to be completed and will be counted. Mr. Andrew Ribbing and Mrs. Beth Demarest, Chemistry teachers, have stepped in to grade those assignments.

Mr. Ribbing declined to be interviewed.

Any information that Dr. Mcllwee did not present to his students in person will not be included in the final exam, Mr. Crouther said. Students are not being held responsible for the information they have not yet been taught.

“It is really hard to review for the final with subs that don’t know the answers to the questions you are asking,” Newton said. “Even though they are taking things off the final that we would have learned if he had been here, it is still weird to study the past material.”

Mr. Crouther worked with Mr. Ribbing and Mrs. Demarest to address student needs.

“I was worried up until Dec. 7 because after that point, we developed a plan. The only worry as of now is his return,” Mr. Crouther said. “I want him back in the classroom with his students. He knows his stuff. He is an excellent teacher, and the kids adore him. They are very concerned about him. I had one girl ask me about him in the Commons, and I thought she was going to cry. I want him back for the students first and foremost and then for EHS.”

Erik Gospodarski, Chemistry student, misses his teacher.

“Mac was a fun and great teacher,” Gospodarski said. “He was also really good at helping students in any way he could. He was always answering all of our questions, but he wouldn’t just give us the answer, he would help us get the answer ourselves.”

Not only does Dr. Mcllwee teach his class, he takes notice of individual needs.

“Whenever I would take a test, Mac would have a little Play-Doh thing that he would give me,” Newton said. “My hand shakes during tests, so he would give it to me to help the shaking. Any sub would look at me weird for it, so taking the final without it is going to make things more nerve-wracking.”  

EHS awaits the return of Dr. Mcllwee.

“He could be back in five minutes,” Mr. Crouther said. “He could be back Wednesday. He could be back Friday. He could be back, Jan. 4 or 5. We don’t know. When he gets done wrapping up business, he will be back.”

The Hub contacted Dr. McIlwee by email requesting an interview, Dec. 14. Dr. McIlwee never responded to the request. This story will be updated if or when that interview is conducted.

Dr. McIlwee returned to work last week, Jan. 28.**