Beginning in 1972, a young English teacher named Anita McLeod started her career at Providence Day School. Today, she is the longest-serving faculty member at the school.
Q: What was your path to working at Providence Day?
One evening when I was at my choir rehearsal, a fellow choir member, Tom Ridenhour, who of course knew I was a teacher, asked me to call the Headmaster at Providence Day School to set up an interview. I knew Tom had been instrumental in organizing and founding that new independent school in Charlotte.
Even though I knew very little about that new school venture, Tom’s enthusiasm about Providence Day and about me becoming a new faculty member there nudged me to call and set up that interview with Doug Eveleth.
I knew where Providence Day was located, here at 5800 Sardis Road, sitting in a field in front of “that house” behind the two new buildings. Tom had told me that he knew PD was needing at least one more English teacher for the upcoming school year.
The day I received word that I had been hired, I drove over and was shown into the building to see just where my room would be and to learn what I would be teaching my first year. My classroom was in Providence Hall, the first one on the left, entering from the Williams Building. I saw that more rooms were under construction, to be completed by the opening of the school year. I didn’t know at the time, but soon realized, that Providence Day was always looking/planning ahead and building.
Q: What roles have you had at Providence Day?
That year, my first at Providence Day, our school had students in 1st through 10th grades. I would be teaching English classes for our 8th and 9th grades, as well as the one 10th grade. As you might imagine, it was surely a year of firsts for me and for PD. Many, if not most of my students that year, had been at Providence Day since it had opened in 1970, so in that respect, of course, they knew more about PD than I did.
But I was a quick learner. Not only did I get to know my students, but their parents as well. That same feeling of community we all know about now, almost family-like, was here from the very beginning. Students and teachers ate our lunches together IN our classrooms. Right away, I learned who some of the best cooks were. Sampling shared treats with my students, I also knew right away which recipes I wanted to request. And some of those are still in my box of recipes today.
In the following two years, I was teaching 9th, 10th, 11th, and then 12th grade English courses. I was named Chairman of the English Department and Senior Class Advisor and remained in those positions for the next thirteen years. In those early years, I also helped Providence Day establish memberships in the National Honor Society and the National Beta Club.
During the 1974-1975 school year, as Senior Class Advisor, one of my “new” responsibilities was designing and organizing our very first graduation ceremony, which today still follows the original protocol. That first graduation was held in the Ridenhour Gym, students sitting right up front, surrounded beside and behind and around by faculty, parents, and friends.
A little later, I initiated the Senior Projects program. Just like our present one, we thought our seniors would benefit from the opportunity to work with and be engaged with persons currently in the professions/work situations that our seniors thought they might choose. Some colleagues and I interviewed each of our seniors and then sought out those places our seniors would work for several weeks prior to their graduation. Then, as now, some of those positions were connected to family businesses owned by our own PD community.
After my participation in the UNCC National Writing Project in 1981, I became one of the UNCC Writing Project Consultants, conducting various workshops for teachers and students in independent and public schools. The one that was the closest to my heart was the Young Writers Workshop. I was the director of this three-week summer experience held here at Providence Day for students from local independent and public schools. These students worked in three different age groups, under the care and direction of six teaching consultants as they physically explored sites and noticings in Uptown Charlotte. Those excursions ignited ideas for pieces of writing they completed back in their Providence Day classrooms. Their writings appeared each year in the publication Exploring Charlotte’s Web.
During those earliest years here at Providence Day, teaching in our Upper School, and directing those National Writing Project experiences, I was realizing that no schools at that time had writing as part of their curricula. One morning, I made an appointment with our then-headmaster Doug Eveleth, tossing out a possibility: I wanted to go into/begin working with Kindergarten and 1st-grade teachers and classes to see if we might begin teaching writing at the elementary levels. Right there is probably a moment, I should say, “and the rest is history,” or, at least, some of my history.
Doug’s okay opened that proverbial door for me, the one that allowed me to move into new territory, helping Providence Day set up and establish a very strong writing program that begins with our very youngest writers. I have so much enjoyed serving as the Lower School Writing Resource Instructor, where I work directly with students and teachers to foster teaching of writing, our students become stronger and stronger writers throughout their PD years. It is such a pleasure for me to see and work with the same students from year to year, appreciating and applauding their growing successes.
Q: How has Providence Day impacted you and your family?
Everybody who knows anything about Providence Day knows how much time its teachers spend here. At the top of that list, surely is our families. From the moments our children are born, they become part of our Providence Day Family. Certainly, that was true for my two children, Elizabeth and Will. You welcomed both of them – each born eight weeks early! – and adjusted your schedules to their arrival. I always appreciated your teaching, coaching, guidance through all their years here. Many times, I could see how you inspired them.
Q: What means the most to you about Providence Day?
A: There are so many things about Providence Day that mean so much to me. Near the top of my list, is meeting and teaching students who are the children of students whom I earlier taught. Many of you former-students-of-mine are still here directly connected to Providence Day as parents or grandparents yourselves.
Just the other day, as I was going through some old files, I came upon a real treat: it was a folder, holding letters I had asked my seniors to write to me, an end-of-the-year assignment, evaluating me as their teacher. Here is an excerpt from one of a now-PD parent himself:
Mrs. McLeod, you gave us a chance to speak up, discuss, and learn from each other. Through your class, I learned about life and how to deal with the problems I have faced and will face. I can see clearly that you truly love and put everything you have into teaching. Mrs. McLeod, I just wanted to say thank you for all the help, advice, and excellent teaching this year. Hopefully, in the future, I can repay you by being successful in school and making you as proud of me as I am of you! Thanks, Andy Fink.
Nearly every day when I see Andy’s daughter Presley, who has been a student here at Providence Day since she was a kindergartner, with her class or just in the hall, a big smile spreads across her face as she says, “Mrs. McLeod, my dad says, ‘Hi.’”
Yes, Andy, you have more than repaid me.
- Providence Day Magazine