Meet Principal Taylor


Photo courtesy of John Taylor.

Taylor seated in his office with a copy of The Churchill Observer from when he worked as an administrator at WCHS.

By Ela Jalil and Olivia Yasharoff

He just couldn’t stay away. Six years was too long for former WCHS Assistant Principal John Taylor to be apart from the magnetism of the Bulldog community. Now principal, Taylor brings his passion for leadership, collaboration and advocacy to WCHS.

Taylor was an assistant school administrator at WCHS from 2010 to 2012 and an assistant principal from 2012 to 2015. After leaving WCHS to work as principal at Cabin John Middle School from 2016 to 2021, Taylor is returning amidst a transitional period for the school. While Taylor doesn’t think MCPS is vastly different now compared to when he first started working here, COVID-19 has created an unprecedented set of obstacles. Despite this, Taylor looks forward to getting to know the student body and re-immersing himself in WCHS spirit.

“I think as an assistant principal, what I really enjoyed was being with a particular group of kids,” Taylor said. “I’m excited about the opportunity of being with students as they go all the way through their high school career.” 

Taylor has tried out different ways to reach parents, creating new forms of outreach due to COVID-19. Instead of the usual parent coffees, a principal Q&A session was held on Sept. 21 to answer all of the questions that parents had about the new procedures for this school year. 155 parents were logged into this session at one time, signifying the increased accessibility that comes with holding events virtually. While Zoom is a helpful and convenient resource for meetings, they do not provide parents with a true reflection of what their children experience at school.

“I mean, we have whole grade levels of parents who have never stepped foot in the building,” Taylor said. “And so we need to find those opportunities as soon as it’s safe to do so. But we will continue to reach out and be as communicative as we can with parents, and then give them opportunities for feedback.

Over the years Taylor has held a variety of leadership roles including middle school team leader, resource teacher, curriculum writer and trainer of social studies teachers. Through this work experience, Taylor has picked up on patterns of similar problems schools in the county face and has learned creative ways to approach these same problems to meet the needs of the students. 

“When I talk to people and other staff members that have been in all kinds of different schools, all the same problems are here at Churchill. It’s different numbers,” Taylor said. “And so it’s how can we meet all those different kinds of needs, where we don’t always have the same resources?” 

Taylor views this year as an opportunity to rework and reinvent WCHS traditions and values. He hopes to take input from the student body to form a clear perspective of what the school should stand for.

“I think I told some of the senior leaders in SGA and everything, nobody remembers what we’ve ever done before,” Taylor said. “This is the time [that] all the juniors and sophomores are going to remember what you guys do this year and want to do it next year. So this is the time if we’re gonna change some things. We need to do it now.” 

Collaboration with students is one of Taylor’s values and believes that most WCHS students know how to “do” school and get through classes even if they aren’t as engaging. However, Taylor wants students to feel comfortable speaking up about any issues they’re facing in class so amendments can be made. 

“We need to make sure that we’re really getting the true thoughts of the kids, because they’re not going to just tell us, they’re not going to say, this is the most boring, deadly class I’ve ever seen, or this teacher isn’t organized. They’ll kind of compensate for it in a way that our students shouldn’t have to do. But they do,” Taylor said. “And so that’s one of the reasons why we do so many surveys.”

Inspired by the teachings of Zarreta Hammond, an educator and author of “Culturally Responsive Teaching & The Brain,” Taylor focuses on equity and reaching students. This supportive and flexible approach allows students to be a part of the community and thrive at school. Taylor views the cultural diversity of the WCHS community as one of the school’s strengths, and believes that this should be reflected through the content that is taught.

“We can do things differently so that they see themselves in the courses we’re teaching. They see themselves in the books we select in English class. So that they feel welcome. They feel like they’re a part of the school. And I think when students feel like they’re part of the school, and they feel engaged at the school, then they’re successful,” Taylor said. 

Along with initiatives such as curriculum changes, Taylor’s main priority this year is to keep all WCHS students and staff safe and in-person. Policies such as mask mandates and vaccine requirements for teachers and volunteers are just some of the health guidelines that MCPS has implemented. 

“We have two things we need to focus on: bringing kids back safely, so that they feel safe, they feel welcome, they feel engaged with the school again. And helping them to overcome any learning gaps or instructional gaps that they had from last year,” Taylor said.

As the first quarter comes to an end, Taylor is already noticing the high-stress levels that students and teachers are under, and thinks that the transition back to school after a year and a half of online learning will not be automatic.

“But what I’ve been hearing from students and from staff is that people are pretty exhausted right now like it’s really starting to impact everybody, I think they’re really realizing now [that] we’re back into the day to day grind of it, and it’s harder than it was in previous years,” Taylor said. “We’re not used to this, it’s harder to adapt. And so we still need to give students time, we still need to give staff time and [we] still [need to] be understanding about how big of [a] change it is coming back to in person.”

With years of leadership experience, focus on equity and involvement in the WCHS community, Taylor is prepared to support students through a school year like none other. 

“I think the most important thing for [students] to know is that I really do care about their success,” Taylor said. “I know that’s kind of cliché, but I really do want to hear what’s happening, what students are doing. I want to help them succeed, if there’s an obstacle or barrier in their way, if they tell me about it, I’m happy to help them. That’s the thing, I really do care.”