Westminster Welcomes Its First Legacy Student

When Emily O’Dell began as a student at Westminster Academy in 1998, she never could have predicted the future she would have with the school. Upon graduation from high school, she went on to Ole Miss where she studied Classics and English, and then taught at a classical school in Jackson, Mississippi for a year.  After her husband finished grad school, they returned to Memphis where Emily continued teaching. Fast forward eight years and two kids, Mrs. O’Dell was staying at home with her children, and it was time to decide what to do about school for their son, Jack. “I didn’t know what would be best for Jack,” she says. “It is such a hard thing to decide when your child has to go to school. Do we home school? Private school? After teaching in public school, I knew I did not want that for him at such a young age.”

So after thinking about several private schools in the area, the family came on a tour at Westminster Academy. Deciding to enroll Jack was really a family decision, “My husband, Brian, really encouraged me to look at Westminster not only to pursue a teaching job, but also for Jack’s schooling. I was ready to go back to teaching, but I admit I wasn’t quite sure WA was right for us, even though I loved my high school experience. Going back to visit Westminster and being reminded of the difference in the quality and content of this type of education got us really excited. We both knew this was what we wanted for our kids.”

Mrs. O’Dell said these first months of school have reminded her about the love the teachers of Westminster Academy have for their students, “I want him to be here with teachers who love him and are committed to this type of education. These teachers are amazing; I don’t know how they do it every day! I am so grateful for their skill, their patience and their care. What a blessing it is that they can focus their attention on cultivating little minds and hearts instead of spending their energies drilling for an end of the year test, or compiling meaningless data. This education is a true gift.”

Although she was not looking to return to the workforce, it was perfect timing that the school had an opening for a part-time English teacher in the Upper School. Mrs. O’Dell was offered the job, and it has allowed her to rediscover some of the unique qualities that she remembers from her time as a student. “The school still feels the same, it’s kind of homey and I think that’s largely because the teachers really care about their students. How many people do you know who, as adults, love going out to eat with their high school English teacher? There’s a unique bond between student and teacher here.”

Jack O'Dell on his first day of Junior Kindergarten
Jack O’Dell on his first day of Junior Kindergarten

And that mirrors her hopes for Jack as he continues his education, “I hope that he will be able to stay [at Westminster] through high school and that he would learn beauty and honor and the ability to reason. I want him to understand deeply and to speak graciously.”