by Mike Conroy
Ever since Watkins Mill High School (WMHS) was opened in 1989, the majority of Village students have attended high school here. During that time, the school has been an integral part of the community, and school administration and the Montgomery Village Foundation (MVF) have worked together to promote student and teacher accomplishments in the community. Also since 1989, WMHS has had a number of administrators who have helped that process. WMHS’s newest principal, Carol Goddard is no different.
During her first year at WMHS, Goddard has been involved in many student activities, but also with the community. With the help of her students, she continued the WMHS winning streak in the Great Pumpkin Race, a tradition started by former principal Scott Murphy. Goddard, a life-long educator, draws her experience and passion for education from early experiences in her own family. Translating those experiences into teachable moments is how she aims to lift her students and staff up and push the limits of their potential.
From an early age, Goddard was learning and teaching. Her mother was a deaf teacher in a hearing world, so Carol saw how she dealt with everyday struggles. Despite those obstacles, Goddard describes her as an outstanding mother, teacher and hall of fame coach. In fact, her mother’s education influence runs deep in Goddard’s family; her four sisters are also in education. And so with that influence, Carol Goddard has been changing students’ lives since the age of 20.
Goddard has a unique perspective in her role as WMHS Principal, in that her breadth of experience is very wide. She has been a teacher, coach and/or administrator at the elementary, middle and high school levels all across the country—12 schools in total, including a stint about 16 years ago as Student Support Specialist at WMHS. However, her last position as Gaithersburg Middle School Principal really helped her prepare for this new venture. She recalls, “In middle school, all levels, really, there’s always something. You have to change with them, adapt and move forward.” Of high school, though, she likes the ability to reason with students a little more, as they are more aware of what’s going on around them. “They’re all kids, they just get bigger.”
“I like the culture here at Watkins Mill,” Goddard says. “I think the diversity of the population fuels a respect among students and staff, and that’s a philosophy I share and can get behind.” She says her biggest goal as an educator is to have everyone doing well on all levels; Goddard doesn’t like to see kids give up. The diversity of the school helps change students perceptions about each other and the world; she likes to help students understand each other and become successful young adults. Over the years, she’s learned one of the best ways to accomplish this is to listen to her students. “If you’re caring, they are willing to take chances. It’s an important gift to share.”
Of course, with listening comes action, inspiration and encouragement. But Goddard knows it’s a two-way street. On a daily basis, the most fulfilling thing she does is interact with students—and they keep her inspired as well. Carol lets a huge smile come across her face as she says students’ positive attitudes—their willingness to do well and succeed—is great motivation for her to keep doing what she’s doing, and to share in their greatness.
One of her proudest moments as an educator came earlier this year when students rallied around a classmate in need of a new wheelchair. “These kids took full ownership of that, and raised $32,000 for a new wheelchair for their classmate. Ibra has so much independence now; he used to need someone to push his old chair, and now he steers the new one with head movements—he can interact by himself. So it really pulled kids together, and this is why it’s amazing…you’re talking about a school that has 60% FARM, and they would give their last nickel to the GoFundMe to get that chair for Ibra. Kids are just so happy to help him get that chair. And that means they share in our philosophy to help everyone do well on all levels.”
In addition to being proud of her students, Goddard is equally as proud of her staff and all that WMHS does in, and for, the community. On the school side of things, WMHS offers a full International Baccalaureate program; nursing, finance, hospitality and computer skills programs; an award-winning online student newsletter, “The Current”; and boasts a 93.7% Algebra pass rate for first semester at one of the most diverse schools in the county. “That really speaks to what our kids can do,” she notes.
In the community, WMHS hosts a wildly successful farmer’s market that helps feed families in need; offers services though the Wellness Center; runs a successful Identity program; partners with College Tracks and Aces to provide college support to students and families; and is an key participant in the Watkins Mill Cluster Project, which, along with about 25 other entities, identifies areas in need of support throughout the community.
“We are doing well,” Carol remarks. “We are proud to be such an important part of this community and I am thankful to be part of these kids’ lives.”