Houghton astounded by rigor, atmosphere of competition at CHS

Distinction between school districts is prominent


Megan Winkle

Jonathan Houghton leads a periodic table bingo activity in his second period PreAP/GT chemistry class. This is his first year teaching in Coppell.

You wake up at 5 a.m. to gather your lesson plans and your laptop. You drive along seemingly endless roads for over an hour to enter Millsap, Texas where the population barely hits 400 people.

Finally, you see a small building, your school, appear in front of you.

This was a daily routine for Jonathan Houghton, Chemistry and PreAP/GT Chemistry teacher, who taught at a district in Millsap, Texas before coming to Coppell High School.

“I taught 63 miles west of where I lived so it was an hour and 10 minute commute each day.” Houghton said.

As he entered Coppell High School, Houghton was surrounded by more students, more teachers and a busier atmosphere.

“[At Millsap] the school just turned 3A [UIL classification] and the graduating classes were only around 50 students,” Houghton said.

Houghton immediately notices the distinctive, competitive nature of Coppell students.

“The voracity for GPA is much more intense here, mainly because the top 10 percent here is severe to the extent that you can only fit the top five percent in a picture,” Houghton said. “In my last school, it was only four or five kids. If you weren’t in those top four or five apathy set in, because you realize there is not a possibility to get top 10 percent.”

These differences can be summed up in a stark contrast between the students’ aspirations at the two schools.

“Students were happy with getting an A there, while here, students are happy with a 97,” Houghton said.

While Houghton only teaches PreAP/GT classes as opposed to more intensive AP or IB courses he still believes there are significant levels of competition.

“That trend transcends into all classes. Whether its GT, honors, regular, I feel like students have that emphasis on grades,” he said.

Houghton agrees that this level of motivation can induce stress, but overall he believes it is a positive thing.

“It’s good for the teachers.” Houghton said. “The students give amazing constructive feedback. Our [teachers’] jobs are much easier because we know how to help the students. [Additionally] I don’t have to waste time with foundations, it opens up a lot of free time for me to hand out activities that are student led.”

He also has noticed an extremely organized administration with various levels of responsibility delegated to the staff.

“As a whole, it very organized, because of all the subdivisions,” Houghton said. “We have our teams, our science dean, our subject instructional coach, a chemistry team lead. It’s an organized set up where we get fluent communication easier than my last school.”

Amy Snyder, AP and Honors Chemistry teacher, appreciates all that Houghton brings to department.

“He brings in energy,” Snyder said. “He brings in lots of ways to use technology to get information across to the kids. [He has fit in] perfectly. He has a great sense of humor and is really good at keeping things in perspective.”

Houghton decided to change parts of his teaching style to provide the challenge that Coppell students need.

“I do a lot more hands-on here, mainly because the students are more equipped with technology skills and basic foundations,” Houghton said.

Sophomore Veena Praveen enjoys Houghton’s innovative ideas.

“He is an enthusiastic teacher,” Praveen said. “He doesn’t teach straight out of the textbook. Instead, he comes up with games, activities and stories that help you understand concepts.”

Houghton’s observations allowed him to slowly become accustomed to Coppell culture. Now, a visitor would most likely not even notice that Houghton is new to the school.