When it comes to the new student experience at St. Paul’s School, Associate Dean of Students Thomas Gregston can relate.
“I remember my first day here,” says Gregston, who first joined the School community as a Penn Boarding School Teaching Residency (BSTR) fellow, a graduate program for aspiring educators. “People walking by or driving in cars were waving at me.”
Now as a full-time faculty member, Gregston, along with his nine-year-old Goldendoodle, is one of the many welcoming faces on grounds. He oversees the Bridges Program, which helps students transition to boarding school life. The goal, says Gregston, is to give new students ownership over their experience.
His role in the Dean of Students Office brings his connection with the School full circle. Raised in North Conway, N.H., Gregston attended the School’s Advanced Studies Program (ASP), a five-and-a-half week intensive academic program for talented New Hampshire high school students. The course selections introduced new opportunities, specifically learning a new language: Arabic. “It was emblematic of St. Paul’s School,” he recalls. “It was a challenge and unique. How else could I learn Arabic living in northern New Hampshire?” Gregston went on to Colby College, where he initially majored in biology as a step to becoming a doctor, but soon took a different path. He first detoured into Latin American studies – he’s a dual citizen of Costa Rica, where his mother is from, and the U.S. – but settled on physics, with a focus on astrophysics, and classical civilizations. The two subject areas appear completely unrelated at first, but as Gregston explains, they have more in common than one might think. "(Studying classical civilizations) is problem-solving in its purest form," he says. “You get a few artifacts a little bit of writing, a little bit of oral history, and you have to put it all together and figure out what it means.”
Returning to Millville as a BSTR fellow, Gregston saw the pieces fall into place. “Almost immediately I knew that this is what I would do,” he recalls. Gregston worked side-by-side with his faculty mentor Rick Pacelli
in the Physics First classroom. "Watching Rick do what he does, it was the ultimate professional development," says Gregston. "The supportive network of teachers here put this all in perspective. It helps you understand how the boarding school environment can benefit you as a person and an educator.”
With his colleagues in the Dean of Students Office, Gregston works closely with student clubs and helps oversee many facets of student life. “Living here, you are committed to all aspects of School life,” says Gregston. He also helps coach the championship Alpine ski team that trains at nearby Pat’s Peak in Henniker, N.H., and he serves as the head coach for JV boys tennis.
"The students are why I do this job," says Gregston. "St. Paul's School is what makes it special. When everyone lives here and works together, special moments of growth and education happen."