INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — On June 12, the last day of the 2013 school year, Kathleen Watty said her good-byes to her roughly 426 elementary school students.
“I got on the buses as I do every day, told them to have a good summer, and said, ‘I’ll see you around,’” the departing Incline Elementary and Middle School principal said. “It just seemed right. No pangs, no regrets.”
After 42 years in education, Watty’s work was done.
Two weeks later, Watty sits at her desk in the principal’s office in a now-silent elementary school. Sitting with a principal in her office might conjure bad memories — until her phone rings with a repeating duck quack.
Watty, whose final day with the Washoe County School District is Friday, is quietly friendly and engaging, and is a considerate listener.
“I will absolutely miss it here,” she said. “I love my job, I love the kids and I love my colleagues.”
Watty has strived to provide what she calls “an outdoor-rich education” to her students, ranging from kindergarten through fifth grade.
“Instead of bringing the outdoors in, we bring the kids outside,” Watty said.
Watty shared an example of the outdoors theme: Volunteers with AmeriCorps, a federal service-based agency, recently helped students plan, design and implement a trail through a wisp of forest in front of the school on Northwood Boulevard. The trail includes picnic tables and log-round chairs formed in a circle of learning, where classes are sometimes held, weather permitting.
Students painted rocks along the trail, each stone with a virtuous word painted on it, such as “gratitude,” “kindness” and “faith.” Trees and shrubs along the trail are identified by type with placards.
Watty also spoke of a typical Tahoe-related science experiment, in which Lahontan cutthroat trout eggs were hatched under the watchful eyes of students, then the minnows were returned to the lake.
She holds great praise for the supportive Incline community, because when the school has a need, residents step up and asks what it can do. She said there are around 100 parents who volunteer to help out in any way they can.
Watty comes from a long line of educators, as both her father and her sister were school superintendents. Watty spent one year teaching in Norway and five years teaching in France before moving to Incline Village in 1974.
She has since taught in Incline schools and learned administration in Sparks schools before returning to Tahoe to become principal at Incline Middle School in 2006, before taking on the K-8 role in 2007.
“We have been very blessed in the district to have Kathleen,” said WCSD Superintendent Pedro Martinez. “Whenever I went to the elementary school, I was amazed by the engaging, warm environment and how her students and staff embraced her and trusted her. I’m happy for her. We’re going to miss her.”
Incline Middle School Site Administrator Sharon Kennedy said she’s had the opportunity and pleasure to work with Watty the past seven years.
“She has been a friend and colleague on whom I could count and with whom I could commiserate as well as celebrate,” Kennedy said. “She was always willing to come to the middle school to assist in emergencies and happily attend student performances and athletic events. Kathleen is a true original and I will miss her terribly.”
Watty looks to the future with a serendipitous light.
“When you’ve been in a mode for 42 years, you don’t necessarily have a plan,” she said.
She loves Incline and wants to continue living here. She said her son has started his own winery in Santa Barbara and she foresees helping him however she can. She would also like to travel, re-read the classics and pursue hobbies.
And she will likely often think back to her 42 years with children.
“I’ve always had kids in mind with everything we planned,” she said. “Education is all about the clientele, the students. And they’re a pretty happy clientele.”
“I will absolutely miss it here.”