New Heritage School headmaster: 'Excellence is expectation'
By MARIANNE THOMASSON
“It is our duty to create an environment that fosters the development of positive leadership skills and challenges students to go beyond their perceived abilities,” according to James P. Watson.
Watson will be assuming the position of headmaster of The Heritage School in the spring of next year, replacing Judith Griffith, who will be honored upon her retirement Dec. 2. The announcement was made this week by Chairman of the Heritage Board of Trustees Otis Jones III.
Watson received his master’s degree in biomedical sciences with the Department of Developmental Biology and Anatomy in 2001 from the University of South Carolina School of Medicine. He completed two years of training at the University of Vermont College of Medicine, Burlington, VA, in 1998. He earned his BA degree cum laude from Middlebury College, Middlebury, VT, in 1995 with a major in biology with pre-med focus.
Prior to his work at Athens Academy, he taught at Hammond School, Columbia, S.C. From 1999 to 2011 he was camp director and staff coach at Hammond School, Columbia, S.C., University of South Carolina and Clemson University, where he implemented soccer and tennis curricula.
During the 1998-99 school year he taught math at Vermont Commons School, South Burlington, VT.
Commenting on his educational experience, Watson said, “I have been blessed to have had learning and teaching opportunities presented to me at every stage of my development. Growing up at the camp my grandfather started 60 years ago to expose the boarding students at DeVeaux in Niagra Falls, NY., to life in rural Vermont, has taught me many lessons about creating an environment in which each individual is challenged to go beyond their abilities.
“I realize there is no single formula for the success of every child, but if put in an environment where they feel safe enough to fail, children will most likely come out stronger than when they began,” Watson continued. “Being around brilliant minds at Middlebury College has shown me the value of a crop of teachers who are not only experts in their field of study, but are willing to get to know their students on a personal level... In my experiences leading, teaching and coaching at Athens Academy, Hammond School and Vermont Commons School, I have confirmed my observation that when children are challenged to live up to a high set of standards and expectations, they will resist at first, but if you continue to push and hold them accountable with an expectation of excellence, they respond appropriately,” Watson said.
Watson was the president of the Athens Rotary Club last year and has also served on the executive board of the Athens Chamber of Commerce, chairing its education committee.
He and his wife, Caroline, a native of Charleston, S.C., have two daughters, Rebecca and Sarah Elizabeth, who will be students at Heritage in the Lower School. They are members of the First Presbyterian Church of Athens, where Watson teaches Sunday school and is on the usher committee.
The search for a new headmaster started last summer. Members of the search committee were Cecil Walker (chair), Jim Thomasson, Kay Crosby, Otis Jones (ex officio), Charles Mann, Marianne Richardson, Haydon Stanley and Donna Stuart.