Round Five: Cleveland 100 year Celebration Winner… Terrell Cunningham
A tribute to Cleveland's beloved Jan Watt
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Those who are a part of the Cleveland community always know there’s one person they can always count on. Someone who has been here for almost half a decade, and her name is Jan Watt.
This is Watt’s 48th year as a staff member of Cleveland High School, as nine Cleveland community members knew when they answered the latest Cleveland Clarion 100 year anniversary trivia contest.
The Clarion posted the trivia quiz at its site online (clevelandclarion.com) and 28 people gave the question a shot. Out of the five correct responders, Clarion adviser Andy Sorensen picked junior Terrell Cunningham’s name out of a hat making him the winner for this round.
After high school, Watt attended Portland State and had planned to attend the University of Oregon for her junior and senior year, majoring in journalism. During this time, the United States was in the middle of the Vietnam War. Classes at the University of Oregon were not being held regularly and some were just canceled altogether. The anti-war protests taking place were of notable importance down in Eugene where the campus is located.
Knowing she wouldn’t be able to finish her college education in two years, Watt decided to stay in Portland where she attended PSU. Watt earned tuition money by being the editor of the Portland State Newspaper. She graduated with a social sciences degree and a minor in journalism.
Watt started her career at Cleveland in the fall at the young age of 20. During her first year she taught sophomore English, photography, newspaper, yearbook, one journalism class, and another elective within the English department. After the first year, she decided she wanted to build the journalism program at Cleveland.
When the state of Oregon made the decision to require economics, she gave up yearbook. Watt was one of a few staff members who had economic background in college. In replacement of yearbook, she taught one semester of economics and one semester of US History 2.
Watt was also a coach. She was the first girls basketball coach when title nine was passed. She worked in the athletic department and was the assistant athletic director for several years.
Watt has continually been involved in activities. She was also a senior class advisor.
After 34 years working in a classroom, Watt was advised by the state to retire or she’d lose benefits. This news came after the Oregon state legislature made a decision regarding restructuring the retirement for teachers. Watt was one of six Cleveland staff members given that advice at the time and only one staff member actually wanted to retire.
It was at this time that the current principal was wooed away to another school and someone new was assigned. His name was Paul Cook. When he came on, he asked Watt to stay on the staff as a liaison due to his lack of any institutional history of Cleveland. Watt was given the title Special Projects Coordinator, which she described as meaning “I do what no one else wants to.” Watt has stayed in that position ever since.
“I am very proud of this school and the fact that we have earned our community support. I think that’s extremely impressive for a high school that is not gorgeous from the outside, doesn’t have a sprawling campus, doesn’t have a lot of add-ons like other schools do. I am very, very proud of this student body; I love the kids here. I think it’s a great mix of kids here. Yes, there are always things we could do better, but I think we have a lot to be very, very proud of in terms of the way people have value in what we’re doing. I think that’s very crucial,” expressed Watt.