I had the pleasure of getting to know our new interim head of the Upper School, Mr. J.P. Watson. Born in South Burlington, Vermont, Mr. Watson is the ninth generation in his family to have lived in Wilmington, Vermont. Interestingly enough Mr. Watson’s family have been running a day camp since it was founded in 1952. As a three-sport athlete captain in high school, he played soccer, ice hockey, and tennis. Mr. Watson attended Middlebury College in Vermont, where he played soccer all four years. What Mr. Watson found most challenging in high school was foreign language and making up work after he was in a car accident that prevented him from playing ice hockey for a season. Majoring in biology, he continued his education at the medical school at the University of Vermont. Mr. Watson decided later to take a break from the medical field and teach math at a local high school for a year, where he discovered his true passion. Mr. Watson is currently married, with two girls who attend Collegiate in the second and seventh grade. A fun fact Mr. Watson had to say about himself was that he knows how to telemark ski. This is a type of snow skiing technique where your heel is free. This approach to skiing it can be very difficult to learn; however, our very own head of Upper School is able to show off his skills on the slopes of Colorado.
Mr. Watson believes Collegiate to be a “community of intellectuals” and recognizes the core values that represent Collegiate. When he was first brought to Collegiate, in 2010, to be part of an accreditation team that offers workshops to teachers and school leaders as an opportunity for special training, Mr. Watson’s first impressions of Collegiate were truly positive and reminded him of Athens Academy, where he was employed at the time. He recalls, after the conference, how impressed he was with Collegiate and remembers telling his wife that Richmond would be a pleasant place to live. Therefore, now Mr. Watson is thrilled to be living in Richmond where he remembers his first positive impressions of the city. He states that if the opportunity to attend Collegiate was offered, and he was our age, he would be thrilled to attend Collegiate School. Mr. Watson is impressed with the many opportunities that Collegiate has to offer for all students. He explains that when he was in high school, many of the opportunities we are granted were not offered for him. He would have liked our opportunities and expresses how important to appreciate all that Collegiate has to offer.
Mr. Watson’s plan to make Collegiate better is to start with “asking questions, then listen” to build strong relationships with students and faculty. He believes Collegiate is already doing an incredible job, and we will “always be evolving” to accomplish great things in the future as a community. To build these strong relationships with students, Mr. Watson has set up group meetings with seniors. His purpose with these meetings is to hear each story and what is important to each student. He is curious as to where there might be connections. Passion is a big part of Mr. Watson’s life; he loves to see when students come across as passionate for something. He helps students find internships all over and can spot someone who may be passionate quickly.
Mr. Watson expressed that he usually does not tell his story before getting to know the others. He explained that having an interview was a rare occurrence because he had known nothing about me, the interviewer, beforehand. This is just one example shows that Mr. Watson will be a great head of the Upper School. He is approachable and wants to meet anyone who has the time. If any student approached him, he would gladly listen and build yet another relationship within the student body.
Photos by Eleanor Dillon.