Ms. Maxwell’s mission for exploration and culture


Photo by True Van Dyke

Holly Maxwell, English teacher, works in her personalized classroom.

True Van Dyke, Features Editor

For four years now, OHS has been housing the culturally-rounded, adventure-seeking,  positive influence that is Holly Maxwell, English teacher. A past of traveling the world, exploring different fields, and finding the career that blends all aspects of her personal interests, has led Maxwell to where she is now. The learning environment she has created at OHS is a collection of the various experiences she has had prior and the steps she has taken to get here. 

The road to teaching was not always clear from the beginning for Maxwell, who was almost too well-rounded for her own good. As many current high school students can relate to, she was not exactly sure of what she wanted to pursue as a career, regardless of her various personal passions. 

“All throughout high school I didn’t know what I wanted to do, and then once I started college, I felt kind of pressured to just pick something,” Maxwell said. 

Originally, she was encouraged to pursue speech pathology and audiology, but through that, quickly found her strong disinterest in math and science. From there, a bad grade in anatomy pushed her just enough that she left to the teaching industry instead. Maxwell found herself leaning into her love for everything to do with literature, and pursuing a deep dive into that broad and expansive realm. 

“I’ve always loved language, and storytelling, and writing, and just the power that words hold,” Maxwell said.

The environment of teaching engulfed Maxwell with fascination completely, but at some point she was ready to expand the way she was going about her career.From growing up and teaching in rural America, surrounded by corn fields, she was taken over by the sudden need to explore language to a further extent, even to the opposite side of the world. A draw to experience life to the fullest, and several openings of doors, led her to spend four years of her life teaching abroad. 

“I was 22 or 23 and I was really nervous that I hadn’t done enough, and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh I have to settle down and be an adult, like that’s terrible. I want to see the world,’” Maxwell said. 

In 2015 Maxwell took a job teaching at a private boarding school in China, only to stay there for the next four years. Leaving the country for the first time in her life, that one impulsive decision jump-started her love for traveling, led to almost total cultural immersion, lasting relationships, and a foreign view on teaching. She was introduced to the idea of traveling and experiencing as many cultures as possible, all of it holding a significant place in her heart. 

“As time went on, it very much felt like home,” Maxwell said. 

After her stay abroad, she came back to the U.S. with the craving to experience life in all new ways, testing the waters of what was around her. When not teaching, Maxwell immerses herself in a rotation of hobbies, different sports leagues such as softball and kickball, and a circuit of bookstores, cafes, and poetry houses. 

“I have a few core hobbies, obviously I love to read, and I like to watercolor paint, and traveling [too], but I’m kind of addicted to trying new things, so I’ll cycle through hobbies,” Maxwell said.

In the habit of keeping herself busy both outside and inside of school, she stays engaged in various clubs on campus. While she organizes, runs, and puts her blood, sweat, and tears into ‘Future Freshman Mentors,’ she also helps with ‘Literature Club,’ and merges her own interests by aiding the ‘Fashion and Design Club’ as well. Sponsoring and participating in clubs at OHS brings just as much joy to Maxwell as it does to the students they interest. 

“I’m helping with [the] Fashion and Design club, so I’m going to learn [how] to crochet, so that’s exciting,” Maxwell said. 

Suiting her extroverted personality, Maxwell loves the social community and friendly environment that exists within the classroom.Teaching is a convenient alleyway to constant communication, connections, and discussions that Maxwell intentionally tries to fuel her classes with. 

“I love to be around people, I don’t really do very well in isolation, so I really love having a social job,” Maxwell said. 

Maxwell has been building these social connections at OHS for almost four years now, but it has not always been as interactive as she would have liked. This outgoing, friendly teacher joined the English Department on her return from China in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak. Being confined by layers of masks and a six foot gap between her and her students at all times made it difficult to build the interactive and engaging classroom environment that she would have hoped for. 

“My very first year was the 2019-2020 [school] year when we left for spring break never to return,” Maxwell said. 

Regardless, she still managed to positively improve what she could, and maintains that hope now, even a couple years later. Although OHS is slowly becoming her second home,Maxwell will always have the part of her that is drawn to other worldly teaching experiences and the need to always keep moving to something new, within her. The future for Maxwell is destined to be just as interesting, complex, and ever-changing as her past has been, but OHS will always play a significant role in what builds her career and personal adventures from here on out. 

“I’m open to going back abroad once things settle down globally, or another part of the United States, we’ll just see,” Maxwell said.