This month’s National Renaissance Staffulty of the Month is Jay Watterworth from Philip Simmons High School in Charleston, South Carolina. Nominator Dr. Connie McClanahan gives Jay credit for using Renaissance to establish a positive culture and climate at a brand new school.
“Jay Watterworth has been a part of Renaissance for many years; however, it has been his dedication to Philip Simmons HS Iron Horse Renaissance that has been phenomenal. PSHS opened its doors to its first students for the 2017-2018 school year. Coach Watterworth, our Renaissance sponsor and leadership instructor, dove right in to make sure we started off with a positive school climate and culture. In year one of our program, Coach spearheaded our Iron Horse level card program, hosted four academic rallies, started student and Staffulty of the month program, and even helped plan and implement the first SCORE [regional] conference ever! He helped fund-raise so we could bring students to the National Renaissance Conference in Orlando this summer, and he has not slowed down! This school year, Coach Watterworth worked hard with our Renaissance students to have our official first UNDAY of school. We hosted Javier Sanchez, YA speaker, for the first day and there were team building and get to know you activities through out the day. Our first day ended with a New Year Dance and ball drop! I cannot imagine what our school would be like without him and I am grateful that Jay is building a legacy for our future.”
What’s a favorite Renaissance moment for you?
I think one of the best moments was an event our Renaissance group held at my previous school a few years ago. We called the event “Gator’s Choice Awards.” We came up with some silly, meaningful, creative, and personal awards. The student body was able to nominate people and then vote as well. The night of the awards show, we rolled out a red carpet and had a background for students to take pictures. The students got dressed up and had fun in front of the paparazzi. The auditorium was full of students, staff, and parents. Staff members then read the award and the winner. Music played in the background as the student walked to the front to receive their award and say a word or two. This is my favorite moment for two reasons. First, I loved to see my Renaissance students pour so much of themselves into creating such a great night in recognizing others. Secondly, it didn’t matter what award the students were given, they just loved having their moment. Some of these students were those who wouldn’t be on all the pages of the yearbook or have a place on an athletic team. It truly was special!
How has Renaissance impacted your school’s culture?
Last year, my high school opened its doors for the first time in August. We welcomed around 240 students into our building. This has been such a unique opportunity because we get to build a culture here from scratch. Renaissance has been a driving force in establishing this culture. Here, we strive to live and breathe the 5 R’s. At Philip Simmons we say you have ‘Success in the B.A.G.’ (Behavior, Attendance, and Grades). Everything we do is centered on achieving the highest level of these 3 things. From recognition to encouragement to fun and games, Renaissance has been the driving force behind school culture.
How has Renaissance affected you personally?
I think if you ask most teachers to write a philosophy of education, a majority would write somewhere in there that “all students have the ability to learn.” Renaissance has taught me that “all students and staff have value.” There are so many people roaming the halls of schools that maybe go unnoticed or go un-valued, and through the power of Renaissance, we have the opportunity to reach that person for the better. I remember 6 years ago when my principal came to me and asked if I wanted to teach a leadership class that was driven by a spirit of Renaissance. I was very hesitant. He then said, “oh and I would send you to Arizona for 3 days for free to learn.” I immediately said “yes” because I wanted the trip because I like to travel. The conference was just something I had to do. Three days later I am on the airplane back home to Charleston and I am so excited about what I just was a part of. I spent the entire flight trying to figure out just what I could get started at my school in a few months. Renaissance has reminded me about the value we place in people. I’m so grateful to Renaissance for reviving this teacher’s spirit to ignite a passion in others.
What advice would you give to someone just starting with Renaissance?
I have a few pieces of advice for someone starting their Renaissance program. First, you need to get the support of your administration. I have been very lucky to have two principals who get it. Once admin buys in to the philosophy, it is easier to get others to buy in as well. Also, rely on others to help. Renaissance isn’t about five people trying to save a school. It is about a collective group working together to better your school.
Jay will receive a shirt and a lapel pin, and was entered into a drawing for free registration to this year’s Jostens Renaissance National Conference.
To nominate someone in your school for the National Renaissance Staffulty of the Month honor, click here.