Walt Whitman High School (Bethesda, Maryland)

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Walt Whitman High School
WW Shield color.jpg
7100 Whittier Boulevard Bethesda, Maryland, United States
Coordinates 38°58′53″N 77°07′33″W / 38.981447°N 77.12574°W / 38.981447; -77.12574Coordinates: 38°58′53″N 77°07′33″W / 38.981447°N 77.12574°W / 38.981447; -77.12574
Type Public Secondary
Motto Pride + Determination = Success
Established 1962
School district Montgomery County Public Schools
Principal Dr. Alan Goodwin
Grades 9–12
Enrollment 1,928 (2011–2012)
Campus Suburban
Color(s) Black, White, and Columbia blue               
Mascot Viking
Nickname WWHS
Newspaper The Black & White
Yearbook 'Saga'
Information 301-320-6600

Walt Whitman High School is a public secondary institution serving roughly the western part of Bethesda—an unincorporated suburban area of Washington, D.C., in Montgomery County, in the U.S. state of Maryland. The school is named in honor of the American poet. It is fed into by Thomas W. Pyle Middle School.


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The school opened in the fall of 1962 with 1,418 students. It was built on 17 levels, with a center courtyard and a geodesic dome for its gymnasium until renovation in 1992. A Ford Foundation grant underwrote the design and construction of the dome.

During the first school year, Broadway composer and lyricist Meredith Willson visited the school to assist teacher Monica McMindes with her production of The Music Man, which was his creation. In 1981, a 1,200-seat auditorium was added to the school. Dr. Daryl Shaw served as the inaugural principal from 1962 until 1975. Dr. Jerome Marco was principal from 1975 until his retirement in 2004. Currently, the Principal is Dr. Alan Goodwin, who was Assistant Principal for several years before taking his current post.

Five elementary schools feed Thomas W. Pyle Middle School, which in turn feeds to Walt Whitman. The elementary schools are Wood Acres, Bannockburn, Burning Tree, Carderock Springs, and Bradley Hills. The Bethesda area is served both by Whitman High School and Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, one of the biggest rivalries in the state. In 2008, Newsweek ranked Whitman at #69 on its "Best High Schools in America" list. In 2009, U.S. News & World Report ranked Whitman as the #44 best school nationwide on its list of "America's Best High Schools." As of 2014, U.S News & World Report ranked Whitman #1 in the state of Maryland.

The Black & White[edit]

The Black & White is a national, regional and state award-winning newspaper that is entirely student-run and independently financed. In addition to informing students, teachers, parents and community members of relevant issues and events, it also provides an open forum for exchanging ideas. It was established in 1961 and produces nine issues each academic year. The newspaper was inducted into the National Scholastic Press Association Hall of Fame in 1991. In 2001, the staff of the Black & White collaborated to launch the Spectator, a supplementary paper covering sports features and recreation. The Spectator ended production in 2012. The newspaper has gathered numerous national awards for its print edition as well as its website, Black & White Online, which won the NSPA Online Pacemaker Award in 2012. The Black & White currently has over 60 staff members (print and online positions included), including photographers, graphic artists, business and advertising managers.

Performing arts[edit]


The Choral Music department contains 5 regular ensembles and smaller chamber groups. The Chamber Choir has been regularly recognized as one of the top groups on the East Coast for many years. Like the Instrumental Music department, the Choral Music department regularly wins straight 1's ("Superior"—highest rating) for Level VI (most advanced) choral arrangements in county, state, and national competitions. The Walt Whitman Music department performs two annual concerts, a winter concert, and a spring concert held at Whitman's "Festival of the Arts." In 2009, the Chamber Choir was invited to perform with the Washington Chorus at Strathmore Performing Arts Center and at the Kennedy Center.

Students regularly represent Whitman in honor ensembles and area youth orchestras including Maryland Classic Youth Orchestras (MCYO) and the American Youth Philharmonic Orchestras (AYP). The Whitman Jazz Ensemble also provides community outreach, presenting biannual concerts and performing at community events. The Music Department takes its large performing ensembles on an annual spring trip to a music festival in the United States or in Canada, past destinations including Boston, Chicago, Toronto and Orlando. Every year, instrumental ensembles travel to the Montgomery County Festival and the Maryland State Festival. In 2009, the Symphonic Orchestra and Wind Ensemble earned straight ones in both festivals. The Instrumental Department also fields a pep band, marching band, and drum-line.

In April 2010, the Walt Whitman Music Department performed at Carnegie Hall in Manhattan. Participating groups included Treble Chorale, Advanced Women's Ensemble, Men's Chorus, Chamber Choir, Advanced Strings, Symphonic Orchestra, Symphonic Band, Wind Ensemble, and Jazz Band.


Whitman Drama's department is an award winning theater department that produces a fall musical (with a student Pit orchestra), a winter play, and a student-directed talent show in the spring. The home of the theatre program, the Daryl Shaw Auditorium, holds 1,176 seated audience members. The school is a member of the Critics and Awards Program for High School Students (Cappies) National Capital Area and has been nominated for and won several awards at the annual Gala. In June 2008, Whitman was awarded the Cappie award "Best Musical" for its production of Aida. In June 2010, the school was awarded the award for "Best Play" for its production of Amadeus. In 2012 the department received 10 Cappies nominations for its production of Frankenstein. Cappies were won for stage crew, lights, sound, special effects, and set design.

In 2007, Whitman Drama was recognized as one of the top 50 American high school drama programs by the American High School Theater festival and invited to perform at the International Fringe Festival, Edinburgh Scotland in August 2008. 17 Whitman students traveled to Scotland to perform their production of Jason Robert Brown's "Songs For a New World". In 2011, Whitman Drama returned to the Edinburgh Fringe under the company name Ophiuchus Rising to perform The Laramie Project.

Speech and Debate Team[edit]

The Walt Whitman Speech and Debate Team was recognized as one of the top 5 in the nation by both the Catholic Forensics League and the National Forensics League in the spring of 2009. The team is composed of over 100 members. The team has won numerous championships including the Yale Invitational, the New York City Invitational, the Bronx Round Robin, Valley, in Des Moines, Iowa, Columbia Invitational, The Glenbrooks, in Illinois, Greenhill, in Texas, Blake, in Minneapolis, and the MBA Round Robin. The team has also appeared in the final round at tournaments such as Harvard, Emory, and the Tournament of Champions. The team attends around 3 local tournaments a month, coupled with around 30 travel tournaments spread all across the country throughout the year. In the 2009 Catholic Forensics League National Championship, a Walt Whitman student team was the runner-up in three different forensics categories. In 2010, Walt Whitman broke historical records by qualifying more than 20 debaters to the Tournament of Champions. The team closed out the Public Forum tournament at TOC in 2014.

Shakespeare Club[edit]

Shakespeare Festival Every other year, Whitman holds a schoolwide "Shakespeare Festival" one day in April honoring Shakespeare's life and his work. The festival is organized by both students and the school's English department.

Productions The Shakespeare Club began producing full, student run productions in the 2007–2008 school year. The first was The Taming of the Shrew, in March 2008, followed by Macbeth in October 2008 and A Midsummer Night's Dream in March 2009. They performed As You Like It in April 2010, and in May 2011 they put on Twelfth Night. All's Well That Ends Well was performed in December 2011.

Role in popular culture[edit]

Walt Whitman High School was the subject of the 2006 best-selling book, The Overachievers. The non-fiction book concerns itself with several students who were members of Whitman's class of 2004, 2005 or 2006. From July 20, 2004 – December 9, 2005, the author, Alexandra Robbins, followed eight Whitman juniors and seniors through their daily lives. It uses the lives of the Whitman students to show pressure in academia and the negative effect in today's society. Robbins is a Whitman alum of the class of 1994.

In 2005, in wake of Hurricane Katrina, a Whitman student and her two younger sisters (Jackie, Melissa and Jenna Kantor) started Project Backpack, an organization which donated backpacks filled with school supplies and toys to displaced children. Project Backpack started with the goal of filling 1,000 backpacks. The sisters worked with their parents, created a website and sent out emails. They told people how to help by donating backpacks and school supplies. Within two weeks, more than 10,000 backpacks were filled with supplies and sent to storm victims. The news about Project Backpack soon spread and over 100 communities across the country gathered supplies to help. More than 50,000 backpacks were sent to hurricane victims. [1] To honor their deed, President Bush invited them to light the National Christmas Tree.

The December 15–22, 2008 edition of U.S. News & World Report, in which the nation's top 100 public high schools were unveiled, featured three Whitman students on the cover.

In April 2009, the school was the site for a protest by the Westboro Baptist Church. Seven members of the church traveled to the school in order to protest the sexual orientation of Walt Whitman, for whom the school was named. The students organized a counter protest, in which over 500 Whitman students and alumni participated. The protest was covered by national media.[2]

Helen Thomas was scheduled for June 2010 to be the commencement speaker at graduation. A few weeks before, she was asked to comment about Israel. She replied, "Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine," and that "they should go home" to Poland, Germany, America and "everywhere else". Thomas subsequently issued an apology on her personal web site, but Principal Alan Goodwin said, in an email to Whitman parents, "Graduation celebrations are not the venue for divisiveness." Thomas was subsequently replaced as speaker by Bob Schieffer.[3]


In 2008, Newsweek ranked Whitman at #69 on its "Best High Schools in America" list.[4]
In 2009, U.S. News & World Report ranked Whitman as the #44 best school nationwide on its list of "America's Best High Schools"[5] In 2014, Whitman was ranked the best high school in Maryland and #61 nationwide. [6]


More than 70% of the student body participate in the athletic program. Students can choose from 16 different varsity sports and several other club sports, such as ice hockey, rowing, and ultimate frisbee.

Athletic Championships

  • Soccer Division 4A State Champions (Boys') — '10
  • Basketball Division 4A State Champions (Boys) — '06
  • Basketball Regional Champions (Boys) - '68, '71, '86, '06, '14 [7]
  • Basketball Division 4A State Champions (Girls) — '95
  • Basketball Regional Champions (Girls) — '79, '93, '94, '95, '07, '13
  • Cross Country Maryland State Champions (Boys') — '70, '86, '88, '90, '91, '92, '95
  • Cross Country — '07, '09
  • Cross Country Montgomery County Champions (Girls') — 2010
  • Cross Country 4A West Regional Champions (Girls')
  • Cross Country Maryland State Champions (Girls') — '90, '91, '92, '10
  • Cross Country- Andrew Palmer won the state championship in '07 and '09
  • Cross Country- Anna Ryba won the state championship '10
  • Cross Country- Caroline Guiot won the State Championship '11
  • Field Hockey State Finalists —'00 '04
  • Field Hockey Regional Champions (Girls') — '95, '96, '97, '00,'04, '06, '07
  • Washington Area Frisbee Club Champions — '08
  • Golf State Champions- '99,'07 (new state record)
  • Rowing National Capital Champions (Mens' 2nd Varsity 8+) -- 2001
  • Rowing SRAA National Finalist (Mens' Varsity 8+) -- 2001
  • Rowing WMIRA Champions (Girls') — '11
  • Rowing National SRAA Juniors — Silver '12
  • Crew City Champions (Freshman Girls') — '08
  • Crew City Champions, State Champions — '12
  • Rowing State Champions (Girls') — '11, '12
  • Soccer State Champions (Girls') — '85, '86, '92, '04, '13
  • Soccer State Champions (Boys') —
  • Swimming and Diving State Champions (Girls') – '12
  • Swimming and Diving Metros Champions (Girls') – '10, '11
  • Tennis County Champions (Boys') — '07, '08
  • Tennis Division I 1st Place (Boys') — '05, '06, '08
  • Tennis State Champions- '06, '08, '09
  • Tennis Division I 1st Place (Girls') —'08
  • Volleyball State Champions (Girls') — '98
  • Volleyball Regional Champions (Boys') — '03
  • Wrestling State Champions — '05

Notable alumni[edit]


  1. ^ "Project Backpack goes national". Gazette. 
  2. ^ de Vise, Daniel (April 25, 2009). "At Whitman, A Protest Over Poet's Lifestyle". Washington Post. 
  3. ^ Kurtz, Howard (June 8, 2010). "Helen Thomas agrees to bow out as commencement speaker at Walt Whitman High". Washington Post. Retrieved June 7, 2010. 
  4. ^ America's Top Public High Schools
  5. ^ Best High Schools: Gold Medal List
  6. ^ Whitman Named Best Public High School In Maryland | BethesdaNow
  7. ^ http://www.mpssaa.org/assets/1/6/Winter_record_book_Record_Book.pdf

External links[edit]