Beginning his career as an English teacher with a three prep, five section, eighty-student load and a coach of two varsity sports, Ross Peters has never thought of any path other than the one that allows him to play a part in the education of young people and in the life of great schools.
Prior to becoming a head of school, Ross had a number of titles: Head Tennis Coach, Mountaineering Staff Member, Department Chair, Dean of Faculty, Assistant Head for Academic Affairs, Upper School Director, and Upper School Head. He derived his understanding of how a school should work and what leadership should look like from the classroom out, building his understanding of a school one) from the powerful relationships built with students in classrooms where high expectations and nurture are symbiotic and two) from the example of extraordinary school leaders who modeled servant leadership molded to the demanding environment of an independent school.
Growing up in Richmond, Virginia Ross was a thirteen-year graduate of St. Christopher’s School. From there he went to Sewanee: The University of the South (B.A., English), followed, after six years teaching at Providence Day School, with an M.Ed from the University of Georgia. While deeply appreciative of the remarkable gift of education he received at every level, his best learning has resulted from being an educator working with students whether as a classroom teacher or as a school leader.
At the core of his belief in the value of an independent school is this idea: in order to create the education our students need and deserve, schools must mirror the qualities we demand of those we teach; thus, our learning curve should remain steep and our dedication to holding up the values we name as most important should be unwavering. This commitment to match the expectations we have for students in the way we think, act, work together as an institution guides his work in leadership, and it has allowed him to play a significant and lasting role in several outstanding schools.
Since his eight years at Providence Day School in Charlotte, NC, he has made an impact as a teacher and administrator in a fascinating range of schools. From founding an integrated Humanities Department to establishing an Honor System at a small, hundred-year-old boarding school (Asheville School), and from reinventing the use of time to creating an urban campus in two schools ready for significant innovation (Hawken School and The Westminster Schools), Ross has had the chance to immerse himself in strategic and aligned school cultures to a degree that has allowed him to help those remarkable places move forward within the context of their mission and culture.
At St. George’s Independent School, he has mobilized all that experience to help a younger school maintain the forward-thinking qualities that make it unique in Memphis, while also strategically leading it to exit institutional adolescence and move toward maturity all against the backdrop of a marketplace changing at lightning speed.
Ross is active in the Memphis Community and beyond. He serves on three Boards—Bridge Builders USA, Tennessee Association of Independent Schools, and the National Association of Independent Schools. He and his wife Katie also serve as members of the Family Partners Council at LeBonheur Children’s Hospital where their daughter, Eleanor was first diagnosed as a Type I Diabetic.His wife, Katie (Ph.D., Emory University, Religious Studies) teaches at Rhodes College, and along with Eleanor, they also have a bright red Australian terrier named Mic who has a strangely endearing overbite. His interests include hiking, travel, photography, and mediocre guitar picking.
A widely published poet, he has completed work on a collection of poetry entitled, The Flood is Not the River, and he has provided the foreword and over one hundred photographs for a book entitled, Sacred Views: St. Francis and the Sacro Monte di Ortadue out in the next year from Punctum Press.
You can find a great deal of his thoughts on schools, as well as anything else he might be thinking about, on his blog—Ross All Over the Map. As for the name of the blog…After years spent wishing I was a prodigy of some sort—a world-class tennis player or perhaps a musician as comfortable with a guitar as most people are with silverware,
About the name of my blog, Ross all over the Map
I have discovered that I am a generalist. To be honest I was quite slow to own this truth, for the evidence was in and was in front of me for a very long time. When in my mid-twenties I became Director of a boys camp in the mountains of North Carolina, I had already held virtually every job in the camp short of owning the place. I had been a counselor, Senior Counselor, and Head Counselor, and I had taught tennis, rock climbing, ultimate frisbee, orienteering, riflery, skeet shooting, white water canoeing, and…wait for it…I had even taught a few overly enthusiastic nine year old boys how to tie-dye cheap white t-shirts (it was no small mess!). I also drove the bus, and I was in charge of the Fourth of July fireworks (amazingly enough, I have all my fingers and no visible burn scars). Hence, my work was “all over the map.”My generalist tendencies followed me into my career in education though it is easy to identify common denominators—my love of reading, my devotion to my students, my desire to seek out the best teachers and learn from them, and, most powerfully, my ambition to help the school where I work become better. From my first year as a teacher, I have enjoyed being the one who said “yes” when the question began with, “Would anybody be willing to…?” or “Does anyone know how to…?” even when, though I might have been “willing,” I may not have known yet exactly “how to.”To me, a generalist is “all over the map” but that in no way means he or she is aimless. Instead “generalist” refers to a person who has interests in many areas and purposefully seeks connections and meaning from the intersection of those interests. For instance, my love for folk pottery grew out a recognition that a great piece of folk pottery is an emblem of timelessness and authenticity–two ideas that have driven my love for great literature.