Caragh Wilder

Caragh Wilder poses for a portrait on the soccer field at Westmoreland School.

Four years into her career as a corporate accountant in Boston, Caragh Wilder made a pretty big change. 

She moved back home to Chesterfield in August 2012, started coaching JV girls soccer and tutoring at Keene High School and went back to Granite State College to pursue her education degree. Wilder, now 35, earned her teaching certificate about a year and a half later, and started teaching middle school math at Westmoreland School, where she's been ever since. 

"Honestly, I look back on it, and it was probably the best change I ever made," said Wilder, who also holds a degree in mathematics from Stonehill College in Easton, Mass., where she played soccer. 

During her four years as an accountant at State Street Corp., Wilder said her favorite part of the job was training new employees. She also comes from a family of educators — her mother was a special education teacher at Keene High School for more than 20 years before retiring in 2019.

"And I always wanted to coach, as well. I grew up playing soccer and basketball," Wilder said. "So, I made a decision. I was not overly happy with accounting, and going to school in Boston for four years and then living in Boston for an additional four years, I kind of missed the small town and the camaraderie that comes with a small town."

Since returning to the Monadnock Region, Wilder — who also coaches girls soccer and basketball at Westmoreland School — said she loves being so close to her parents, Virginia and Patrick McManus, both of whom are retired and still live in Chesterfield. She also met her husband, Nate Wilder, who was teaching math at Keene High School when she began tutoring there. He now works as a financial analyst for C&S Wholesale Grocers in Keene. 

"So we’ve kind of done a flip-flop of our jobs," she said. "But we met through teaching."

Nate Wilder nominated his wife for The Sentinel's Extraordinary Women award, and wrote that "she is a great example of going above and beyond in a community-based job."

"The past year and a half has of course been challenging for educators everywhere and I think that the members of Caragh’s school community would agree that she has stepped up in a huge way," Nate Wilder wrote in his nomination. "From continuing to safely hold soccer practices (for both boys and girls), to helping her colleagues become acquainted with the new technology necessary to teach remotely, Caragh has been supportive and positive, when it was more important than ever."

Westmoreland School Principal Mark Hayward agreed, and said Wilder is a leader on the school staff, and particularly adept at technology, which became especially important at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, when schools quickly switched to remote learning.

"She takes the initiative, and is kind of one of those dream employees who steps up and gets things done before you even have to ask," Hayward said.

Hayward has worked with Wilder not only as a colleague, but also as a parent. His two daughters, Ellie and Addie Hayward, are in college now, but both played soccer for Wilder at Westmoreland School, where she was their math teacher for four years, too.

"The kids look up to and appreciate her, for sure," he said. "The parents see it, too. They appreciate how much she looks after their kids who have gone through her program."

Coaching, Wilder said, helps her connect with students in a different, and often deeper, way than she does in the classroom. And those relationships don't end when students graduate from Westmoreland. Wilder regularly keeps in touch with former students and athletes and goes out of her way to continue helping them however she can.

"I think by building that relationship for four years, it’s not just done in four years," she said. "So, if I can still support them — whether it’s going to a game or going to their play or being a reference or writing a recommendation letter — I'll absolutely do it."

These connections, both in the classroom and on the soccer field and basketball court, are the best part of Wilder's job, she said. 

"I think it’s important for them to know they’re supported outside their immediate family," she said. "... They’re reaching out to me because they value our relationship, so I want to reciprocate that."

With so much of Wilder's work rooted in her relationships with students, the past year and a half — with a combination of in-person, remote and hybrid instruction — has been tough. But even when the school went fully remote last winter, she still found ways to connect on a personal level with her kids, particularly at the start of the day, when Westmoreland School students met with their homerooms on Zoom. 

"So, usually I met with them at 8 o’clock, but I told them anyone who wants to join a little early could join, and we would just have breakfast together and just kind of chit-chat about what they’re doing, how things are going, try to connect with them and see how they’re doing at home instead of just teaching them math through the computer," Wilder said. 

Her students loved that time so much that they started joining earlier and earlier, to the point where Wilder had to tell them their meeting would not start before 7:30. 

"She goes the extra mile for her students, colleagues, friends, family and even the school janitor on a few occasions and never seeks recognition," Nate Wilder, 34, wrote of his wife. "She is the very last person to sing her own praises, so I feel that I must do so for her."

Indeed, Wilder said she's not comfortable as the center of attention, and the Extraordinary Women honor came as a shock.

"But it’s an honor, and obviously it’s very nice to be recognized," she said.

Looking ahead, Wilder said she and Nate have no plans to move elsewhere. They're happy, she said, immersing themselves in the close-knit community that she missed so much while studying and working in Boston.

"I think we’re definitely in this area for the long haul. My husband and I love this area. I love teaching. Westmoreland is kind of a little hidden gem ... and I feel like I’ve found my place there."

This story has been updated to correct the name of Caragh Wilder's husband. 

Jack Rooney can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1404, or jrooney@keenesentinel.com. Follow him on Twitter @RooneyReports.

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