At the new Harford Friends School in Darlington, pupils will be able to take sixth-grade science from a teacher named Chris.
Not Miss Christine. And certainly not Ms. Howells.
Howells spent 20 years working in plant-science laboratories and is the mother of two adult children. But titles of respect are often eschewed at schools run by Quakers, a religious movement that repudiates social hierarchies and regards all people as equal in the eyes of God.
Howells said she will follow a Quaker tradition and have her students call her "Teacher Chris."
"Using a first name shows that you see the child in a respectful [light] as an equal human being," Howells said.
At the Harford Friends School, set to open in September after two years of fund raising and planning, pupils will learn the traditional subjects of mathematics, science, social sciences and English.
But they will also form "solutions" committees, debating problems and issues as diverse as the existence of God and the permissibility of sandals in school.
The school, open to all faiths, will emphasize Quaker values of equality, community, harmony and simplicity.
"There's a culture of bullying in public schools," said Gandhi Hurwitz, who paid tuition of $8,790 for his 11-year-old daughter, Clairellen, to attend Harford Friends after two years of home schooling. "It's sort of a rite of passage. You learn how to deal with bullying. You're not going to find that at a Friends school. The whole bullying thing is not tolerated."
What sets apart a Quaker education is "the idea of children being heard and listened to and respected," said Jonathan Huxtable, the school's principal.
Harford Friends will be the only Quaker school in Harford County, the sixth in Maryland and the 83rd nationwide to be recognized by the Friends Council on Education. It will be able to seek accreditation from the council after two years.
Quakers, who have their roots as pacifists and abolitionists in Colonial America, have founded some of the nation's most prestigious educational institutions. The children of some of Washington's political elite, including former first daughter Chelsea Clinton, have attended the Sidwell Friends School in Washington, and Columbia University in New York had its beginning in Quakerism.
Harford Friends School will be governed by a board of 15 people, most of whom belong to the Deer Creek Friends or Little Falls Friends meetings.
Six students have enrolled - all in the sixth grade. The school plans to add a grade each year and eventually teach kindergarten through 12th grade.
The school is at the Deer Creek Friends Meeting house on Main Street in Darlington, near U.S. 1.
Quakers have met in the stone cottage since the 1780s, when it was rebuilt after a fire destroyed the previous meeting house.
But the building is well-equipped. Each pupil will have wireless Internet access and an iBook laptop.
Some of the pupils' education will take place outdoors. In accordance with the Quaker tradition of nature preservation, the school is a partner with the Eden Mill Nature Center in Pylesville, where students will help restore wetlands along Deer Creek.
"The Friends school philosophy is pretty much a hands-on experiential philosophy," said Frank Marsden, the nature center's program director, who helped craft the Harford Friends curriculum.
The school has hired two teachers: Howells, who has spent the past 20 years in horticulture and plant science; and Linda Derengowski, who has 12 years of teaching experience in elementary and middle schools in Maryland and California.
Huxtable, who grew up in a Quaker family in Boston, holds a master's degree in education from Harvard University.
"The benefits go beyond the education of the child," said William Harlan, chairman of the board of trustees, which has raised $125,000 for the school. "The Friends school sets a tone about equality and tolerance and like-minded people."