"I got a call from my mentor superintendent who said that his friend was a superintendent at a school district that was looking for a high school principal," said Watson. "He didn't tell me where the district was. Then, Mr. (Bob) Walker (Southwest superintendent) called and asked me to come to Southwest for an interview."
Watson, who graduated from Southwest High School in 1990, comes from a family of educators. Her parents, Darrel and Sandra Tilford, are both retired Southwest teachers.
Watson earned a bachelor's degree in education from Missouri Southern State University in Joplin before her career led her on a path teaching physical education, health, English and science in Seneca, Webb City and Galena, Kan.
After serving as a teacher for nine years, Watson received her first administrative position at Carl Junction High School. Later, she became the high school principal at Seneca.
Over the last 18 years, Watson has also earned master's degrees in elementary principalship and secondary education and a specialist's degree in superintendency by completing courses at Missouri State University and William Woods College.
In addition to serving in the public school system, Watson now teaches athletic director's master's degree classes, such as sports law, sports finance and administration of athletic programs at William Woods. She also teaches critical and current issues in education, federal programs, education finance and law, curriculum and human relations classes at the college.
After meeting the current administrative team and faculty at the Southwest School District, Watson is very excited to begin the new school year with the group.
"I was there in April for a full day, visiting with every faculty member," said Watson. "I wanted to tell them about myself, but more importantly, I wanted to find out about them.
"I really enjoyed meeting the administrative team," said Watson. "Everyone seems to be on the same page with the same goals for students district wide. As we reach those goals, you will see a tremendous amount of improvement at Southwest."
While visiting the district, Watson took time to visit with many of the faculty members regarding concerns and needs at the district.
"We are going to write a five-year plan for school improvement," said Watson. "I will be asking the teachers, students and community for input on that plan. I will also be raising the rigor of the curriculum in the building. I believe that if you expect more out of your kids they will produce more.
"I also want to focus on Trojan pride," said Watson. "When I was going to school at Southwest, we were proud to be Trojans, and I want to see that in our students again."
Under Watson's leadership, Seneca was recognized as one of the top high schools in the United States by the U.S. News and World Report.
"My goal is to see Southwest be recognized the same way," said Watson. "I'm excited that now, instead of spending time improving another community's students, I have the opportunity to come back and improve education for the students in my hometown community."
Watson has relocated from Joplin to Barry County with her husband, Brian Watson, who will be working as a paraprofessional at Southwest Middle School, and her son, Hayden Fox, who will enter the eighth grade at the R-5 District in the fall.
"Hayden is excited to be here," said Watson. "He said that he and his dad will be able to go fishing and hunting anytime they want. He didn't have the opportunity to do that in Joplin."
The family is remodeling a home in Seligman. When she is not at the high school, Watson said she enjoys working on home projects, including laying tile, a skill she learned from her husband.