Independent K-12 School in Atlanta

The Paideia School

Martin Aguilera ’96 speaks at the Faculty and Staff 40th Celebration

When I came to Paideia in the fall of 2008 it had been 12 years and one summer since I had walked across the stage to shake Paul’s hand. Despite the school’s attempt to confuse me with new buildings and renaming all the old ones, my first year back at Paideia felt similar to before. The similarity wasn’t because of staples like the Feast or Monday Morning Meeting. It had more to do with the faculty.

As I would talk to fellow Alums about working here they wanted me to tell them “behind the curtain” stories about teachers. Like how Paul Hayward is really a vicious practical joker, or how Catharine Tipton doesn’t really like cats at all. Did Tom Pearce really have 6 siblings each with a different one of the seven deadly sins as a middle name?

It turns out that the people that we saw teaching at the blackboard are the same whether they are in front of a class or sitting in the faculty lounge. As we were learning about Renaissance art from Donna Ellwood, we were learning about her as well. It is those relationships created by the somewhat blurry line between student and teacher that are special to Paideia and made returning to work here feel so familiar.

But as much as the faculty felt the same when I returned, the student body was clearly different. If you had asked me in 1996 if Paideia was a diverse school I would have said yes. After all, we had Tribe ONYX. But the level of diversity present in the school now clearly dwarfs what we knew in the mid-90s. Back then it was pretty much assumed that if you were Black that you went to Tribe, now the African-American community is so large that Tribe represents only a subset of the group. At Race Day in 2009 there was a Latino group, where I got to sit with almost 20 other Hispanic students and talk about race at Paideia. Leave aside how remarkable it was that I was having a candid discussion about Race at a high school, what struck me was that if we had a similar event in 1996, it would have required only a 2-person desk.

But even as the demographics have expanded, the core qualities of a Paideia student: creativity, intelligence, empathy, and thoughtfulness exist just as strongly in the student body now as they ever have. I could very easily see a Rob Clark or a Domenica Mireno fitting into a mid-90s Paideia just as easily as they fit in now.

I guess that is the point. I could have waited another 10 years to return and still had the same impression of Paideia: so different yet so much the same. In the way that my Wife and I will see our Daughter Madelyn, like all other babies, grow into a child then an adult, but will always see in her face the baby she is now. Paideia, now older, with more polish, some new clothes and a scar or two, still has the same heart, the same character and same personality it did 40 years ago.