What happens when mild-mannered history teacher Peter Viola decides to get into character? He transforms into MC Hero D (a tribute to ancient Greek historian Herodotus) and the rhymes start flowing.
“MacArthur led troops bravely into the ocean/While Ike gathered forces, setting D-Day in motion/A foothold was gained that would change the equation,” Viola raps, teaching his students about World War II.
Western High School in Davie pushes the envelope in a lot of ways. The debate team just finished first at the national tournament. They’re national champs because they work really hard, they meet every day in school and twice a week after school.
“And then we go to every conceivable debate tournament there is so that we can get more practice,” said Nancy Dean, the debate teacher. “They learn how to speak to people and look at people in the eye, persuade people on either side of an argument.”
Debate isn’t the only way the Western Wildcats are raising their profile. The robotics team won the state championship and was the only South Florida team to make it to the international competition. It’s part of the school’s STEM department, which also includes rocketry, biotech, and a solar-powered car.
The Solar Cat is designed and built by students, who will race it this summer from Texas to California.
“It’s very high-level stuff, they’re building a car that has the capability of going half-way across the country, so yeah, it’s very high level,” said Derek Hicks, who teaches math and robotics.
“And the skills that they learn in both those programs, STEM and debate, it’s really something that you can’t put a price on,” said Jimmy Arrojo, Western High’s principal. “That teamwork, trial and error, failure and overcoming failures, it’s something that you learn outside the classroom and that’s why they’re so good.”
Western High has the Cambridge and AP Capstone programs, and its softball team is going to the state finals. They do a lot of things, and they do them well.
“When they think of Western I’d like them to think that it’s one of the best schools in the state,” Arrojo said, referring to the public image of his school. “Honestly, with the quality teachers and students we have here, there’s no reason we shouldn’t be considered one of the best in the country.”