Closing the case: The search for a new forensics teacher


Credit: Alyssa Ao

Following former chemistry and forensics teacher Kristin Cowell’s resignation, the Wayland High School administration has been in active pursuit of finding a replacement teacher. As of now, study hall supervisor Janet Carmichael is substituting for the forensics classes.

Former forensics and chemistry teacher Kristin Cowell resigned after 12 years of teaching at Wayland High School on Dec. 16, 2022, and students and staff were left with no evidence as to who would fill her position. Cowell is now teaching accelerated chemistry and Advanced Placement (AP) biology at Nashoba Regional High School.

Since Cowell taught two sections of both chemistry and forensics, the WHS administration is trying to fill her role as soon as possible to minimize disruptions for students.

“We’re looking for applications, and in the meantime, there is internal coverage,” principal Allyson Mizoguchi said. “Freshman study hall supervisor Janet Carmichael is covering the two forensics classes as of now.”

Administration has been in an active pursuit of finding a replacement for Cowell, posting applications on employment sites like SchoolSpring and Indeed. Some applicants were interested, but for a variety of reasons withdrew their applications, forcing administration to continuously go back to the drawing board.

“Our applicants are currently teaching in other districts, and I think when push came to shove, there were a lot of feelings around leaving their current students, which I totally understand,” Mizoguchi said. “That’s part of the difficulty of finding a great teacher halfway through the year.”

As a result of the delay in finding a new forensics and chemistry teacher, some science teachers were asked to step in to substitute the classes. Science department head John Berry, as well as other teachers, filled in for the classes when they could. After a few weeks of substitutes and no strict curriculum, Carmichael offered her help.

“Carmichael said to me, ‘let me know if you need any help,’ and I said, ‘well actually I do, would you like to [substitute for the forensics classes],’ and she said ‘yes, that sounds like fun,’” Berry said.

On Jan. 5, 2022, WHS Principal Allyson Mizoguchi sent an email to the families of students taught by Cowell, updating them about the process of hiring a new teacher. (Credit: Courtesy of email sent by Allyson Mizoguchi)

While Carmichael is primarily the study hall supervisor at WHS, she is also a certified biology teacher and has worked closely with the science department at various points in her teaching career.

“Carmichael is eager to contribute and learn, and is always leaning into new challenges, so we asked her to step in while we’re looking for a more permanent replacement,” Mizoguchi said.

The forensics curriculum was created by Cowell during her earlier years of teaching at WHS, and Carmichael is continuing to teach the class with the same academic structure. However, Carmichael is also going into more depth in certain topics, and planning several hands-on activities for the students. She has already brought in some local detectives to the class, giving students a chance to ask questions about their experiences with crimes. Carmichael will be teacher for the forensic classes until the end of the 2023 school year.

“We are super grateful to Cowell for bringing this really interesting, popular course to WHS,” Mizoguchi said. “It’s a wonderful thing to be able to hand over a curriculum and say ‘take it from here.’”

According to Mizoguchi, the curriculum of the forensics class is straightforward, giving Carmichael the benefit of an organized class structure to help them adapt. However, she also believes that change and adjustment often comes with disruptions to students’ routines and habits.

“I am very hopeful that the right person is going to come forward, and when we do find that person, I am very confident that the science department and I will support this person in the transition, because it’s not going to be an easy one,” Berry said.

With several canceled classes and different teachers throughout the first semester, some forensics and chemistry students are having a hard time adjusting to the changes in their classes.

“I like Carmichael, but I think it would be better to have someone who really knows how to teach forensics,” junior Ella Harris said. “Things are run a little differently. Our last lab wasn’t how we usually would have done it.”

Mizoguchi assures students that a new teacher will be found as soon as possible.

“Hang on and know that we are doing everything we can to continue the grace and patience we have shown, and we will keep on doing what we need to do,” Mizoguchi said.

Administration intends to continue moving forward, taking in all the help they can get while searching for a teacher. However, Mizoguchi reminds students that finding a permanent replacement teacher will take time and patience.

“In every situation, we have caring adults working with students, and the best scenario would be to have someone who is ready to go and is familiar with the content and curriculum,” Mizoguchi said.