Head of School

Ray For Website Cropped

Meet Ray Wilson

I am excited by the work we do at The Northwest School, our ability to meet students where they are, and our determination to provide them with a dynamic experience that will enable them to thrive in and outside of the classroom. 

The Northwest School believes in the importance of students gaining a deep understanding of how their classroom experiences directly connect to the world beyond our walls. Our challenging academic program intentionally integrates with environmental sustainability, global perspectives, and social justice. When we make the learning applicable to the lives of our students, it helps provide meaning and purpose throughout the curriculum. 

Our unique approach to teaching the humanities causes students to think critically, formulate strong opinions, and emerge as vibrant writers. Through strong partnerships with faculty, students develop a habit of mind that is grounded in intellectual curiosity. This curiosity extends throughout the academic program — the arts, sciences, mathematics, and physical education.  

At Northwest, all members of the school community are called upon to be their genuine and authentic selves. This is essential to our work towards building and sustaining an inclusive community. Whether it is in the classroom, dining hall, theater, gym, or in the dormitory, The Northwest School is an exciting place to learn and grow into the person our students want to become. 

I enjoy working closely with faculty, students, and their families to carry forward the inspiring vision that started The Northwest School in 1980. Our founders believed that school should be a place where all members work together to help make society conducive for sustained promise. This vision serves as a guidepost for our work today.  

I look forward to meeting you and sharing how The Northwest School will benefit from your presence. 

Ray Wilson


The Head of School Book Club Kicks off its Second Year

Ray enjoys a good book discussion, so he was excited to start the Head of School Book Club in January 2022; parents and faculty were all invited to join and drop in as available for discussions.

The first book tackled by the group was “Anatomy of Peace,” by the Arbinger Institute. The spring read was “Cirque du Soleil: The Spark - Igniting the Creative Fire that Lives within Us All,” by John U. Bacon and Lyn Heward. In addition to the book club, the entire faculty read it over the summer and discussed it in their first week back.

In October, the bookclub will reconvene to read and discuss the book UnSelfie, Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World by Michele Borba, Ed.D. 

From the publisher: Teens today are 40 percent less empathetic than they were 30 years ago with dangerous implications for children. First, it hurts children’s academic performance and leads to bullying behaviors. Also, it correlates with more cheating and less resilience as well as hampering their ability to collaborate, innovate, and problem-solve—all vital skills for the global economy. UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me-World, pinpoints the forces causing the Empathy Crisis and shares a revolutionary, researched-based, nine-step parenting plan for reversing what Dr. Borba calls “the “Selfie Syndrome.”

  • From the Desk of Ray Wilson, Head of School: September 8, 2022

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    Wednesday at our first Community Meeting of the year, I welcomed students and faculty to the school for the 2022/23 school year and shared my excitement for the months ahead. As I prepared my remarks for that event, the past, present, and future of The Northwest School and students were all on my mind.

    Forty-two years ago, the founders of The Northwest School, each with a passion for education, set out to create a school that would be a benefit to the community, help young people discover the greatness within themselves while empowering them to make a difference in the world. The three founders, Paul Raymond, Ellen Taussig, and Mark Terry envisioned a better educational experience; it became a reality when they created The Northwest School and welcomed 230 students to The House in September 1980.

    It is with this great legacy and the enduring mission and vision they built that we begin another wonderful year. Together we want to make it the best year possible. We have a great academic foundation - the humanities, mathematics, sciences, and arts. Woven throughout is an emphasis on sustainability, global perspectives, and social justice. Students graduate from The Northwest School with the ability to think creatively, problem solve and design solutions for the world’s future challenges.

    Our theme for the year is creativity, this is how we will shape the year ahead and write our own chapter in the history of the school. We want to awaken everyone’s creativity; the possibilities are endless. We are looking forward to thinking outside of the box, removing boundaries, redefining the norms just like our founders did when they started The Northwest School.

    You, and the students you have entrusted with us, have many gifts, skills, and talents you bring to The Northwest School. You matter to us; the students matter to us. Thank you for participating in this journey. Welcome to the 2022/23 School Year.

    Thank you for your support and partnership,

    Ray

  • From the Desk of Ray Wilson, Head of School: September 15, 2022

    This is the beginning of a special school year. We have yearned for more in-person connections and the time has finally come.

    Over the past year I have met numerous alumni of The Northwest School - faculty, parents, and students - who have shared with me how rich and satisfying it was to work, learn, or socialize with others who called NWS home. Community has always been a part of the Northwest ethos. Individuals have benefited, but so has the school, as each person in the history of Northwest has added a depth to the school that over time reaffirms our strong foundation. This is one of the many reasons why The Northwest School withstands the test of time.

    Students have longed for more opportunities to connect in person over the past couple of years and, like many of us, they've yearned for the day when we could assemble for Community Meetings and other gatherings.

    We are 10 days into the school year, and I can already feel the energy and joy of the school community coming to life in a new way. I’ve heard numerous people mention how much they enjoyed the Moon Festival this past Friday. The two class-level field trips this week were great bonding experiences for the students, and our second community meeting of the year was energizing. The first Middle School and Upper School PGA meetings were also in person and well attended. We are beginning to physically gather as a community and it’s creating a level of connection that we all have been missing.

    Sunday is the PGA-sponsored picnic for families at Seward Park. This will be a great opportunity to say hi to friends, meet new families, and enjoy the outdoors in a beautiful setting. I look forward to an energizing day with our wonderful community of students, siblings, parents, guardians, faculty, and friends.

    It is important that everyone feels connected to Northwest and continues to feel welcomed into the House!

    Thank you for your support and partnership,

    Ray

  • The Classroom Perspective, Ray Wilson, Head of School: September 22, 2022

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    As the Head of School, I’ve heard it said that interactions with students must be limited due to the demands of the job. I refuse to accept that reality and instead have prioritized seeing Northwest from the students’ perspective.

    Throughout the year, I will spend an entire day as the guest of a student and will accompany them to all their classes. This will give me insight into the pacing and expectations of our daily schedule, first-hand engagement in classes, and an opportunity to get to know my host student.

    I spent last Friday attending school with Dylan A., my seventh-grade host. The previous day, I received a note from Maya, Dylan’s dance teacher. She informed me that I needed to wear athletic clothing to class. I immediately paused and became filled with reservations about my visit — I have never had a dance class. The moment I stepped into class, Dylan showed me the ropes and made me feel comfortable and at ease. Maya then started class with a warm greeting and student introductions.

    Over the course of the next 75 minutes, I was stretched (literally and figuratively) out of my comfort zone. I gained confidence in my ability to perform a dance created by noted choreographer, Frankie Manning, and saw students laughing and encouraging each other as we all took risks with trying famous dance moves.

    Dylan then took me to life science. It was in this class that I witnessed a new faculty member, Adelyn, masterfully tap into each student’s prior knowledge about body systems. In small groups, students had an opportunity to rotate to different charts to add their knowledge and word associations to the systems being represented (circulatory, respiratory, digestive, etc.). Adelyn then reviewed each system and the students’ contributions.

    Afterwards, the students were given a patient who had symptoms, and then the students had to work together to figure out a diagnosis for the patient by utilizing the body systems covered earlier during class. In real time, the students were affirmed for their prior knowledge, worked collaboratively to contribute more information, received additional content from their teacher, and applied their learning to solving a real case. At the end of the class, I reflected that I just experienced a total mental workout — I shared, I learned; I was part of finding a solution to help a patient in need of support.

    After two classes, I realized that I was hungry! Prior to my visit day, I committed to supporting our dining services team by being a guest server for the day. This gave me the opportunity to engage with students in a different capacity. Throughout my lunch shift, I was able to connect with my colleagues and learn techniques for plating lunches, and even had a few minutes as the only person on the serving line. As students made their way through the line, I was able to have small conversations, but more importantly, each customer said, “THANK YOU”. As I reflected on the kindness extended to the serving team, I gained greater affirmation for the warmth of our community and the mutual respect we exhibit.

    After lunch, I joined Dylan for an exciting Spanish class with Monica. Using an online platform, students were able to demonstrate their learning in a fun and exciting manner. Their interaction with each other enabled Monica to present different vocabulary words that were applicable to the activity. Additionally, students learned how to conjugate verbs that further advanced their Spanish language acquisition. Seeing our students enjoy learning was very heartening and refreshing.

    Our last class of the day was humanities with Alonzo. Upon entry into the room, the students immediately knew the structure and systems for the class. They joined their group tables and began to discuss the lesson from the previous period. The level of discourse was insightful and reflective of their deep understanding of the material. The class then discussed the upcoming current events assignment asking thoughtful questions and seeking clarity– with excitement and curiosity. Alonzo then introduced different forms of speech– figurative, onomatopoeia, illustrative, etc.- and asked students to identify examples of each in the reading. The students were clearly engaged and felt comfortable sharing their ideas and questions.

    Overall, my visit cemented for me the fact that our students have a full day of high-level interactions with their peers and teachers. Our academic program challenged students to stretch their physical and intellectual selves in ways that reflect the mission of the school. I am excited for the students to continue to enjoy learning, while simultaneously valuing the expertise our faculty bring to campus on a daily basis.

    I want to thank Dylan for being gracious with his time, and patient with me as I joined him and his classmates. I want to extend a huge thank you to my colleagues for helping me feel welcomed, and for allowing me a glimpse into your exciting world of education. I look forward to spending the day with an upper school student on September 30.

    Lastly, it was great to see so many of you at the Middle School Curriculum Night. The opportunity to learn more about the classroom experience, hear about plans for the trimester, and establish connections with fellow families were all markers for an informative evening. I look forward to a similar experience next week when the Upper School hosts its Curriculum Night.

    Thank you for your support and partnership,

    Ray

  • From the Desk of Ray Wilson, Head of School: September 29, 2022

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    Curriculum night for both the middle and upper schools provided an opportunity for the teaching faculty to share their passion for teaching with parents and guardians. As I walked the halls and sat in on presentations, I marveled at the energy that filled the classrooms. Light banter and humor between the faculty and their audiences illustrated the importance Northwest places on teaching through relationships.

    The students and faculty refer to each other by our first names. This is a small aspect of our community that plays a huge role in how we communicate daily. The faculty do not rely on our age to command respect from students. Instead, we work hard to value the students as active members of the school and come to rely upon them for their ideas and contributions that help to move the school forward. In return, students find it beneficial to refer to their teachers and administrators by their first names because it engenders a supportive environment that is not encumbered by hierarchy. This cultural feature has been a hallmark at Northwest since its founding.

    I continue to be amazed at the wisdom and expertise that permeates our classrooms. Our teaching faculty, as evidenced by their curriculum night presentations, care deeply about their craft, find joy in helping students make connections between curriculum and their lives outside of school, and relish in the importance of partnering with families.

    In the words of one parent in attendance at the Upper School Curriculum Night, “It was so exciting to follow my child’s schedule and meet their teachers; I learned so much about how they spend their days at school. Thank you!”

    Thank you to everyone who made the journey to campus these past two weeks to learn more about the curriculum and meet the dynamic teaching faculty. I look forward to a strong finish to the trimester and relatedly, to a continued focus on the student experience.

    Take care,

    Ray