Lower School’s Tina Wattles Retires After Nearly 20 Years

When Tina Wattles was hired in 2006, with twelve years of teaching experience already under her belt, she was asked to recreate, redesign, and refresh the old and worn Pre-K program. Breathe a breath of fresh air into the curriculum, as they say. What Shipley didn’t know was that they were getting 18 years of endless energy and love and an unwavering commitment to nurturing students. 

Visiting Tina’s classroom on any given day will instantly bring a smile. She’s young at heart - down on the ground playing with the kids, with exuberant expressions on her face, the pure joy of learning is palpable in the classroom. Her expertise in play and pretend benefits her PreK students tremendously - that’s how they learn, through all their senses. “I’ll grow up one day,” laughed Wattles.

In her more “grown up” responsibilities at Shipley, she’s served on multiple committees including the Lower School Faculty Advisory Board, P.L.P Committee, Gender Issues Committee, Annual Fund Committee, Multicultural Committee, and the All School Advisory Committee. “A lot of volunteering,” she said. Her commitment to Shipley shines through the many additional hours she spent working with colleagues in these various roles. In recognition of her commitment to Shipley in and out of the classroom, Wattles earned the Colleague Recognition Award in 2013. 

“I'm very proud of the program we created for Shipley,” Wattles said. PreK’s signature curriculum highlights include a unit on space where the students construct a huge spaceship in the classroom and a lesson on Jackson Pollock - complete with splatter painting. There’s also the interactive hibernation wall. The PreK play is a favorite - the students perform a different children’s book adorned with colorful costumes created by none other than Tina herself.

Tina, in alignment with Shipley’s focus on social, emotional, and ethical development, believes that social-emotional growth is vital for young learners and the development of empathy and social skills is the main ingredient in creating not only a successful student but also a productive and competent human being in society. She always starts the day by reviewing one of the classroom’s Golden Rules.  

Wattles has shared her passion for yoga and pottery with her students, offering Encore Clubs in each subject. Her popular yoga Encore Club teaches children the basics and benefits of yoga. Within her PreK classroom, she teaches students stretching and breathing techniques - a game changer at times when Shipley’s smallest Gators are getting a little too rambunctious. 

“There are few roles on campus that have a greater impact on the climate and culture of our students than a Pre-Kindergarten teacher,” said Head of School Michael Turner. “They work with our youngest students, offering them both their earliest experiences of what it means to be a student and also what it means to be a Shipley student. For a generation, Tina has planted acorns that have grown into mighty oaks. Her work will reverberate for years and years to come.”

As Tina hangs up her teaching hat, the energy and sparkle she brought to school will live on. Shipley students will be “kissing their brains” (that’s become a tagline of sorts for Wattles), spreading kindness, and sharing their love of learning for years to come, just as Mrs. Wattles taught them to do. 

Tina Wattles Departure Notes
April 2024

Tina Wattles taught Pre-kindergarten at Shipley for 19 years. She will retire at the end of the 2023-2024 academic year.

Roles at Shipley: While Tina has always been a PreK teacher, she has served on various committees including the Lower School Faculty Advisory Board, P.L.P Committee, Gender Issues Committee, Annual Fund Committee, Multicultural Committee, and the All Schol Advisory Committee. She’s mentored new teachers, and presented during faculty in-service days on “21st Century Learning in Other Divisional Disciplines” and “The Learning Child.”

Awards & Honors: Tina earned the Colleague Recognition Award in 2013.

Why did she stay so long? “Because I love it. I love this school. Upon my interview and being walked around the school, there was just a feeling in here, an incredible feeling. Very creative, very accepting, warm. And I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, this is it. I'm home. I belong here.’ I never had a day where I didn't want to come in. Never. There were some tough days, but I put my children first. I'm here for them, I'm their advocate, I'm their teacher, they're my babies and I love them so much.”

Gratitude for Shipley: Tina appreciates the relationships and the lessons that she’s learned. “All these students have taught me so much. I have grown as a person from these little lives. You keep your heart open, you stay open to your students. It's amazing how we grow. Of course they grow - we expect them to. People think that since we’re grown-ups, we don't need to grow anymore. But we do! And I'm just so grateful for what I have learned from Shipley’s students and colleagues.”

What She’ll Miss: “I'm going to miss my students. I’m going to miss not having class with my little babies. I'm going to miss my colleagues. I used to think I was going to miss not having a routine, but I'm routine-oriented, so I know I'm going to!"

What’s Next? There’s a lot on the horizon for Tina. She’ll most importantly be caring for her aging mother and spending time with her grandchildren. Tina enjoys running and traveling. She owns a real estate staging and painting business with her husband, George, which has become quite successful. But her real passion is acting. Tina is looking forward to doing some voiceover work and maybe local commercials. 


The Shipley School is a private, coeducational day school for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade students, located in Bryn Mawr, PA. Through our commitment to educational excellence, we develop within each student a love of learning and a desire for compassionate participation in the world.