“Lead with joy” has been the mantra for Payton Hobbs, the new Head of School for Coronado’s Christ Church Day School (CCDS), for more than a decade. She is often called a “joy warrior” because she loves to seek and share joy in everything; she even has a family cat named Joy. She stresses that it is a critical element to foster positive learning. Playing music and incorporating laughter are just a few examples she incorporates while leading with her head and heart. She stresses the importance of working with each student’s strengths for them to be successful.
An educator for more than 20 years, Hobbs has worked in both private and public schools and brings a vast array of experience to her new role. With a passion for kids and curriculum, she vividly remembers discovering her calling in seventh grade, when her homeroom teacher Mr. Woodland was transformative as he taught social studies in a whole new way. “I saw the model of teaching and how it affected the students and realized that educators can impact the trajectory of kids’ lives,” she comments. While attending Duke University, she majored in marine biology and education, and ended up student teaching, which transitioned into teaching first grade full time, setting the path for her love of teaching.
She was born in Pennsylvania, came to Carlsbad, California at age four and stayed through fourth grade, and then moved back to Pennsylvania. She remembers enjoying being outside and exploring all year long with the good weather in Southern California. When her husband, also an educator, got the call to work in San Diego County, she welcomed returning and worked at La Country Day School, first in admissions and then as head of the lower school. She was ready for a new challenge when the job opening came at CCDS and felt it was “time to try something new.”
This is the first time she has worked in an educational setting where she can combine her Episcopalian faith and passion for education. She has found the Coronado community welcoming and enjoys working with the dedicated 19 faculty members, board members, and parents at CCDS. Her favorite part of the day is when she is on recess or lunch duty and gets to interact with the 113 students in a variety of ways. She revels in conversations with the impressive fifth and sixth graders, highlighting, “It gives me a peek into what the future can be.” The fourth graders are teaching her how to hula hoop, but she admits to needing more practice. The younger kids love when she dons her fanny pack with speakers to play freeze dance together. Fun fact: she played basketball during high school, college, and even professionally, so she is an athlete at heart.
When discussing how teachers are strategizing to help students who fell behind during the pandemic, Hobbs points out that they are filling the gaps of the social and emotional components, especially in the younger grades. She notes that kindergarten, as well as first and second grades, are critical for students to learn about themselves, how to communicate with others, and to collaborate in group settings, while adjusting outside their family setting. These elements were severely hampered with online classes and learning at a distance with masks. “Not being able to practice these skills left students in a state of disequilibrium, not allowing them to express and regulate their emotions,” she says. Teachers are spending extra time playing catch up, along with modelling and practicing human competencies, so that students have the social and emotional developmental skills needed to learn essential content.
When asked the most critical things that parents can do to set a child up for success, she emphasizes that helping them to understand they are beautiful and perfect, just as they are, is key to instilling the ability for them to value and love themselves. “This will position them for success and happiness in everything that comes along in life. Parents should help their children explore who they are and what they uniquely bring to the world,” she comments, and notes that the natural human tendency is to compare ourselves to others, but teaching kids to embrace who they were designed to be gives them a sense of belonging. She encourages parents to help establish self-confidence in their children, so that they are grounded through any circumstances that come their way. Parents can be great examples by promoting positivity and encouraging daily positive affirmations. For her personally, she cites her current favorite author Brené Brown’s book, “Dare to Lead,” and notes that those concepts have helped shape how she shows up for herself and others.
The CCDS Board selected her, in part, due to her strategic enrollment management skills. With a 65-year history of excellence, the school is at a crossroads in determining how to best move forward. She is focusing on creating a culture where everyone has a sense of belonging, and nurturing an inclusive community. Helping to analyze the right size and composition for the school, she shared that a variety of options are being considered, including only going up to fifth grade or expanding the school to eighth grade.
When meeting Hobbs, her joy and love of helping kids learn shines through vibrantly. For more details on all CCDS has to offer, check out www.ccds.org or call 619-435-6393.