For the past 23 years, Kathy Wells has been one of the warmest hearts in both the Waynflete History Department and the school-wide community. She started teaching in the Early Childhood program and loved it so much that she continued to teach in that section of the Lower School for seven years. In fact, one of her students in her first year was Spencer Libby, Lowell’s young son. Lowell still feels great gratitude for Kathy’s patience with and love for his unusually “active” son. Upon leaving the Early Childhood program, Kathy tutored for a year. The following year she took her first role in the History Department as a middle school history teacher. After a couple years in the Middle School, she decided that she wanted to devote her knowledge and teaching abilities to what she had been certified for: high school history.
In this respect, Kathy is one of the few teachers at Waynflete to have taught from the lowest to the highest grade levels offered at our school. However, when asked if she saw any similarities throughout the different sections of the school, she said, “I had some of the same kids that I had in early childhood as seniors. It was easy to see how Waynflete had impacted their lives. There were many more similarities in their personalities than there were differences. As for the seniors, it was nice to see that in their final year they were able to put on their snow pants without any assistance.”
Over the years that Kathy has been at Waynflete, she had three children go through the school. Having experienced it through her children as well as a member of the faculty, she is very aware of the many distinctive qualities that make Waynflete unique. She is particularly proud of what an emotionally safe environment it is, how every student has someone with whom they can speak at any time, and tied to that, that teachers are so friendly and are able to make the school a happier place. “You can never make an appointment for when you are suddenly feeling down or something is bothering you. The ability of everyone to adjust to that is incredibly invaluable. I hope that never changes.”
Another quality about Waynflete that Kathy enjoys is the independence and the thought provoking environment provided for both the teachers and the students. It is also one of the reasons why she wanted to become a teacher back in graduate school. She started out as a teaching assistant and, as she likes to say, she sort of “fell into” the role of teaching; the more she taught, the more she enjoyed it, especially the study of history. Another reason why she enjoys history so much is how, through every part of history, the different times and places are all connected. She thinks that teaching history provides an amazing opportunity to relate different sections of the past through reading, writing, and learning.
Kathy has been around the school for a long time, and like any experienced teacher, she has had her fair share of wacky classes. She remembers one particularly unusual class from about 10 years ago. It started out as a normal class near the end of the year; everybody had lost track of the subject and were discussing exams. However, it was not specifically exams, but the subject of academic honesty pertaining to exams. “I knew a lot of the kids before they were seniors,” Kathy commented. “So I asked them point blank, ‘How exactly do you cheat?’ They immediately began chatting about all the different ways, and a good 20 minutes into the conversation they looked at me and said, ‘You aren’t going to tell Lowell, are you?’” Kathy replied, “Well, I actually will be.” This was surprising, how trusting the soul of a Waynflete student can be. Having been a member of the community for many years, Kathy has all sorts of fun information to share with students about the school, about unnamed, mischievous students from years past, and even about herself. For instance, a fact that not many people know about her is that in high school she was the county tennis champion for girls.
One of the most valuable parts of teaching, in Kathy’s eyes, is what she calls the ‘ah-hah’ moment: when something that she has taught finally sinks in and clicks. When asked if she has any advice for new members of the Waynflete community, she recommended, “Don’t take in everything all at once. I’m still learning new information about the school every day, and if one takes it in too fast, they’re going to miss something which they’ll wish they hadn’t. Not all of it makes sense to newcomers; there are things we do which might look strange to anyone else. My advice is to be patient and just go along with it.”
Sadly, this will be Kathy’s last year at Waynflete. Going forward, she plans to spend time with her family, traveling to new places, and experiencing that which she hasn’t had time to do for quite a while. When she comes back to visit, Kathy wants to just get out of the car and walk around campus. She is particularly interested in seeing how Waynflete will change and which qualities will stay the same. “Whoever I see first or wherever I stop will be a reminder of all the wonderful times this school has shown me.” We will always be grateful for the wonderful moments she has given us.