As the term for the current principal, Dr. Jonathan Long, comes to a close, the new principal candidates, artfully chosen by the Search Committee, have briefly visited the school. In this series, we introduce the candidates and their educational philosophies:
Dr. Lance Potter is originally from Sitka, Alaska, and grew up in Thailand. After graduating from Lewis and Clark College, Portland, Dr. Potter taught English as a second language in China.
While in China, he applied to Georgetown University in Washington to get a degree in law. However, after practicing law for three years, he realized that this was not the right career path for him.
He believes that “time is more important than money, and experience is more important than prestige.” Hence, he decided to pursue something he was interested in. However, at the time, Dr. Potter did not know what it was.
During this time, he became a ski bum in Colorado where he also met his ski-instructor wife. This was when he realized he enjoyed teaching. So when he was offered a job as a high school soccer coach, Dr. Potter took it and began his career as an educator. He has now been in the field of education for 25 years.
Later, both Dr. Potter and his wife moved to Thailand and taught at Chiang Mai International school. Then he received his doctorate degree from Penn State University and went on to become the principal at Chiang Mai international school for four years.
Currently, he is back in the United States as a professor of educational leadership at Eastern Washington University and he lives with his wife and four teenage daughters.
He is optimistic about the choices he made throughout his career even if they were not the “right choices,” as they fulfilled him and made him happy. And he believes that his choices led him here.
Dr. Potter also added that his faith in God gave him the courage to make these choices. He said, “the Lord’s plan for [him] is a good plan.”
Despite his personal beliefs, Dr. Potter is respectful of other people’s rights in containing their own belief systems. The nature of Woodstock’s diverse student and staff body is also something that attracted him to the school.
He said, “Woodstock should stay true to its faith and heritage” but at the same time, love and include people of all belief systems. He thinks that the school should have a “diversity ethos.”
Other reasons for choosing the school was because it nurtures imagination, advocates for teaching principles that align with his own, and provides unique outdoor education opportunities.
His vision as an educator and a leader is based on creativity and imagination. He believes that encouraging students to take risks is the way to grow student’s creativity, resilience, and relentlessness.
He believes that there are two paths, one accepted by society, and one that is different, furthermore, he thinks that the role of an educator is to help help students choose the latter path.
He also believes student’s should have the freedom to make choices on their own as it prepares them for the next phase of their lives. Also, he says that it is crucial to provide students with opportunities for them to be able to find their passions; “unless they experience those things, they cannot know their passion,” he said.
According to him, a principal’s essential task is to create an environment in school where people can “agree to disagree” on controversial topics, and respect each other despite contradicting opinions.
When asked about his view on technology as a tool for education and the role of social media, Dr. Potter said that it could be beneficial if the students are trained in technology. He emphasized the importance of boundaries on technology usage to use it as an effective educational tool. It is important for adults to monitor children so that “they don’t overstep bounds of appropriate use.”
In the future, Dr. Potter envisions “Woodstock to be a school people look up to.”
Furthermore, on a question that addressed that all the candidates for the principal position are tall, old, white men, Dr. Potter commented, “it’s a reflection of the past and hopefully not of the future. One of the problems is that women have not been encouraged to become leaders, hence that needs to be done.”
Lastly, although Dr. Potter has not had any experience with IB before, he believes that it could be very beneficial for the students and that it is a great curriculum. However, as the Class of 2020 is Woodstock’s last AP class, Dr. Potter hopes that he can help them finish their experience as best as he can.
Janvi Poddar is the features’ editor of The Woodstocker
Edited by Hyenjin Cho
Photo by Janvi Poddar