When Frank Aiello began teaching at Mount Hebron High School in 1975, he had more than his students to deal with.
"When I first came here, I coached football, and we had to chase away deer from the fields," Aiello recalled of his early teaching years at the young high school.
Much has changed since the Ellicott City school opened in 1965, but what has remained for 40 years is the quaint, small-town community atmosphere, say parents, teachers and students. To mark this significant milestone, the Hebron community is celebrating its history and traditions with a tailgate party Friday.
"The school is very much like a small-town school," said Principal Veronica Bohn. "There are a lot of students here who have parents who went to school here. It's a community-centered school."
She continued, "We have so many people who have taught here for many years, and so many people who have returned to become part of the staff that there is a sense of wanting to celebrate."
The school opened as Mount Hebron Jr. High School before it was converted to a high school in 1967 - becoming the fourth in Howard County. Today, the county has 12 high schools.
Jim McCrumb, the high school's first principal, recalled his first year as being a "sell job." The school included sixth-, seventh-, eighth- and ninth-graders in 1967.
Two years later, sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders left when Patapsco Middle School opened.
In 1970, Mount Hebron became a full-fledged high school with grades nine through 12.
"What we had to do was work with the youngsters and show them that this was going to be their high school," McCrumb said.
"By the time the youngsters were 10th-graders, they started to feel they were in high school," McCrumb said.
As Howard County has grown over four decades, so has Mount Hebron, whose enrollment reflects the changing Ellicott City community.
Today, the school has 1,450 students from various socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds - with African-American students representing about 10 percent of the population and Asian students making up nearly 19 percent.
The school's growth and evolution have been noticeable for Valerie McNeely, a member of the first high school graduating class in 1971, who returned to her alma mater five years later to teach physical education.
"We're very diverse here," McNeely said "which is nice to see."
School spirit is vibrant and alive at Mount Hebron.
As junior Morgan Harrington put it, "There's always a celebration of Mount Hebron."
Last year, pride in their school prompted students and parents to lobby the Board of Education for money to renovate the school.
A student-made video illustrated the problems of cracking tiles and floors, lack of storage space and a run-down auditorium.
Students returned to school this year with an upgraded auditorium, new lockers and a paint job.
Senior Patrick Gilbert, who helped make the video last year, said it was gratifying to see tangible results, but he also noted, "It's not the building that makes the school but the people inside."
Another point of pride is alumni involvement. Bohn said that there are 11 graduates who have returned to Mount Hebron as teachers.
One of them is Mike Tittsworth, who graduated in 1995 and returned after finishing college in North Carolina.
"I had a great high school experience when I was here," said Tittsworth, who teaches U.S. history, anthropology and psychology.
"There were teachers and coaches who inspired me and showed an interest in my life. It made me want to help kids like they helped me," he said.
Tittsworth complied a timeline of the school's 40-year history, noting numerous milestones and the tenures of four previous principals.
"Putting the whole thing together made me realize how accomplished the school is, how special we are in all categories," he said.