How Has Our School Changed Over Time? “We’ve definitely made progress.”


Image Credit: Ruby I

Lydia R, Journalist

This year, Ottoson is turning 100 years old. Many things have changed since the school first opened. Ms. Duke, the ACE teacher, who has been teaching at Ottoson since 1997, has noticed some changes in the school.

One thing that has changed at Ottoson over the years is classes and electives. “There was woodshop instead of what we would say, tech ed,” Ms. Duke said when asked about classes. Unlike now, computer science was not offered when Duke began teaching. “There wasn’t any Mandarin,” she added. Only French, Latin, and Spanish were offered as languages. Art, FACS, and music were the same, but one thing that has changed was that Drama used to be a course required for everyone to take. “A lot of kids liked that,” Duke mentions. 

When things like hate speech and vandalism were brought up, Duke said that people didn’t necessarily talk about what was going on. “What would happen, not that people thought it was okay, but people would just clean it off or paint over it,” she says. Duke also feels that we have made progress in the LBTGQ+ department. “I don’t think it was as much negative as just not being talked about, which in some sense, of course, makes it negative,” she explains. “If there’s not that support or that kind of recognition.”

Duke has also seen an increase in diversity over the years she has been teaching. People from different ethnicities have moved to Arlington, which has made Ottoson more diverse. Duke believes that this has raised people’s consciousness about different ethnicities, and made people more aware of unconscious bias. 


Technology is another thing that people believe has impacted Ottoson over time. “I didn’t grow up with the technology that some of the younger teachers did,” Duke says. Although she believes that there is so much more information available quickly with technology, she also thinks that kids learn better most times when working with paper and pencil. “Cell phones can be a distraction…and again they can be a great help.” Duke talks about how as she comes around as a teacher, students are clearly switching tabs between their work and other off topic activities.”I don’t think any teachers like to be the police officers for that, but then again that’s probably true with anything,” she says. 

When onto the topic of activities and clubs, Duke says that when she first started teaching, there were more teams. Some of those teams included a hockey team, basketball team, and a football team. “In terms of what was offered, I think a lot just depends on the teacher’s interests.” She explains that things like chess club, choral groups, and art club have stayed around for quite a while, while other clubs, such as newspaper and cross country, are newer. “There was a period where environmental stuff was big…and being involved with recycling a lot.” She also adds how kids have started clubs, like the Dungeons and Dragons club, a debate group, and the newspaper club. Things like clubs come and go, depending on people’s interests.


As it turns out, the Ottoson building itself and the ages of its students have changed over time. Duke said that when she first started teaching in 1997, sixth grade was still in elementary school, and the seventh and eighth graders were at the highschool, due to a renovation happening at Ottoson. “What’s now the eighth grade area was all added on,” Duke remarked. The hallway that currently holds classes like ACE, Computer science, and art were all added on as well. Duke says that when the seventh and eighth graders came back from the high school was also when the sixth graders moved to the Ottoson. The sixth graders left again a couple years ago to go to Gibbs. “When the school originally started, it was built for seventh, eighth, and ninth.” Duke remembers that ninth graders left the school around 1960.  


Duke also says that another thing that has changed about Ottoson is the learning communities. The LC’s used to have numbers, instead of words, to define them. “People decided that cluster is kind of a name that doesn’t really mean much,” she says. Duke says that Ottoson changed it to a Learning Community, which gave it more of a focus than the word “cluster” gave. 

Duke also believes that she’s seen a change in the role of guidance counselors. She has seen how guidance counselors used to be there just to help students with academic problems or issues with their schedule. “They’ve changed to be more counselors in general,” she says, referring to how guidance counselors now help with all kinds of problems, both academic and social-emotional.


While a lot of Ottoson has stayed the same, a lot has also changed. Looking into Ottoson’s history is a great way to make sure we don’t forget what our school used to be, and what it has become.