The student news site of Stone Bridge High School

The Bulldog Tribune

The student news site of Stone Bridge High School

The Bulldog Tribune

The student news site of Stone Bridge High School

The Bulldog Tribune

Bulldogs Teach Bulldogs

Alumni Return as Faculty

The school has changed a great deal in its 25 year history, with generations of faces circulating through the halls. Many former students have returned to the building as teachers and are a living testament to both the shifting culture of our community and the timeless impact of one’s high school experience. 

Of the many student-to-teacher graduates, few predicted they would return to their high school later in life. However, it’s this very circumstance that allows staff members such as Mr. Joshua Smialek, Mrs. Caroline Marks, and Mr. Matthew Sarmiento to have a special ability to empathize with students who are experiencing parts of what these teachers once knew.  

“I knew I wanted to teach, [but] I did not realize it would be here,” administrator Mr. Smialek said. “Having been in these same classrooms and with some of these same teachers, I think it helps me connect with some of the issues in Ashburn. Even though the pressures of our community have intensified since I was here, I understand what it’s like to grow up in this area, and it helps me connect with students and understand what they might be going through.”

The overarching academic pressure and competition in the Northern Virginia area referenced is an aspect of the Stone Bridge experience that nearly all of the alumni recall from their teenage years. 

“Having grown up in this community, it’s a pretty unique experience,” theater director Mrs. Marks said. “I think anxiety is the number one way that I can relate to current Stone Bridge students because I remember that feeling. Everything is so fast paced here. Expectations are so high and it’s definitely caused me to be more empathetic to students and what they’re going through.” 

During Mrs. Marks’s senior year, she was president of the theater department and nominated for Best Leading Actress in the “Seussical,” which brought about the stressful challenges that many are so familiar with. The school has come a long way, though, in its acknowledgement of anxiety and mental health, and it’s just one of the changes student-to-staff members cite of the changes to school culture.

“Classes are definitely bigger now,” English teacher Mr. Sarmiento said. “I think most of my classes were twenty students at the most. We also didn’t have a senior class the first year, so it felt especially empty. But, it was cool because I was a junior when the school first opened so we were top class for two years.”

Mr. Sarmiento was a member of the “Bulldog Tribune” and worked on the school yearbook when he was in high school and fittingly now teaches AP Literature and English 9H to current generations of Bulldogs. Yet, higher enrollment numbers is one of the more minor changes to the school since its opening. This is especially true when considering the vast technological strides that have occurred in recent years. 

“High school teachers didn’t have a digital grading system at all,” Mrs. Marks said. “Teachers used a calculator and a book…If you wanted to know your grade, you had to call the school and talk to your teacher during their planning to find out or leave a voicemail, and then the teacher would leave a voicemail back on their answering machine.”

With rapidly advancing technology steadily becoming more available throughout Loudoun County, it seems unthinkable that all of the modern conveniences like StudentVUE weren’t available until recently. Still, high school provided former students an opportunity to explore their passions and discover themselves. In Mr. Smialek’s case, this exploration happened through an impactful service trip.

“[Hurricane] Katrina hit that August leading into my senior year so we ended up doing a service trip to New Orleans.” Mr. Smialek said. “There were still houses that had been washed off of their foundations and sitting in the middle of roadways. Seeing what they went through puts the advantages of what you have in perspective especially when seeing how much they had lost.”

During the school’s service trip to New Orleans, Mr. Smialek toured the LSU campus where he later attended college. Mr. Smialek went on to work as a teacher at Belmont Ridge Middle School for five years before working for Stone Bridge once the opportunity arose.

Many of the experiences and opportunities that the teacher alumni enjoyed throughout high school influenced their career trajectory. At the end of the day, high school is about having fun, academically thriving, and making special memories. 

Having grown up in this community, it’s a pretty unique experience. Expectations are so high and it’s definitely caused me to be more empathetic to students and what they’re going through.

“Our principal was this older, southern gentleman, and he was very strict about dress codes,” Mrs. Marks said. “He would get on the announcements every morning and say Stone Bridge is not a beach. For our senior prank, we bought a bunch of sand and emptied it in the parking lot and we set up lawn chairs and beach umbrellas. We were grilling hot dogs and hamburgers, and we just had a beach party for the whole day.”

Mr. Smialek, Mrs. Marks, and Mr. Sarmiento were only a few of the teacher alumni at Stone Bridge including Mr. Muoka Musau, Mrs. Catherine Donovan and Mrs. Hailey Corpe. All teacher alumni are part of the lucky few who have had the opportunity to relive their high school experiences and share their insights with the new generations of Bulldog students. 

About the Contributor
Bridget Lockett
Bridget Lockett, Staff Writer
Bridget Lockett is a sophomore. She loves writing for the Cappies critic team and is excited for her first year on the "Bulldog Tribune". Outside of writing, Bridget enjoys debate, playing saxophone and drums, and rowing on the crew team. Her favorite book is Anne of Green Gables.