For 22 years, Peter Waxler has gently and expertly guided his students through the crucial foundational years of Prekindergarten and Kindergarten, and watched in delight as they grew into confident and independent learners, like caterpillars morphing into beautiful butterflies. Students and colleagues alike will miss his ever-present smile as he hikes off into retirement at the end of this month.
Peter decided to pursue teaching after he became the primary caretaker for his own three children. When Peter entered the teaching world at Oak Lane Day School, he set out to inspire young children in their desire to learn. Fortunately for us, he then brought his warm and collaborative nature to GA.
This “Kindergarten whisperer,” as one colleague described, has no doubt left his mark on countless students and teachers during his time in Leas Hall. A two-time Distinguished Achievement Award winner, Peter made it look both easy and joyful to meet students where they are over the years - every strength, quirk, and vulnerability - and his students and parents loved him for it.
“As a male, people are surprised when they find out I teach Kindergarten,” says Peter. “I tell them, if I can get students to love to be at school and love to learn, they will be hooked for life.”
Mission accomplished. Through butterfly releases, mud play, class celebrations, writer’s workshops, and tinkering, this Germantown native raised the bar when it came to student engagement. During hikes around GA’s 126-acre campus to field trips to the Academy of Natural Sciences to reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar, he was able to weave his passion for plants, insects (specifically Monarch Butterflies,) and wildlife during the “GA Naturally Unit.” In the classroom, he helped developed the voices of five and six-year-olds during writer’s workshop sessions with the belief that even before they know how to spell and read that they had something important to say. And, hands down, what he is most proud of are all of his students who started reading in Kindergarten.
“I tell our parents that we teach confidence before we teach reading,” says Peter. “We want our children to say, ‘That was so easy!’ One of my favorite stories is when one of our students came up to me at recess and said he needed a book break. I asked him what was that, and he said, ‘You know, I read a book to you before I go back to playing.’”
Many students will also remember Peter for teaching them to ride a two-wheeled bike, waving to them from his crossing guard post during dismissal, or, perhaps, for his most recent students, driving by their home to wish them a happy birthday during the COVID-19 pandemic.
So, what’s next for Peter? Naturally, he has plans…outdoors. He’s already visited about 10 national parks, but has his sights set on touring more. No doubt we will see Peter again taking walks on campus or along the Green Ribbon Trail with his dog, Jameson.
With all that said, Germantown Academy extends its biggest THANK YOU to Peter Waxler for 22 extraordinary years of so expertly teaching and engaging our youngest students.