The Wheeler School Parents Association (WSPA) is our school’s community of parents and guardians. We talked with WSPA President Chris Rogers P’24 to learn more about the organization and what it’s like to be a parent or guardian at Wheeler.
Q: How do you describe Wheeler?
A: Wheeler is a school that encourages each child to be their best self. Teachers help children to recognize how they learn and appreciate that it is not the same for everyone. If a child has a passion or talent burning within them, academic or otherwise? There are outlets for those interests, as well. All of that creates a school community that recognizes differences and values them and creates a very vibrant learning environment.
Q: When did your family join Wheeler, and what has your experience as a Wheeler parent been like since that time?
A: Our family came to Wheeler when my son enrolled in 6th grade at the Hamilton School. We participated in as many activities offered to us during that non-COVID time—an environment to which we are hopefully soon returning—and that allowed us to meet many families both within Hamilton as well as the larger Wheeler community. We have met many terrific adults and kids in our time at the school.
Q: You’re the current president of the Wheeler School Parents Association, or WSPA. Can you tell me about the group, some of its programs, and how and why you became so actively involved in it?
A: Every parent and guardian automatically becomes a member of WSPA when their child enters the school. The mission of the group is to encourage parent/guardian participation and foster community. We also serve as ambassadors for Wheeler in the greater community.
Our WSPA volunteer slate is more than 60-people strong, and it is this group that assists with the many events we hold during the course of the year. Traditional events include the popular Fall Fest for Lower School, the Amos House Toy Drive, Faculty and Staff Appreciation, and the famous Wheeler Clothing Sale, which is more than 70 years old! This year we offered a new opportunity for families to gather at our Fall Family Socials at the Farm. These were grade specific socials that allowed us to get together in accordance with Healthy Task Force guidelines.
Our Social Committee also held an outdoor fall event at a local brewery for parents and guardians and they are currently planning a virtual cooking class. WSPA also hosts a monthly morning walking club as well as casual coffees for parents to meet without an agenda. WSPA volunteer Division Chairs also work with the school’s Division Heads to offer a number of presentations specific to their child’s age group over the course of the year.
With a school that encompasses families in grades nursery through 12, it can be challenging to meet all the needs of our community members for meeting and socializing. We try to offer low- or no-cost events, have virtual and in-person (when possible) meetings, and alternate between mornings and evenings for scheduling presentations. Our hope is that at least one of these ways of connecting with other parents will work for people’s schedules.
As to why I have gotten involved in WSPA? I have always tried to be engaged in my children’s schools. My involvement level might shift depending on family and professional obligations, and that is why I think getting involved in WSPA is such a great way for our parents to connect with other parents. There are such a variety of ways to get involved. Some of our efforts require minimal volunteer time—maybe a couple of hours—while others are long-term and require more of a commitment.
Q: What are other ways, beyond WSPA, that parents and guardians are involved in and engaged with the Wheeler community?
A: As we return to a time when parents and guardians can safely be on campus again, they can look forward to assisting with Lower School class activities and field trips, Middle School sports and socials, and Upper School sports and performances. There is the monthly Learning Differences Coffee held for the entire Wheeler community, and discussion groups like Coffee, Cupcakes, and Conversation, organized by the Diversity Committee. There are family barbecues for different affinity groups. These are just a few ways that parents and guardians can be engaged.
Q: Do you have any guidance for families who are new to Wheeler or to those who are considering joining our school community?
A: I found it very helpful to attend some Wheeler events in the spring before my son’s first fall semester. We went to a middle school show, attended a basketball game, and also went to a family barbecue held in the courtyard. It allowed us to get a feel for the campus and meet people. WSPA also offers a great mentor family program in which a current family is assigned to an incoming family. This mentorship gives the new student a chance to meet a classmate before the start of school and offers new parents/guardians a person they can call with any questions or concerns.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to add about the parent and guardian experience at Wheeler that we haven’t covered?
A: I would add that building community takes all of us being willing to share ideas and talents, when we are able, to enrich the school experience for all of our families. WSPA is always looking for new ways for us all to connect. I would love to hear some fresh perspectives as we look forward to returning to a more normal way of socializing in the near future. Please send your ideas directly to me, and I will forward them to the appropriate committee.
Follow WSPA on Facebook to see more information about current and upcoming events.