Nancy Huntsman has served as Parent Association President, Parent Advisory Committee member, and Chair of the Scholarship Committee. Her daughter is in her sophomore year at Waterford and her son, a Waterford alumnus, just entered his second year at Kenyon College.
How did you learn about Waterford?
I served on the Board of the Guadalupe School, an early education center for economically disadvantaged children. The Director was interested in purchasing the Waterford Institute’s early reading software so I came out with her to tour the Waterford School. I happened to be pregnant with my son at the time. I learned about the early literacy software, the learning theory behind it and all the research that went into Waterford’s programs. When I finished, I went directly to the Admissions Office to sign up! They told me to call after my son was born, but basically he was enrolled at Waterford since birth.
Once your kids were enrolled here, what were your first impressions?
A couple of things really stood out for me. One of the school’s mantras is to foster the “love of learning” and that is a philosophy that is truly embraced by the faculty here. I remember discussing school with some of the other moms on my son’s neighborhood soccer team. They were lamenting the amount of homework their very small kids were getting from the local public school. I was surprised because, while my kids had homework, it didn’t seem overwhelming. I think the public schools at the time were under so much pressure to show that they were performing at a certain level, that they were giving too much busy work, and not the right kind of work. At Waterford, the goal is to engage children at the appropriate level so they enjoy the process. They don’t speed up the treadmill until the kids are ready. The homework my kids were receiving was purposeful and integrated and all part of the bigger picture.
Talk a little bit about the Waterford faculty.
The faculty at Waterford is its most precious resource. All of us are aware of how important a committed teacher is. When you have a teacher who understands your child and is aware of their strengths and also where they need support, it is extremely reassuring. As mothers, we worry about our kids. But over the years, I worried less and less, because I saw my kids being cared for and loved and very well supported. Ultimately, I learned that the Waterford teachers could truly help me to better understand my children.
Waterford is known for having rigorous academics. How have your kids managed the workload?
Well, whether by DNA or training by Waterford, both of my kids have a really great work ethic. Getting the work done has never really been an issue for us, and this has translated through to my son’s college experience. His workload has begun to ramp up and he is managing it really well.
And can you tell us about the Waterford community?
At the risk of being too personal, that question is extremely poignant to me. My husband passed away last year and I will say that if you are going to have a train wreck, you want to have it at Waterford. I was surrounded by people that put a safety net under me and supported me and my children in every way imaginable until we made it through. When I see my daughter and her group of friends here, I realize again that we are incredibly fortunate. This speaks to the Waterford culture. Her friends were kind and supportive and they held her up through a very difficult time.
Have your kids participated in athletics?
My son played basketball for a season in middle school, but was mainly involved with the Outdoor Program. My daughter has recently discovered volleyball and she is having a great experience. Her teammates are supportive and collaborative. The way that athletic teams are set up at Waterford makes it safe for kids to take a risk, try something new, and decide if it is something they like.
Why do you volunteer?
I want to do anything I can do to help support the school in providing an extraordinary educational experience for as many as possible. In addition, I truly enjoy the other parents who volunteer with me here at the school. It is such an interesting and accomplished group of people. I will always remember the words of Jesselie Anderson, a former Waterford parent, who said, “We are all invested in each others’ children”
Why do you contribute to the scholarship fund?
I served on the Waterford Scholarship committee for many years because I think it is critically important to have diversity of thought, diversity of background and diversity of ethnicity in the student body. This benefits all students who go to school here. Not every Waterford student comes from a privileged background. There are families who are making great sacrifices to provide their children a great educational experience, and for those who aren’t able to cover the tuition, there is financial aid and scholarship. It is life-altering for the kids who wouldn’t otherwise be able to have this kind of education, but it is also critical for the whole student body to experience differing viewpoints and life experiences.
What unique experiences have your kids had at Waterford that they may not have had otherwise?
Both of my kids have been involved with Orchestra and although they are very different students of music, it has been a wonderful experience for both of them. My son is not innately musical, but Kathy Morris turned him into an accomplished musician. He loves to play the viola and traveled to China with the Waterford Orchestra to play in the World Expo. It was an incredible experience for him. My daughter has had an extraordinary experience in the orchestra for other reasons. She has always been passionate about music, and I simply can’t imagine a better place for her. Mrs. Morris is able to channel that passion and take it to the next level.
My son also participated in the Outdoor Program for many years. This was something that really surprised me since my son was never that enthusiastic when we would take family hikes, etc. But he loved Waterford’s Outdoor Program. He was able to participate in two incredible sailing expeditions with Mr. Cole (Alaska to British Columbia and the Arctic Circle in Norway). These trips were truly life-changing for him. What made it so special was not just the extraordinary locations, but Mr. Cole has an amazing talent for integrating all of their Waterford experiences, whether it be literature or writing or science or history. On these trips, the students were in charge of writing the trip blog. In reading their thoughts you could feel that this was like a guided meditation for them, enabling them to integrate all that they experienced each day into their lives in meaningful ways. The blog posts were so articulate and heartfelt and almost startling in their honesty. Mr. Cole guided them each day in encouraging them to consider their role in the world, and how their experiences would affect their actions in the future. This could be stewardship of the environment or further exploration of a historical element they had observed. It was amazing to me as a parent to see how clearly this experience was absorbed at the deepest level by these young people – and made permanent. These trips were truly transformative.
Any final thoughts?
Waterford has been a great experience for our family. It wasn’t really a natural choice because we lived in downtown Salt Lake City. Halfway through our experience here, as my kids entered middle school and became involved with so many activities here on campus, we had to reassess. We had to decide whether to move closer to Waterford, or to put them in schools that were closer to our home. Ultimately, we decided to sell our Salt Lake City home and move to Sandy — something I never thought I would do.
In the end, we decided that Waterford was the best choice for our two kids for very different reasons. My daughter is a naturally resilient person. She could have excelled anywhere, but the Orchestra program here was so extraordinary and so important in her life that I wanted to make sure that her passion for music could continue. My son has always been a scholar, but maybe a bit less resilient at that time in his life. I worried that in another environment he would be limited. At Waterford he was in a very safe environment to grow and broaden. Here he was able to embark on adventures that I never thought he would choose. In retrospect I think he was able to do this because he felt protected, and encouraged and celebrated for who he was as a person.
Waterford is the kind of place where kids really can sample everything, whether it is the arts or music or athletics. They don’t have to be some kind of “super-talent”. They are encouraged to take risks and they can participate and explore new things and maybe find talents they didn’t even know they had.