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Q&A with Nicole Sophocles, Interim Head of Wye River Upper School

by Dr. Jennifer Palinkas

Nicole Sophocles has been part of the WRUS family since the school opened in 2002: first as a Science and Mathematics teacher, then as Academic Advisor, Director of Education, Director of College and Career Counseling, and most recently as Assistant Head of School. Mrs. Sophocles will serve as Interim Head of School beginning July 1, 2024.

What first drew you to Wye River Upper School?

When I learned about WRUS, I was excited about being part of a school from the ground up. At the time, I was a science teacher at an alternative charter school in Prince George’s County. I enjoyed working with the students there but grew increasingly frustrated with the lack of support for students and teachers.

I will always fondly remember my interview with Chrissy [Aull, founder of WRUS] at a picnic table on the campus of Chesapeake College. Speaking with Chrissy galvanized my interest in WRUS. I knew this school would be different, and provide everything students need to be successful. 

Nicole Sophocles (bottom row, far right) in Wye River Upper School's early years on the campus of Chesapeake College

What did you think the first time you visited the Armory? 

I saw the Armory when it was first purchased, while the sail-maker was still in residence. Honestly, I found the building inspiring! I love old buildings and buildings with character. I felt like the Armory had a story to tell just like our school has a story to tell. It was also a unique opportunity to design a school to be just what our students and teachers need. 

Nicole Sophocles stands with faculty and staff during the 2017 commencement ceremony.

When you were a student, did any of your teachers particularly inspire you?

Yes! Dr. Soto, my high school Physics teacher. Physics was not my favorite subject and his class was tough, yet Dr. Soto made a huge impact on me. Dr. Soto was an all-in educator, and I remember vividly his dedication to us. I was on the school’s swim team, and he often came to cheer us on. He rarely missed a day of school, and if he did he would pre-record himself teaching the class on video for the substitute teacher. Looking back on this now, I am frankly in awe of his commitment.

Nicole Sophocles presents Ian A '22 with his diploma.

What do you like to read?

I love mysteries, crime stories, and medical thrillers. I also love to read non-fiction books about women in science. I find biographies of women such as Eugine Clark and Sylvia Earle particularly inspiring. 

How do you “get psyched up” for something?

Okay, this might make me seem boring, but I really get myself pumped up for something by planning! I just love planning–it gets me prepared and ready for anything. For fun, like a vacation, or work, like curriculum design, I make lists, I plan, and then I get the job done. 

What are you most looking forward to next school year?

I am excited about putting our program on paper. This year we started curriculum review, as a way to ensure that our program is cohesive across grade levels and that it aligns with our mission. What we do here is remarkable and important and a written presentation of our program will showcase it on a new level. This project will also help us to articulate the philosophy of our classes and curriculum to the community beyond our walls. I am also very excited to continue to develop the 8th grade. 


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