By Barry Engelhardt
Between Christy Willman’s compassion and Scott Hendricks’s resolve, it’s hard to imagine a more impactful presence in the lives of Waverly’s youth. Although both are relatively new to their roles, they’ve hit the ground running, acting as bookends for countless children as they progress through their educational journey.
The students of Waverly Elementary School and Waverly High School are blessed that two examples of dedication and discipline have made Waverly home.
As principal at Waverly Elementary, Christy is responsible for the early childhood center and kindergarten through sixth grade. She takes a child’s hand—figuratively and often literally—straight from that child’s parents and guides them through the first steps in formal education. As Waverly High School’s principal, Scott steps in during the teenage years, guiding boys and girls into adulthood. Together, their mission is simple, yet far from easy—to prepare children for whatever life has in store.
While this marks Christy Willman’s first year as principal at Waverly Elementary, she has sixteen years of experience, starting her career as an elementary and special education teacher. Familiar with Waverly, she’s called it her home since she graduated from Western Illinois University. She and her husband found the ideal splotch of woodland in the southwestern corner of the region, built a home, and have been residents of Waverly ever since.
Before accepting the position at Waverly Elementary, Christy was the Principal of Franklin Elementary. While only six miles away, it wasn’t home. “We live here. My kids go to school here,” says Christy. She’s entertained offers in the past but also enjoyed the challenges she faced in her old roles and contemplated waiting until her children had graduated.
The timing felt right with her oldest in seventh grade and her youngest in fifth. She now manages a team of thirty over whom she gushes praise. “This facility goes above and beyond, from the teachers to the cafeteria workers,” says Christy.
While new to her role, she’s hit the ground running, implementing a new math and science curriculum. She states that the curriculum “will drive us forward in creating students that are a lot more capable of problem-solving independently.”
She adds it will “drive a little bit deeper rigor. We will continue to grow and grow, and our kids will be better educated all around for it.”
If Christy can supply foundational rigor in today’s youth, there’s no one better equipped to expand it than Scott Hendricks. Scott has spent twenty-five years teaching PE at Waverly High School, accepting the role of Athletic Director in 2014 and adding the principal’s title in 2020. A lifelong Waverly resident, he grew up working the family farm, graduating from Waverly High in 1989. He’s also a former college athlete, playing basketball for Illinois College.
No stranger to rolling up his sleeves, Scott displays a ‘someone’s-got-to-do-it’ mentality. He starts each day by teaching first-period PE. He speaks matter of factly, saying, “fourteen kids needed a PE class, and so I start my days with fitness PE and step into an administrative role after that.”
While some might consider this a distraction, Scott views teaching as a privilege. “Sometimes I can’t help but feel a loss of connection with the students, dealing so much with everything else. The day-to-day operations, rules, and policies keep you from being out with the kids. That’s why having that first-hour PE class and getting back to being able to relate with some of the kids is great,” says Scott.
Scott sees a lot of parallels between athletics and academics. In high school, he ran track and played basketball. Before playing college basketball, Scott represented Waverly at the state track meet, where he threw the discus. He also played baseball each summer but lost the opportunity once he reached high school without co-op teams.
Speaking of athletics’ role in education, Scott answers quickly. “Responsibility, discipline, team building, and communication are the basic pillars of athletics. It’s more about the life lessons you learn from athletics than the actual skilled play of athletics. It gives you a basis of responsibility. It’s one-hundred percent all life skills that will be very important for any student going into any business, line of work, or profession.”
From empathy and compassion to dedication and resolve, Christy Willman and Scott Hendricks lead by example and teach life lessons to Waverly’s youth in countless complementary ways. Christy and her husband chose to make it their home. Scott has resided in the town his whole life. And the students of Waverly Elementary School and Waverly High School are blessed that two examples of dedication and discipline have made Waverly home.