Residential Life: Invested Teachers and Growing Students

Sarah Catlin, Director of Residential Life, Director of Financial Aid

We’re growing as a school community this year with the help of an inspiring faculty member in a new role, Director of Residential Life. Learn more about the development in our programming, from Sarah Catlin, here.
Last fall, I wrote a blog article for our admissions page about some of the fundamental differences I saw between day schools and boarding schools. I have had the opportunity to work for an excellent day school and I went to public school through 10th grade myself. There are excellent teachers everywhere. I was a three-sport athlete through high school and there are excellent coaches at all levels and all schools. The fundamental difference in the boarding school experience for me, comes down to data points.  Since your teachers at WMS are also your coaches and also your dorm team, they know you as more than just one thing.
The simplest example is that of a college letter of recommendation. A teacher of a wonderful physics student can craft a strong letter about this specific area of strength. However, if she also knows her in the dorm and hikes with her in the spring, the depth and breadth of the letter is multiplied. This depth and breadth of support is tangible all over campus and the reality is our students benefit daily. As for all of us, life is not neat and clean for high school students. What happened at breakfast can affect how we do in our first class. Chances are, at a boarding school, the teacher has that context.
At WMS we take the Residential Life experience of our students very seriously. The choice to work in a boarding school is the choice to work with students in a holistic manner as they move through their teen years. With our intentional move to keep our student body below 130 students, we create a community where all our students are known. They are known by each other, known by the entire faculty group and we hope, come to know themselves a little bit better. As we continue to grow and evolve as a school, we are looking forward to providing some more structured time to help our students know each other and themselves.
This year, I have taken on the role of Director of Residential Life. This position has allowed me to reap the benefits on knowing our students before they even arrive on campus from my work in admissions. I have enjoyed tremendous support by excellent programming already in place through our Associate Head of School’s office, Nate Snow. Working with Assistant Dean of Students Ted Teegarden on student leadership and our Director of the Student Assistance Program Matthew Toms on educational programming has been invigorating!
When we craft a formal and intentional residential life curriculum, much in the model of our academic Essential Skills and Habits, we are looking to enhance and add to the programming currently in place. The programming will encompass the foundation of our mission statement: Curiosity, Courage and Compassion. We have a strong structure of creating a safe place for our students to study, socialize and play for which to launch this programming. I look forward to working at better articulating benefits of invested educators working with a small and diverse student body on learning how to lead lives of curiosity, courage and compassion.

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