Profile of Jeff Bavington, Head of School, Hudson College
Jeff Bavington, Head of School (since 2003)
Head of School Jeff Bavington comes from a family of educators. His father, mother, uncles and aunts were all teachers. At the dinner table, he says “that’s all I’d hear about”.
Bavington’s father was a principal at a large collegiate institute in Scarborough. His educational philosophies were considered alternative at the time, such as greater attention to individuals and a desire to support all students, not just those whose academic achievements were in the upper percentiles. He recognized that students could easily become lost within a large student body and wanted to change that. Bavington was clearly influenced by many of his father’s ideas about education and has incorporated many of these philosophies into Hudson College.
Bavington is one of the original founders of Hudson College, which opened in 2003. “Hudson was founded as a family school.” Bavington had a very clear vision of the type of educational experience he wanted to bring to young learners. Still in his 40s, Bavington is young for a head of school and is known as an accessible principal, knowing students and parents by name.
What might be surprising is that Bavington never wanted to be involved in education. “I always wanted to be in business for myself”. But when Bavington’s daughter was born, he changed his mind about his career path. “I just saw a real need at a young primary age of being able to help an individual with more attention, more focus, more academics, and more personal attention to her, who she was as a young learner.”
The atmosphere at Hudson College is supportive and progressive, beginning with a Reggio Emilia preschool program that sets a tone of curiosity and collaboration that is carried through to the upper grades. Following Bavington’s father’s philosophy, the school has always kept a personal touch with students, even as it has grown. “Even though we’re larger now, we’re not so large that we can’t look at individuals”.
While Hudson College has a strong academic program, academics aren’t the school’s sole focus. The school strives to provide an environment that allows students to express their personalities and pursue their interests. Hudson’s motto is “Be Yourself. Be Anything”. While some schools measure their success in the professional achievements of their graduates, Hudson’s success barometer is the students’ abilities to find their own voices and to be themselves. Hudson strives to be a place where students are valued for who they are as individuals and are surrounded by peers and teachers who value them for who they are.
“Feeling good about oneself, persevering, facing some adversity and losses,” says Bavington, “those are commonalities across everything they’re doing. … Students will always have a desire to improve. If you put them in the right type of environment—an inclusive environment, one where they can see that the others around them care about their own success, too—they will have a natural want and need to improve themselves.”
The teachers, too, are invited to bring their personal interests into the school to enrich students’ experiences. “They all have interesting lives that they bring to the school, and rather than trying to get away from the school [at the end of the day], they bring that in.” For example, two staff members with a passion for the culinary arts created a cooking club last year.
“Some parents feel academics is the sole purpose to affix as the top priority for a school,” says Bavington, “what they can often forget, I think, is what it was like to be a teenager or a child. You want to do well at school, but you need other things to feel good about, which in turn helps your academics … Yes, we want to teach them well academically, and to build their academic skill set, but we don’t want to do that in a vacuum of other skills [such as] leadership skills, public speaking, trying out on an athletic team … we try to give them every opportunity to be able to try different things.”