Stephanie Hudson is a member of the Waterford Parent Advisory Committee and the past Chair of the Waterford Parent Ambassador Committee. She has served as a volunteer on many other committees including Annual Fund, Book Fair, Senior Gift, Auction and Country Fair. Stephanie has three children. Her son Daniel (Class of 2012) is in his second year at Tufts University. Her daughter Jane is a senior at Waterford and her youngest, Abby, is currently in grade 8.
How did you learn about Waterford?
I had a niece and nephew who attended Waterford, both of whom had amazing experiences with photography, birding trips, outdoor club and the arts programs. They just blossomed here. These were unique opportunities that we knew our kids wouldn’t get outside of a school like Waterford. So, when our oldest was entering kindergarten we decided to enroll him at Waterford.
What was your first impression?
My very first impression was that the school felt very cozy and nurturing. I loved all of the art hanging in the hallways and although it felt smaller than other schools I had experienced, the campus felt warm, inviting and safe.
How was the Lower School experience?
The first thing that I noticed was the variety of things my kids experienced every day. Each day my kids had the opportunity to go to specialists in dance, music, computers, art, science, P.E., etc. The way they moved around and went to specialist classrooms was fantastic. They had great one-on-one learning experiences with incredible teachers. And for some subjects, they would split the class, so half would go to science or art and the other half would stay for reading-groups. In these situations, there would be maybe 8 or 10 students with a teacher and a reading specialist. My children really flourished with all this extra attention.
One of the best experiences was when they went into Mrs. Perkins science classroom. It was so hands-on, with animals and tools and experiments. The way she taught science made it so exciting and approachable. My son just loved her class. I think that feeling of excitement about science has stayed with him throughout his educational experience.
We loved the Lower School experience. It is such a wonderful, inspirational place of creativity and curiosity. It is just a happy place.
Talk a little bit about the Waterford faculty.
My personal experience was in the public school system and I didn’t really have great teachers until I got into the honors and AP classes. If you took those classes you could feel confident that the teacher would be good, and that they would care about what was happening in the classroom. At Waterford, the faculty is amazing at every level. There were incredible teachers for my children all along the way, beginning with Mrs. Ward in Kindergarten. My son had attended another private school for a short time, and he hated it. When we tried to drop him off, he refused to get out of the car. We would have to drag him into the building. Once he got to Waterford, there was never a moment of hesitation. Mrs. Ward’s classroom was so fun and welcoming that he was excited to go to school. Then there was Ms. Neal and Mrs. Perkins, and in particular Mrs. Williams in grade 4. She inspired my son to be a better student and just created this amazing confidence in him. She could see that one of his strengths was history and she would tell him that he was a great historian, and it led him to believe in himself as a scholar. His love of history has continued through high school and now in college. Another incredible teacher was one of the middle school homeroom teachers, Diana Jennings. She had such energy and enthusiasm about everything. She got my son excited about the history of the Middle East and Islam. Around the same time, Kathy Morris took over the Orchestra department and began to pull this amazing cellist out of my son. She treats every student like they are amazing musicians and inspires them to rise to every challenge she puts before them. She has now taught two of my kids and I think she is just extraordinary.
My youngest daughter has had the opportunity to take Latin from Mrs. Poole. She is another one of those teachers that treats every student like they are incredibly important. She sets the bar very high, but she inspires each student to rise to the challenge.
Also, Dr. Phenix has completely reinvigorated my oldest daughter’s excitement about French. She makes it so fun and exciting.
There are so many wonderful teachers, it is hard to mention them all.
What about the Waterford Community?
Being part of the Waterford Community is what you make it. You have to put in some effort. Get involved, volunteer, and attend events and you will meet incredible people from all different backgrounds. The common theme here is that all these parents have the same goal — to help their kids reach their fullest potential. They are very involved, caring people who value education. They are the kind of people you want to associate with, and so are their kids. Waterford students are bright and hard working and they are very accepting of their peers. My son was very academic, but he was also an athlete. At Waterford he didn’t have to choose one group. He was accepted by his peers for being a smart, studious musician who played lacrosse and rowed crew. It is really hard to find a community like this. It is such a gift.
Your son is now in his second year of college at Tufts University. Did he feel like he was well prepared?
He was very well prepared! In fact he has mentioned many times that he doesn’t know what he would have done without Waterford. Tufts is extremely challenging. He has a great base from his Waterford experience — time-management, study skills, and the willingness to take on new challenges.
The beginning of this preparation really began in fourth grade with Deanna Williams. She really made him believe that there was greatness in him, and that he could overcome any challenge. Then there were many, many more teachers who contributed to this great foundation all along the way.
Because he believed in himself, he was willing to take on academic challenges throughout high school and this has been incredibly helpful in college.
The college counselors at Waterford were great about helping him identify the schools that would fit his interests and needs. They walked him through the process step-by-step.
What unique experiences have your kids had at Waterford that maybe they wouldn’t have had otherwise?
I would begin with the music program. In the Lower School every student takes music. Then in fourth and fifth grade, every student takes an introductory course in strings and band instruments. Then, once they reach middle school, they can choose the course of music they want to pursue. Two of my kids chose cello, an instrument that they may otherwise not been exposed to, and it has been wonderful. My son was able to travel to China, and Italy and Greece with the Waterford Chamber Orchestra and he had incredible experiences on these trips.
The summer interim trips and the bird-watching trips with Mr. Bromley have all been great experiences. The idea that middle schoolers would get up at 5 in the morning on a Saturday to go see Sage Grouse because of the passion and energy of one teacher is really incredible.
In addition, all of my kids have rowed crew for Waterford. This has been such a great opportunity — more like a college athletic experience. They have traveled all over the country to compete in regattas and they had to be responsible for themselves and represent their school. They had the opportunity to bond with their teammates, and truly get to know each other. These trips really helped my kids grow up. These were their first experiences traveling away from family, where they had to be responsible for themselves.
I would just say that if you want your kids to have an intimate educational experience — where they will spend their days with incredibly talented and passionate teachers and have amazing opportunities both in the classroom and outside of school — then Waterford is the place for you. It is an extraordinary place for kids to grow and learn.