Educator is getting to know all the kids' names

Chad Lundquist/Nevada Appeal Patrick Beckwith, the new principal of Virginia City High School, sits at his desk and talks about the upcoming school year.

Chad Lundquist/Nevada Appeal Patrick Beckwith, the new principal of Virginia City High School, sits at his desk and talks about the upcoming school year.

VIRGINIA CITY - Patrick Beckwith's career in education began in the most unlikely of places - at a bank.

It continues 12 years later at Virginia City High School, where the 38-year-old principal now invests in people's lives.

"We have 150 kids here, roughly," said Beckwith. "I'm going to know every kid. I'm going to get to know them all. It's kind of tough to do that when you're at a school with 2,700 kids."

The Storey County School District hired Beckwith to replace Principal Todd Hess, who has been made principal of Virginia City Middle School.

"I think this is a perfect place for me," Beckwith said.

It wasn't always so obvious, though.

Fresh out of college with a bachelor's degree in communications, Beckwith had hoped for a career the likes of those of TV's Al Franken and Bob Costas.

Instead, he was working at a Citi Bank. When a co-worker happened to mention her son's struggles with math, Beckwith, who had no children of his own, decided to help.

"She said you should be a math teacher," he recalled. "It never occurred to me."

Beckwith went back to school and got a teaching certificate from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Fresh out of college again, he was hired by the Clark County School District and assigned to Cheyenne High School, which has an enrollment of more than 2,700.

He went on to teach math at Carson High School for two years and was dean of students for one year. He became vice principal of Bordewich-Bray Elementary School, then filled in as interim vice principal at Pioneer High School after the death of site principal Charles Keller.

"As much as I enjoyed my time at the elementary school, when I was at Pioneer High School, it really reminded me how much I enjoyed the high school kids," he said.

He turned in an application to Storey County even before the principal position became available.

Beckwith will start off the school year Friday with an assembly of introduction. Other than having students eat outside or in the commons because of the new carpet, students will notice little change. Beckwith will keep the popular inter-session.

"I think I'll really spend the first year watching how the school runs itself," he said. "We have a lot of veterans."

Beckwith will work with a staff of 14 - eight full-time and six part-time teachers. One concern is providing enough variety of courses to keep students "hooked." One full-time staff member in the math department is already teaching geometry, precalculus/calculus, pre-algebra, algebra I and algebra II.

"He's basically teaching the entire math curriculum," Beckwith said. "That's not something you have at a large high school. It concerns me, the burden that you put on teachers."

Beckwith has five children, three of whom attend Bordewich-Bray. He was assistant principal there for 31Ú2 years, learning from Principal Sue Keema.

"She was the best administrator I ever worked for," he said. "She is a great administrator, but she's even a better person. I think it goes back to building relationships."

Beckwith has a master's degree in administration from UNLV and recently received an English Language Learner endorsement from the University of Nevada, Reno.

Beckwith and his wife, whom met at UNLV's newspaper, The Rebel Yell, moved to Carson City when he was offered a position with the Carson City School District.

Despite the updates from his mother, who lives in Las Vegas and shares the ins-and-out of the Clark County School District, Beckwith insists this small school with its unique history is the place for him.

A place where he can get to know everybody's name.

"Relationships are so critical to the success of the students," he said.

n Contact reporter Maggie O'Neill at or 881-1219.


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