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Sidwell Friends School's Student Newspaper Since 1974


Sidwell Friends School's Student Newspaper Since 1974


Sidwell Friends School's Student Newspaper Since 1974


Dean of Students Michael Woods Leaves Sidwell


  On Jan. 2, Upper School Principal Mamadou Guèye announced the departure of Dean of Students and Assistant Principal of Student Life Michael Woods after 21 years at Sidwell Friends. Woods, who joined Sidwell as a history teacher in 2002 before taking on the role of Dean of Students in 2011, has been on sabbatical this year studying leadership in education and the military. 

“I really, really, really love the man,” Guèye said of Woods. “When he first came, he was another brother coming in; there weren’t that many African American or Black teachers at Sidwell even 20 years ago.”

Known for being an avid fan of both the history of wars and Star Wars, Woods has “commanded respect,” as Guèye put it, of every student and faculty member at Sidwell in the past 21 years.

“Michael is one of my favorite people,” said Head of School Bryan Garman. “He is a person of both moral and spiritual significance. He’s always able to bring a sense of kindness, compassion and honesty everywhere he goes.”

Assistant Upper School Principal for Academic Affairs Robbie Gross recalls that on his first day at Sidwell in August of 2013, he walked into the history department trying to find his desk, and started a conversation with Woods who had stopped in to say hello. 

“We must have talked for more than an hour, just about history and military history,” Gross said. “I could listen to him talk about civil war battles for hours — he has such a refreshing and visceral excitement about history.”  

Interim Dean of Students Darren Speece, who also worked with Woods in the history department, remarked that Woods will be remembered for wisdom and sincerity.  “My first impression of him is that he was so earnestly curious about history and learning, and he wanted to know everything about you and talk to you forever.” 

“He would show up late to meetings because he was so lost in conversations with students,” added Gross.

Garman recalled one of his favorite moments with Woods, which happened the day before Sidwell shut down in March of 2020. The Oat had recently published a piece with Mr. Woods photoshopped into a diaper, and Garman and Woods decided to try to create some fun during that stressful time.

“We called the Oat editors into my office, and I began to talk about how disrespectful this was to Mr. Woods and how shocked I was at them… I turned to Mr. Woods, and he played it so well, expressing his extreme disappointment in each of them in his hushed voice. They eventually caught on, and it became a whole skit,” Garman recalls. “Either that or doing the griddy with Mamadou and Mr. Woods after the basketball championships are my favorite memories with him.”

Guèye also has fond memories of interacting with students with Woods and said he would always remember driving to hand out 120 diplomas to the Class of 2020 with Woods, Brittany Chase and Executive Assistant to the Upper School Principal Crystal Matthews. 

“At one point, I wanted to stop because it seemed too hard, driving all over the place in the middle of COVID and the Black Lives Matter protests,” he said, “But Mr. Woods told me we could do it and made sure we got to every house. The Class of 2020 will forever have that special memory because of Mr. Woods.”

Despite Woods’ departure from Sidwell, he has left an indelible impact on the students and faculty he interacted with. “Something Mr. Woods taught me, and one of his greatest traits, was his ability to read and communicate with a kid,” Gross said. “He has this unbelievable ability to know how to access them and what button to push, whether that’s humor, or love, or the fear of God, or all three.”

“He’s a very kind guy, just a kind teddy bear, really,” Guèye said. “What amazed me about him is he would never ever say a negative thing about someone when they are out of the room. There are really not many people like him, and it’s getting harder and harder to find someone like him in the world today.”

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