Retirees: Ellen Wathen


Syd Barrett

Ellen Wathen has been an important part of the WHHS family for 20 years, and has worked as a librarian for 37. Before that, Wathen graduated from WHHS as a member of the class of 1974.

Sadly, it has come time for another eagle to leave the nest. Ellen Wathen, an alum and librarian is retiring this year. She’s been an important part of the WHHS family for 20 years, and has worked as a librarian for 37. Before that, Wathen graduated from WHHS as a member of the class of 1974.

Wathen began her time as a librarian at WHHS in 2001. She worked alongside former librarian, Sallie Barringer and later worked  with Acacia Diniz, the library aid. 

Wathen has numerous responsibilities as a librarian that range from managing the library’s catalog to teaching students research skills. She is also known for telling students about books when introducing Independent Reading assignments. 

Wathen also knows that for students reading seems mostly obligatory and so she tries to encourage a love of reading for fun. She also understands that everyone has different interests when it comes to reading and said “Any kind of reading is good. If you like to read graphic novels or anime or magazines, that’s reading.” 

To help encourage reading for pleasure she and the rest of the library staff find out what the popular books are, what are some up and coming titles and any other things the students might be interested in. They try to keep the library’s collection as up to date and as current as possible to help students foster a love of reading. 

The library staff got to work over the summer trying to figure out how they could still get books to students during remote learning for the majority of the school year. “All three of us sat down and decided that students couldn’t browse in the books. But we have a new library website [Destiny Discover] where students can log in and put books on hold under their name and pick them up just like the public library does” Wathen said. They also use a platform called Sora that has tons of ebooks for students to read. 

Wathen decided a long time ago that she would retire at 65. After working as a librarian for 37 years now was the time.

She views her retirement as “kind of bittersweet because I’m going to miss Walnut and the students and coming to work. I’m going to miss it a lot because it’s a nice job and I’m really lucky to have this job.” Wathen wants to enjoy her later years and do more of the things she loves outside of being a librarian.

Wathen has been at WHHS not only as a part of the staff but as a student as well. She graduated in 1974 and so she has seen a lot of changes in the school. There was the 2015 library renovation as well as the growth of the student body.

“We have more students now. When I first came there were only 1800 students. And every year it just started growing more and more every year,” she said.

Wathen has also “really enjoyed seeing the Walnut Woods come back,” she said.

However in her eyes there is one thing that hasn’t changed and that is the mission of the school. “We’re trying to get students ready for college so they can succeed, and we want them to be well rounded and get a good education in the arts and sciences,” Wathen said. 

In her first six years here Wathen had a music club. The club met at lunchtime and would listen to music together and share cookies with each other. She was also the class advisor for the class of 2012. Wathen didn’t attend prom that year but she did have fun getting to plan it for that graduating class. 

Wathen already has plenty of retirement plans thought up that she can’t wait to get to. She is going to spend more time with her husband, she is also going to be volunteering her time with the Ohio Alleycat Resource. This means that she’ll be volunteering her time to take care of stray cats. 

On top of that she is also going to be doing more hiking around Cincinnati, sleeping and maybe even taking a drawing class. 

Wathen wanted to leave the students of WHHS with a piece of advice. Her advice for students is “Keep reading because books can be your friends even in bad times. Work hard because working hard makes you feel good and makes you feel proud of yourself. Also find things that you love to do and that make you feel happy and to stay positive.” 

She also took the time to remind students to make new friends as well as to keep their old ones because friends can help students get through tough times. 

“I’ll miss the students and smiling and saying hello to them, I’ll miss my fellow teachers because I have a lot of friends here. I’ll miss the library. A few days ago I was looking at the books and saying goodbye to them because I feel like I know every single book out there.” 


Messages from Friends:

A couple of staff members and one fellow retired staff member left a message for Wathen. 

“I’m definitely going to miss having her around and all of her knowledge. She’s a wealth of knowledge. But I really wanted her to enjoy life now she’s given us a lot of her time, attention, and love, and I think it’s time for her to give herself that and take time to do the things she loves” said Acacia Diniz, the library aide.  

“So in my first year teaching I had to use the library, and I did not understand what that meant. Everybody was like In the English Department we always use the library and I was really scared. Mrs. Wathen really helped me figure out what to do. I did a research project with my eighth graders and ninth graders for the first time and she gave me everything that I needed so she really helped me create those first research projects. When we go to the library the librarians co-teach with us and so having Mrs. Wathen’s knowledge and expertise was really helpful. It was my first year and I was really nervous, so having her there made me feel a lot more confident. I will always remember and be very grateful,” said English teacher Samantha Stephenson. 

Current staff members aren’t the only people that had a message to leave for Wathen. Barringer, the WHHS librarian that retired last year also wanted to leave her friend and fellow librarian a kind message. “I worked with Mrs. Wathen for almost 20 years in the WHHS library. She is a wonderful and dedicated colleague. We saw the Walnut Library through many changes over the years.” Barringer said.