Walter Johnson High School

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Walter Johnson High School
6400 Rock Spring Drive


United States
TypePublic Secondary
School districtMontgomery County Public Schools
PrincipalJennifer Baker
Enrollment2,261 (2014/2015)
Colour(s)White and Green          
MascotWildcat, Mighty Moo
NewspaperThe Pitch
Aerial photograph of WJHS taken during construction on 7 April 2002 – credit USGS.

Walter Johnson High School (WJHS) is a public upper secondary school located at 6400 Rock Spring Drive in Bethesda, Maryland.[1] WJHS serves portions of Bethesda, North Bethesda, and Rockville, as well as the towns of Garrett Park and Kensington.


Walter Johnson High School was founded in 1956 as part of the Montgomery County Public School system (MCPS).[2] The school is named in honor of the late Washington Senators' baseball pitcher, Walter Johnson,[2] who resided in a Bethesda house which still stands just a few miles away from the school on Old Georgetown Road.[citation needed] After retiring from baseball, Walter Johnson became a county commissioner for Montgomery County in 1938.[citation needed]

During the late 1950s and early 1960s, when the outer suburbs of Washington were within five minutes' drive of the Beltway, Walter Johnson was viewed as a "country" or "outer-suburban" school. The school was surrounded by farms and livestock, notably cow herds.[2] Yearbooks indicate that, although at first Walter Johnson's rival high school may have been Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville, Maryland, as early as 1960 a heated rivalry arose between Walter Johnson and Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in Bethesda, which lasted several decades.[2]

During the 1972/73 academic year, "WJ" experimented with a 90-minute mid-day "activity period" in which no formal classes were held and students were encouraged to occupy themselves voluntarily with extracurricular activities, which could include simply socializing or reading a book, as well as organized extracurricular activities. This unstructured approach to education was intended to encourage creativity and individuality. The activity period was cut back to two days a week in subsequent years, and has since been removed entirely.

Despite numerous renovations, the original building still stands. Additional wings have been added to the school on either end and classrooms have been modernized.[2] A new cafeteria was added to the school in 2003, and a student commons area was added in 2009 as a part of a school-wide renovation which took several years.[2] "The Clock", well-known to students, is still in working order and resides in the front hallway above the two golden plaques of the Wildcat and Spartan.


Enrollment increased from just a few hundred students in 1956 to 1600 students in 1960 and 2,000 students by 2005. During tremendous growth of the D.C. metropolitan area, particularly during the Vietnam Era of the late 1960s and early 1970s, the school's environment changed from countryside to major metropolitan suburb.


Starting in fall of 2007, one-third of WJHS had been placed under construction and replaced by 44 portables (nicknamed the "portable city"). Renovations were completed in 2010, which included a 'Student Commons' and a public space for all students, completed in the second phase of the process. A new wing houses ESOL, English and language rooms that are easily accessible from the rest of the ground floor.


Walter Johnson "Wildcat" logo

When it first opened in 1956, its original mascot was the Spartan.[2] In 1987, the students of neighboring Charles W. Woodward High School merged into WJHS and the Woodward building eventually became the new site of Tilden Middle School in 1991.[2] The students were allowed to vote on the new merged school colors and mascot, with the requirement that one school would keep their colors while the other school would keep their mascot. Woodward's "Wild Thing the Wildcat" and WJHS school colors—green and white, won out.

The unofficial mascot of the school is "Mighty Moo", a large brown cow. Early in Walter Johnson's history cows used to roam onto the football fields at various times. As seen in Walter Johnson yearbooks from the 1960s, the Mighty Moo character originated as a painting by a student who painted a cartoon cow on the brick chimney at the back of the school, overlooking the football field, large enough to be clearly visible from cars passing by on Democracy Boulevard.[2] The school adopted the cow as its unofficial mascot under the name Mighty Moo. Later yearbooks show that, even as the area became urbanized, cows remained nearby and continued to graze across Rock Spring Drive from the school, pasturing in the shadows of high-rise office buildings through the late 1970s. Even though the cows are now gone, Mighty Moo remains an unofficial mascot of Walter Johnson. The original Mighty Moo painting is no longer visible, however, as it was covered with white paint when the entire school was repainted in 1998.[2]


One of Walter Johnson's signature programs is Advanced Placement Experience (APEX), and is designed to be a highly competitive four-year course of study. Prospective students apply during their eighth grade year, and are notified of their admission in the early spring prior to their ninth grade year. The application process includes submitting a list of activities, four teacher evaluations, and a writing sample. The program offers a select group of students a comprehensive curriculum combining accelerated honors and advanced placement level coursework.[3]

Additional programs include Advanced Curriculum for Excellence in Science (ACES) as well as Linguistic Excellence And Discovery (LEAD!). The ACES Scholars Program offers students a challenging course of study in the science disciplines,[4] while the LEAD! Scholars Program is for students who wish to commit to a broad range of courses in World Languages.[5]



The College Board ranked Walter Johnson's AP World History program as the best in the world.[6]

Walter Johnson High School was rated as one of "America's Best High Schools" by Newsweek magazine and ranked 148 for best public high schools in the nation for 2013.[7]

WJHS's "It's Academic" team won the Washington Area Championship and the mid-Atlantic Super Bowl in 2005 and in 2007. The team has also had several of its members elected to the All-State team, the most successful team at the Panasonic Academic Challenge.[citation needed]

The Walter Johnson Debate Team has been county champion every year since 2003 and was also county champion from 1993 to 2000. The Forensics Team has been county champion every year since 2001 and achieved either 2nd, 3rd or 4th Place in the County League from 1990 to 2000.[citation needed]

The Walter Johnson Science Olympiad team has won the state championship and attended the National Tournament four times.[citation needed]

Notable alumni[edit]


  1. ^ "Walter Johnson High School". Montgomery County Public Schools. Retrieved 6 October 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Walter Johnson High School Web Team (2002). "WJ School History". Montgomery County Public Schools. MCPS. Archived from the original on 25 June 2018. Retrieved 25 June 2018.
  3. ^ "WJHS Apex Scholars Signature Program". Retrieved 6 October 2017.
  4. ^ "WJHS ACES Scholars Program". Retrieved 6 October 2017.
  5. ^ "WJHS Lead! Scholars Program". Retrieved 6 October 2017.
  6. ^ "Local Students Win 'Best In The World' Title For Academics". 2006-02-07. Retrieved 2008-05-01.
  7. ^ "2013 America's Best High Schools". Newsweek. Retrieved 6 September 2014.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 39°01′34″N 77°08′06″W / 39.026110°N 77.134955°W / 39.026110; -77.134955