Waud and Pethel are loss to Harpeth Hall, but their impact is not

By Hallie Graham, Staff Writer

Legendary upper school teachers Mrs. Waud and Dr. Pethel announced they are leaving Harpeth Hall at the end of this year. Harpeth Hall’s success at educating young women stems from the qualified faculty. The loss of Mrs. Waud and Dr. Pethel will not only affect the math and history departments respectively but also the students and teachers they have impacted.

Mrs. Waud, then Miss Martin, was a student at Harpeth Hall as fascinated with mathematics as she is now. She was one of the first members of the AP Calculus BC class, a welcome challenge in her book. 

She attended Wake Forest University for her undergraduate degree in mathematics; however, she did not have a passion for teaching until she joined a freshman tutoring group where she honed her teaching style. 

She then went to Vanderbilt University for graduate school. Soon after, she interviewed at Harpeth Hall for her first teaching job. “My former teachers were cheering me on at the back of the classroom during the test class I taught.” Mrs. Waud said. After visiting her alma mater and realizing her passion for girls’ education, she knew Harpeth Hall was perfect for the next chapter of her life.

During her time at Harpeth Hall, she has taught Precalculus every year, regular and honors Geometry, and Algebra I. The Middle School volleyball and softball teams have been lucky to call Mrs. Waud their dedicated coach. Her daughter, Wendy, was born just before the HVAC championships, yet Waud coached the tournament with her two-week old daughter in the bleachers. She has been the club sponsor for Triads and a member of the Confidence Committee. 

Mrs. Waud is leaving to be with her three small children. She applies her experience in teaching to parenting. “A good parent lets her children try tasks before stepping into help just like a great teacher lets her students try problems before giving suggestions,” Mrs. Waud said. 

Though making the decision to leave was not easy, Mrs. Waud realized “there is always the possibility of going back to teaching. Of course, [she] hopes it is at Harpeth Hall!”. 

Mrs. Waud wishes teachers at Harpeth Hall had more opportunities to take classes students are enrolled in. This wish speaks to her desire to know her students.

 Waud’s unique and creative teaching style keeps students out of their comfort zone while not taking away from her caring ways. “She makes sure to meet with every advisee individually to make sure she feels confident in herself.” Her honors Geometry student, Aden Barrett said, “Mrs. Waud shares aspects of her personal life with us. It makes me feel involved. Those kids are just so cute!” sophomore Kate Stewart said.

Throughout her commitments, she has not only dazzled students with her teaching but also befriended her colleagues. All of them remarked on her creative projects that make a math classroom more alive, especially the honors Geometry architecture project. “From her first year teaching, Mrs. Waud has taught as if she has decades of experience. Mrs. Waud’s cheerful, enthusiastic, and supportive presence will be missed. Our loss is her family’s gain”. upper school math teacher Mr. Wert said.

Dr. Pethel’s work on the digital archives and in the history department has set her aside as one of the best members of the faculty in Harpeth Hall’s recent history. She received a degree in history from the University of Tennessee Knoxville and attended graduate school at Berry College and Georgia State University. 

Dr. Pethel had two connections to Harpeth Hall before she came to work. While working on her dissertation about education in Nashville, Dr. Pethel researched Ward Belmont without knowing she would be working at its progeny. Dr. Pethel was Mrs. Keen’s sister’s roommate for four years, forming a connection with her future workplace.

Since the beginning of her Harpeth Hall career in 2007, Dr. Pethel has taught a myriad of classes in the history department, but most recently she has taught Economics and AP United States History. In addition, she managed Harpeth Hall’s physical and digital archives and created a digital humanities page where students can interact with their school’s history. She was Model UN’s dedicated sponsor until 2018 and was on the discipline committee for ten years. 

Dr. Pethel is leaving to, “Spread [her] wings in a different way”. She will continue her teaching career at Belmont University by working as an assistant professor of interdisciplinary studies of global education. 

She will direct interns from Belmont to her Nashville Sites project, a program for tourists that wish to visit Music City in a customized and historical way. Two of Harpeth Hall’s own will work this project with Dr. Pethel including Olivia Olaffsson (’19) and junior Janet Briggs.

Dr. Pethel’s impact on students is vast, as she teaches classes, engages through Winterim, and creates ways for students to interact with the past. “Dr. Pethel has a witty personality and is knowledgeable about Nashville’s history as a whole. You can see her passion.” freshman Lailah Rucker said.

Dr. Pethel’s colleagues had only positive words to share. “Her students adore her. She is a valued team member of the history department. I wish she was not leaving the same year as me. I can hear Dr. Echerd a few years from now asking ‘who was that teacher that left with Pethel?'” upper school social sciences teacher Tony Springman said.

Pethel and Waud’s contributions to the Harpeth Hall community are immeasurable and diverse. Harpeth Hall is lucky to have had Mrs. Waud’s creative and enthusiastic teaching style and Dr. Pethel’s passion and ability to see a project to the end with flair. Once a honeybear, always a honeybear.

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