ALBANY, Ga. -- After living most of his life in Chattanooga, Tenn., Will Kesler was ready for a change.
Kesler, 37, was named Deerfield-Windsor School's new middle/upper school director in May and moved to Albany this summer with his wife and their three children. Kesler replaced Brian Kelly, who resigned last March holding the same title that Kesler will now have, after being in the position less than a year.
The size and scope of the Deerfield program, along with its strong academic tradition and having a coed environment, were some of the qualities that Kesler said attracted him to the 46-year-old Albany private school. Kesler had worked the last 13 years at Girls Preparatory School in Chattanooga, where he was the English department chair for grades 6-12, faculty adviser to the Honor Council and the academic director of summer programs.
"From everything I saw, (Deerfield) was a really good school that was ready to take the next step forward from good to great," said Kesler, who holds English and literature degrees, respectively, from the University of Virginia and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. "I think it's great to be a part of something really well-established that's looking to get better."
One of the benefits of coming to Deerfield, Kesler said, was being able to have his children attend the same school in which he will work. Kesler's children -- Bennett, 10, Ellen, 8, and Walker, 5 -- attended public schools in Chattanooga since the private schools in the area didn't offer elementary programs.
Since starting his job in July, Kesler said he's been impressed by the staff's work ethic and school spirit. Deerfield begins its 2010-11 school year Friday.
"Everyone just loves the school -- the faculty and the staff -- and you just can't help but be excited when you're around that kind of energy and enthusiasm. You have a lot of people working at a high level with a passion for what they do," said Kesler, who will celebrate his 14th wedding anniversary with his wife, Julie, Tuesday.
Kesler recently attended the four-day Southern Association of Independent Schools' Practical Institute for School Administration conference in Alpharetta.
"The curriculum covered everything from school culture and mission to fundraising, enrollment and staffing," he said. "... Administrators from Georgia Independent schools in Atlanta, LaGrange, Rome and Gainesville were there. In addition, the conference attracted administrators from Miami and Chicago and from various schools in Alabama and North Carolina."
Kesler will teach a composition class for juniors at Deerfield and, if his schedule allows, may also coach soccer, something he's done for more than 10 years. He found his love for teaching accidentally when he was in college planning on getting his doctorate and possibly teaching at the university level.
"Originally, I was going to get some teaching experience and then I'd apply to some Ph.D. programs," said Kesler, who received his master's degree while teaching at Girls Preparatory School. "I then just really enjoyed teaching and coaching so much ... I really liked working with the whole student. You're developing a closeness with these kids and teaching them more than English. I just liked seeing the kids grow and develop."
Headmaster Dave Davies said Deerfield is "very fortunate" to add Kesler to the school's administrative team.
"Will brings experience, energy and enthusiasm to the critical position of middle/upper school director," said Davies, who entered his second year at the helm last month. "A gifted teacher and successful coach, Will's leadership will help us to continue our growth and development as a leading independent school in south Georgia."
John Funderburk, chairman of Deerfield's board of trustees, also believes Kesler's educational background will benefit the school.
"Will's experience with instruction, academics and curriculum is a valuable asset for our school," Funderburk said. "Deerfield-Windsor is very fortunate to have Will's expertise and knowledge as he joins our leadership team."