With Mr. Anthony as the new Head of School, what will be in store for WPGA next year?
By: Deborah Jin (Grade 11)
When you look around at the beautiful scenery, buildings, and community of West Point Grey Academy, it is hard to imagine that it was just established twenty-four years ago in 1996. In such a short amount of time, WPGA has grown to become one of the top high schools in British Columbia. Thanks to Mr. Austin, the first Head of School, we are now able to be a part of such a welcoming and diverse community. As we are nearing the end of this school year, the students and staff will steadily prepare to experience a change in the upcoming one. Mr. Matthews, the current Head of School, who joined our wolf pack in 2013, will pass his position to Mr. Anthony next year. We have enjoyed a wonderful six years with Mr. Matthews and his annual themes: ‘Show Up,’ ‘Step Up,’ ‘Speak Up,’ Inclusiveness, and Empowerment. Although he won’t be leading WPGA next year, the people, the environment, and atmosphere of the school won’t necessarily change. Instead, with Mr. Anthony’s leadership, they will continue to grow.
Many people know Mr. Anthony as the Head of Senior School, or maybe the person who tells too many dad jokes during assemblies. When I commented on his terribly (un)funny dad jokes, he replied, “They’ve got to be bad groaners, bad jokes — and I don’t care. I just have fun with them.” Clearly, he isn’t just the Head of Senior School; he a loving father of three, an expert joke-teller, and one of the teachers has been with WPGA from the very beginning. He could clearly recall what it was like entering Mr. Austin’s office for the first time, with “boxes everywhere, second-hand desks and some chairs as they were getting ready to open the school.” It was the summer of 1996, a couple of months before WPGA opened, and Mr. Anthony had been teaching overseas before returning to Canada to seek a job. “Those of us that started at this school in the very beginning had that blank canvas for all of us to dream,” he said.
This year was the debut of the storytelling assemblies, created by Mr. Anthony, where a cozy chair is set up in front of a microphone and beside a small table with a bottle of water and a lava lamp. Students sit wherever they want on the floor around the storyteller, who then shares their personal experiences around a given theme. This year’s themes were gratitude and resistance and for many students, these assemblies have become their favourite for many reasons. While the halls of WPGA are usually busy and bustling, Mr. Anthony shares the “importance of connecting to people” and “knowing their stories, knowing what they love, what makes them tick, what they’re excited about.” Before the launch of these assemblies, there were many ‘what if’s’ and questions. “This could flop,” Mr. Anthony had told himself. Of course, it didn’t. When students and teachers hear stories from their peers, they can find something that resonates with them and it keeps them engaged and empathetic. The lava lamp, on the other hand, adds to the relaxing atmosphere and Mr. Anthony hopes that “when people see one of these in the future, though, they’ll remember the storytelling.” Interestingly enough, when I saw a lava lamp in his office it was indeed the first thing I thought of.
Mr. Anthony values connecting with students and observing “their growth and their own skill set,” and to “recognize individual strengths and passions that the teachers have.” While he is both nervous and excited, he will also go with the flow with the idea of ‘growth’ in his mind and allow his curiosity to keep building. He recently turned fifty years old and he will, of course, continue to grow. “Unfortunately not taller, but certainly in my knowledge,” he added with a chuckle. When asked about the many challenges that may come with this leadership position, he mentioned managing “a to-do list that will never become a to-done list” while making important decisions and understanding that those decisions won’t satisfy everyone. Many people think being a leader means bossing everyone from above, but Mr. Anthony emphasized that there is instead “a desire to serve” and “to make experiences better for people.” Being Head of School is very much a social job: “This is not working in the middle of a forest or punching numbers into a spreadsheet. This is working with people all day long.”
Although we won’t see Mr. Matthews as Head of School next year, it is important for us to recognize the impact that he has made and the remarkable role he has played at WPGA. “We are not the same school today that we were six years ago before he arrived,” Mr. Anthony added. While he is being taught by Mr. Matthews in preparation for his future position, Mr. Anthony is also teaching Mr. Parker (the incoming Head of Senior School) everything he needs to know. When chatting about future plans for the school Mr. Anthony mentioned a full exchange program, where students can travel to another country to study for a few weeks or even a few months. “We’ve got some great teachers who are passionate about it,” he said. The administration apparently already has a couple of ideas that they will launch next year. As for other possible modifications, Mr. Anthony is happy to listen to student input for changes to the uniform, including colour schemes, the material used, and the school logo. There is even better news: Mr. Anthony mentioned a huge slide that could be built that goes from the Senior School all the way to the gym. “You know how fast we could get to PE class?” he added. “And then maybe, in the second year, we’ll build an escalator that goes from the gym back up to the Senior School.” After asking him if he was being serious or not, he replied, “Yeah, sure. That would be great, wouldn’t it?”
Supplementary pictures and explanations of Mr. Anthony’s office:
“Not long after Monsieur Peltier started taking pictures, he captured these images of these musicians who graduated a few years ago…I found them really inspirational. I just said, ‘I want to put them up in my office.’” – Mr. Anthony
“If you don’t have time to read, then you don’t have time to lead!” – a professor from a course Mr. Anthony took
“I’m really good at killing plants. I could kill a rubber plant. It’s a specialty of mine. That thing? It’s still alive. Maybe it’s just living on all the hot air that comes out of my mouth.” – Mr. Anthony