Q&A with New Eugene McDermott Headmistress Kim Wargo

MINI COOPER New headmistress Kim Wargo poses with the car she brought with her when she moved to Dallas from California earlier this year.

Where did you grow up?

“I grew up in a small town in Louisiana, outside of Baton Rouge called Baker. It was about 30,000 people. I went to public school my whole life—co-ed, 300 kids in my graduating class.”

Where did you go to college? What was your first job?

“I went to college at LSU and majored in Journalism with minors in history and English. I worked for a year at Aetna Insurance Company as a worker’s compensation insurance specialist…Then I was definitely sure I wanted to go to graduate school…So I went to Tulane and got my masters in history, with a focus on US Women’s history in the 20th century. My plan at that point was to become a university professor, so I did all of the course work to get my Ph. D… I was starting to write my dissertation when I decided that I wanted a little bit of a break from the academic life. So I first got a job at a coffee shop, and just kind of wanted to clear my head. At the time, my husband was a teacher and we were living in Fort Worth. He worked at the Hill School, which is a school for kids with learning differences in Fort Worth… so I got a teaching school at [Hill School] with 2-8th grade students in a concentrated writing lab. That’s when I fell in love with teaching, and it was all over. Next, I started teaching at the Louise McGehee School [in New Orleans], which was a Pre-K through 12th grade girl’s school… I really knew right away that it was what I wanted to do with my life. I taught history and English, and then became head of the history department…I was there for a total of 11 years, but 7 years of it being the Head of Upper School. I just absolutely loved that job. Loved working with high school girls, their parents, and their teachers… And it was really hard for me to decide to leave to become the head of a Kindergarten through Eighth Grade school. I knew that it was time for me to do what I had always told my girls to do, which was to challenge themselves and try something new. So we moved to San Francisco! I spent 3 years there. Then the job at Hockaday came along and I knew I just couldn’t pass that up.”

How long have you been married?

I’ve been married 21 years; I got married right out of college. My husband and I met in college and we’ve been married a long time.”

Did you grow up wanting to be a teacher?

“I definitely didn’t plan to be a teacher. My dad’s a teacher and my mom is a nurse, and I always said I didn’t want to be a teacher or a nurse. But I ended up in education, and my sister became a nurse, so we just followed in our parent’s footsteps without knowing it was going to happen.”

You have a daughter, correct?

Yes. Poor kid, she has been in school with her mom since she was born. She started at eight weeks at the McGehee school and also attended the Katherine Delmar Burke School (“Burke’s”) in San Francisco.”

I saw a blue mini cooper in the first spot—is that your car?

Yes, yes it is.”

And I saw the Saint’s stickers on it… Have you realized you’re in the middle of Cowboys territory?

Yes, I did know that. Funny story—when I was being interviewed by the search committee, I told them right up front that I was a Saints fan and if that was going to be a problem, then we probably needed to move on. I can’t leave my team, they’re my team. As you know the Saints won the Super Bowl a couple of years ago, so it was quite exciting. I used to always cheer against the Cowboys… Growing up in Louisiana, the Cowboys were always so good and the Saints were always so bad so we tended to cheer against them. But now I won’t cheer against the Cowboys, unless they’re playing the Saints. It’s easier to cheer for them now because they’ve had a period of not being as good as they used to be… However, I have converted to being a Rangers fan—we enjoyed cheering for them when we were living in Fort Worth so that’s been an easy transition.”

I know you’ve heard that this room is famous for its lollipops—are you prepared for the challenge of upholding this tradition?

Yes, I have been talking to Mrs. Brewer about how we’re going to incorporate something along those lines into my office. We’re working on a plan. Girls: I’m working on a plan. It might not be the same because I respect that the lollipops may be Ms. Whitman’s tradition, and I don’t want to replace it. Having worked in girl’s schools, I know how important food is.”

Favorite TV Show:

“For a long time, I didn’t watch TV. Then I became a late fan of the West Wing. We never watched it when it was on TV but we have seen the whole series on DVD at least 4 times and continue to watch it because we are just obsessed with it. Currently, we are very obsessed with HGTV and Design Star. That’s our latest and greatest TV show.”

Favorite Color:

Obviously, my favorite colors are green and white, I’ll just say that up front. But I have always loved this pumpkin color [which she has decorated her office with]. Some kind of pumpkin-y… not orange, but in that pumpkin family.”

Favorite Meal:

Being from Louisiana, I love any kind of seafood/ fish. That would definitely be at the top of my list. Whenever I go out to a restaurant, I inevitably gravitate towards whatever the fish or the seafood is. I also love polenta or grits. If there’s ever something on the menu with something with grits or seafood, I’m inevitably going to get it.”

—as told to Megan