Worthy Convos: Peggy Wakeland, Students’ Ultimate Cheerleader
Peggy Wakeland might be considered fearless to some. She has devoted the entirety of her career as an educator to an age group that frightens most adults- high schoolers. Wakeland joined Fort Worth Country Day as a math teacher almost 30 years ago. Since then, she has charmed students, parents, and fellow teachers, and would no doubt win the superlative of Most Admired. In her newest role as Head of the Bass Upper School, Wakeland will continue her calling of preparing young people to take on the world.
You first joined FWCD as a mathematics teacher in 1994. What would you have thought if someone told you back then that you would one day be the head of upper school?
I entered education and became a math teacher because I had phenomenal teachers growing up, and I wanted to share my passion for math with students and make an impact and difference at the schools where I worked. After creating a freshman studies skills course, and chairing FWCD’s Department of Education National Blue-Ribbon School Committee for the Upper School and being honored with that distinction in 1998-99, I was led to go back to school for a master’s degree. FWCD believed in me, and, while finishing my degree, I was offered the assistant head of upper school role. Over the years, I knew I could ultimately lead our great school, its faculty, and our students, and I’m honored and flattered that I have been given the opportunity and strive every day to meet the challenge.
Twenty-eight years in one spot is an accomplishment. What has kept you at FWCD?
Fort Worth Country Day’s community culture embraces everyone – students, teachers, families, and alumni – and keeps me grounded. We are a family here. Our faculty are some of the most talented and professional people I have met; our parents are engaged, involved and supportive at the highest levels; Falcon alumni return to visit campus regularly and credit their time at FWCD as critical in their preparation for college and beyond. Most importantly, our students are exceptional. They strive to exceed expectations; live FWCD’s core values of courage, integrity, kindness, respect, responsibility and scholarship; show great respect and love for the school’s traditions, fully engage in what we call the 3A’s – academics, arts and athletics – which are a cornerstone of the school; support one another; and consider their school a place to learn and grow while preparing for life beyond high school. Every year is new here at FWCD. The opportunities I’ve been provided to grow in the field have lengthened my career. I cannot imagine a better work scenario.
What do you love about teaching/administering to high school students?
My ultimate goal is for students to know that all of us at the school are here for them and that they feel loved and cared for. It is such a joy to watch the students grow and develop from ninth grade to 12th grade into future leaders for the greater Fort Worth area, Texas and beyond. Teaching, coaching, and “administering” at this crucial time in their lives is an honor. I strive to help students take ownership of their education and encourage them to become self-disciplined. I also enjoy observing and interacting with students in activities outside of the academic classroom. I’m a cheerleader at their games. I am giving a standing ovation at performing arts events. I am a contemplator of their arts masterpieces and a reader and viewer of their journalistic endeavors. We all hope to connect with our students and leave an indelible mark on them in the hopes that they continue coming home to share their subsequent journeys with us.
How would you describe your own upper school years?
Involved in everything … This question made me look myself up in my Kennedale High School senior yearbook. I lifted the copy straight from there:
- Basketball 1, 2, 3, 4; Captain 3, 4; All District 4
- Beta Club 1, 2, 3, 4; Beta Officer 4
- Class Officer 1, 2, 3
- F.H.A. 1, 2, 3, 4; FHA Officer 2, 3, 4
- Pep Squad 1, 2; Pep Squad Officer 2; Head Cheerleader 3, 4
- Homecoming Nominee 3,4
- Most School Spirited 1, 3, 4
- Best All Around 2
- Most Athletic 3, 4
- Miss KHS. 4
- Yearbook Editor 4
- Algebra Award 1; Geometry 3; Home Economics Award 1, 2
- English Award 3; Bookkeeping Award 3
- Junior Play 3
- Powderpuff Football 1, 2, 3, 4
- Outstanding Teenager of America 4
- Merit’s Who’s Who in America High Schools 4
I truly loved school, my classes, my teachers, my classmates, and all of the activities. High school is about learning, tests, and grades, but it’s also about engagement and making memories.
What does education mean to you?
Education is the gateway to opportunities and options. Dreams can become realities when a student is well-equipped with skills and knowledge learned in an environment that encourages accepting the challenges associated with research and a strong work ethic. Teachers commit their professional careers to guiding and mentoring students. I have learned throughout my career that, as teachers and administrators, we must listen to our students and be patient with them because they may not demonstrate success immediately. Fostering and nurturing academic learning in tandem with social skills development and growth ensures students’ mastery of skills and concepts as they mature. I commit myself to this type of teaching.
If you could take any class offered at FWCD, which would it be?
I would like to immerse myself in our phenomenal Modern and Classical languages program. Shared experiences connect the world and being bilingual or multilingual would allow me to extend my world. I took a few years of Spanish at Tarrant County College, but it was more of an independent study. FWCD students connect with both French and Spanish in kindergarten and then choose their language path as first-graders. When our students graduate, they are very close to being bilingual if they have genuinely stayed the course and made the commitment.
During your years as a student, is there a particular teacher you still think about?
Margaret Nan Hudson, my high school math teacher, was my inspiration. We dedicated the Kennedale High School yearbook to her when I was the senior editor. Mrs. Hudson was actually THE Math Department and one of few women in a math or science teaching role. It is not lost on me that I became a math teacher too! I can still visualize her teaching at the front of the classroom; she held us all to such high standards. We were not in her math classes to just check a box. She wanted us to be serious learners and develop the skills to impact our futures positively. In her Geometry class, she taught me that there is not just one correct answer when solving proofs. After college, my first job was in the Mansfield ISD, and I had the opportunity to teach on the same faculty as Mrs. Hudson. I saw her through a different lens and admired her even more. I hope to inspire students in the same way.
I love that my Aunt Peggy is being recognized for the AMAZING woman she is. What a blessing she is to so many, especially her family. My Aunt Peggy from our early years has always been giving, caring, loving, and FUN! One thing the article didn’t mention is that she not only impacts students in her school she also impacts those in her family. The math gene unfortunately did not get passed around to everyone in the family so we all relied on Aunt Peggy to tutor us through all our high school, and college Algebra classes! There is an entire group of Barne’s grandkids and great-grandkids that have high school and college diplomas because Aunt Peggy took the time to support us, and encourage us.
As an educator and Administrator, Aunt Peggy was instrumental in mentoring me with sound advice on many topics. I will always remember the many, many times visiting her at FWCD when I was a new Head of School just listening to every bit of wisdom she could pour into me. The two pieces of advice that I remember so vividly were that you treat EVERYONE the same-PERIOD. No matter academic, social or financial status EVERYONE who walks in your office should ALWAYS be treated with the same respect, and be held to the same rules and standards. Aunt Peggy took me to the gym and showed me all the pictures on the wall of alumni and their accomplishments. Aunt Peggy told me to NEVER forget to CELEBRATE EVERYONE!
I know that when my MeMa died, and the entire girl’s basketball team from FWCD came to her visitation in support of my Aunt Peggy, she was living a life worthy of praise.
Congratulations Aunt Peggy! We love you and are SO PROUD of you! THANK YOU for mentoring me into the administrator I am today!
I have known Peggy Wakeland since childhood. She was one year behind me at Kennedale ISD. She was always a leader in academics, athletics and outside the school environment. I am not surprised that she is a leader at FWCD.