UAHS Staff Interview - WARREN ORLOFF
Interviewed and written by: Abby Vitali, UAAA Student Ambassador
Warren Orloff has been a science teacher at Upper Arlington High School since 1992. He has taught a wide variety of science courses including General and Honors Physiology; IB (International Baccalaureate) Biology; IB Sports Exercise and Health Science; Physical Science; and Science Fair (currently known as Honors Research). Over the course of his 28-year career serving the students of Upper Arlington, Orloff has seen many changes take place both in the community and schools and also in the field of teaching.
Not surprisingly, technology has impacted teaching over the years. Orloff says, “You can easily find little video clips or websites that are aligned with the curriculum that you can use in class or assign to people. That was really a challenge [in the past].” In addition, technology has also made it possible for good-quality information to be found. “The quality of in-class work and out-of-class work that students do is so much greater now because I have access to so much more information. In the beginning, it was a struggle to find information— I'd collect VCR tapes with different things I wanted to use that I felt were good quality,” said Orloff.
As technology has allowed for better information to be shared, Orloff says teaching has become much more collaborative at the high school. “I remember when I started, a teacher told me, ‘You can do anything you want. This is the rough curriculum, but you have complete freedom to go over this any way you'd like,’ and when you dress that up as freedom, it sounds really nice. But we would have the same course that would be wildly different based on who the instructor was, and people didn’t share resources as much as we do now. Now when [we] find something good, we want everyone to use it. We still have a lot of freedom about what we do, but we share so much.”
Over the years, grading has changed from a “bell curve” approach to being standard based. “In the beginning of my career, we were concerned if there were too many high grades because we were supposed to have the bell curve— we were supposed to have the outliers and most people in the middle, and the middle was considered to be a C, which was the average grade.”
Unlike the quality of academics and athletics, there are parts of the High School that have come and gone. One hot commodity that existed was a pay phone by the senior entrance. “Right at the bottom of the senior steps there used to be a pay phone. As you walk out the senior exit, you can still see the pocket in the wall where it used to exist. During the lunch period, everyone would congregate around it because it was the only way to get in contact with anyone.” The irony, Orlofff notes, is that “most of the people you knew were in school with you. However, no one had cell phones, so it was a big deal to use the phone!”
A walk down memory lane would be incomplete without mention of the long-time tradition of the senior prank. “Sometimes people would put ads in the paper for real estate where they would try to sell the school—it’s got 118 rooms and a swimming pool—and then people would steal all the For Sale signs in the neighborhood and put it in front of the school property.” Graduation was also the sight of a senior prank. “One year everyone got a marble at graduation and when they went up on stage and shook hands [with the principal] they handed the marble to the [him] and [he] kept getting all these marbles, so his pockets were filling up.”
One thing that has not changed over time is the Upper Arlington commitment to academic excellence. While acknowledging the amazing UA sports teams, Orloff says that it’s still the academics that take the spotlight: “We have some amazing sports teams, but it’s our academics that steal the show. I remember talking to someone about that and saying, ‘You know, as far as UA goes, if you have a strong academic program and all your teams lose, then you have some PR to do with the community because the community really appreciates that. But if you have a strong athletic year and your academics slide, then you're going to face a very unhappy community.’ The community expects an academic environment and the students are really thoughtful about it. He says, “The more engaged you are in the school environment, the more you're making use of your opportunity. It’s great to be in a school that really admires academics like that.”
One of Orloff’s favorite memories of his time at UAHS was teaching with his wife the year they were married. “I taught 9th grade Physical Science, and she taught 9th grade English, so we had some students in common. We were the talk of the school. I remember one student named Annie who was always trying to get dirt on us. She would ask, ‘What are you doing for Valentine’s Day, Mr. Orloff?’ or ‘Are you doing anything with Miss. Abruzzi over the weekend, Mr. Orloff?’ She was hilarious. Clearly things worked out pretty well—we have been married for 24 years now! I tell people that the fringe benefits of a job at UA are great: find your soulmate here!”
After nearly 30 years, Warren Orloff continues to express appreciation and gratitude for this school community. Despite everything that’s changed over the years, Orloff says that UAHS is still an academic institution where the students value their education, “[The students are] so polite. You always have some outliers, but people are just kind.” There is no doubt that this UA teacher has made a meaningful contribution to the culture and values that we hold dear, year after year, in the UA schools.