Face Time: Deb Webster and the ‘home school away from home’

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NEWRY — Six years ago, Deb Webster decided to take the plunge into private education.

After spending her early years as an educator teaching a variety of grade levels at various public schools throughout New England, she had two daughters, which prompted her to stop teaching and home-school them. 

As her children got older, Webster realized she wanted to provide something more for them. That’s where the idea began for The Eddy School, a small private school for middle-school students built at the start of Bear River Road in Newry. 

On the school’s website, Webster said the school emphasizes the needs of the individual, the encouragement of passions and interaction with a multi-age community.

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Since 2011, Webster and her roster of teachers have taught dozens of students using those principles, and she said that she hopes that the school will continue to grow and prosper in coming years.

Name: Deb Webster

Age: 48

Hometown: Newry

Job: Teacher

Explain how the idea to start The Eddy School came about? I was home-schooling my two daughters, who were in fourth and sixth grades, and was ready for something bigger than what I was providing for them at the time. We hadn’t found anything that met our desires.

In November 2010, we were visiting a friend’s preschool and doing some service work there. My friend, who had a fifth-grader at the time, and I started envisioning a middle school combined with her preschool, as the interactions of the children were so wonderful. That sprouted the seed of me starting an alternative school, and in March 2011, I had my first open house at the Newry Grange Hall (to discuss construction of a school building). I was blessed to have multiple families attend who supported my vision and allowed the Eddy School to open in September 2011.

What has your experience been with teaching? Have you always taught in a similar environment to the Eddy School, or have you also taught at public schools? I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1990 and headed straight to Lesley College for a 15-month master’s in elementary education program, which had me taking summer, weekend and evening classes while working full time at Buckingham, Browne & Nichols Lower School in Cambridge, Massachusetts for an entire school year in first- and sixth-grade classrooms. From there, I taught fifth grade in a New Hampshire public school for a year, fifth grade at Buckingham, Browne & Nichols for three years, high school math at Gould Academy for one year, and third, fifth, and sixth grades at the Waterford Elementary School for three years.

After that, I had two daughters and stayed home to be with (them) and home-school them. While home-schooling, I was a curriculum writer, a consultant and a tutor.

To date, what is your favorite memory, or memories, associated with the Eddy School? My favorite memory is how (the Eddy School) came together without a hitch: the idea, followed by the design, the details, the construction and enrollment.

When you’re not busy with the Eddy School, what do you do to unwind? I find joy in dancing with Debi Irons of Art Moves in Norway and with Sasha Richardson of Expansion Arts Dance in South Paris when I am not teaching, as well as hiking and camping with my family, running with my dogs, reading and spending time with my friends.

Where do you envision the Eddy School going 5 or 10 years from now? Do you have anything in particular you’re hoping to add to it, or are you happy with the way it’s going? I am always envisioning some form of expansion: a bigger school, a model for other independent schools or public systems, or teacher training. Opportunities tend to come my way and I take them. The school has grown every year, in one way or another, and I know that it will continue to do so.

Deb Webster

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