Charles Barstow Wright played an important role in Tacoma’s early history, but he never actually lived here. In 1870 the Pennsylvania businessman helped select Tacoma as the Pacific terminus for the transcontinental railroad. Charles Wright Academy was named in his honor but never had any direct connection to Charles Barstow Wright or his family.
CWA is a school for students who are curious and who want to begin the journey of cultivating lifelong learning. They come from all different family and education backgrounds and are united and motivated by a love of learning. Students are known as individuals here.
Charles Wright welcomes girls and boys in grades junior kindergarten through 12. Though founded as a boys school in 1957, Charles Wright welcomed the school’s first female students in 1970 and now counts more than 1,000 women among its alumni.
Our committed faculty seek what is right for each student, connecting with them in small class meetings and also through plenty of interface outside of the classroom. Teachers are passionate about their own lifelong learning and inspire students to build a meaningful sense of engagement and participation in the world around them. They serve as mentors for students, building connections that often last well beyond graduation. You can learn more about our renowned faculty here.
Our rigorous liberal arts academic program intentionally incorporates arts, athletics, and time in nature so that students can find their personal best. We do not teach to the test; rather, we cultivate critical thinking and provide safe opportunities for students to take risks. Through experiential education and hands-on approaches, our students learn in many different ways. Via an ongoing dialogue on character and integrity, we foster students’ social responsibility.
At Charles Wright, we challenge every student to explore and discover his or her gifts, so the characteristics of their success are growth, engagement, finding joy in learning, and the discovery of new interests. We encourage all students to achieve their personal best in mind, body, and spirit. Our program supports this success in developmentally appropriate ways from junior kindergarten through 12th grade and culminates in the selection of a best-fit college or university.
We are an independent, non-sectarian, private school. We include students and families from diverse backgrounds and identities: socioeconomic, racial and ethnic, gender and sexuality, religious and non-religious. Our community connects through the shared value of education. Families engage and participate in the life of the school in many different ways, from class volunteering to contributing to the Fund for CWA.
More than one Charles Wright athletic team has arrived at another school to see a poster of a rather whipped-looking dog with the painted slogan, “Leash the Terriers”—apparently created in the belief that we can’t even spell the name of our own mascot. In truth the Tarrier arose in the 1962-63 school year when CWA felt the need for a distinctive mascot. There was heated debate over the choice. A group of iconoclastic students campaigned for the Hodag, a legendary creature from the Northwest forest, invented to frighten young and gullible loggers. Another faction, headed by athletic director, teacher, and bulldozer driver Dean Palmer argued for the Tarrier, a name given the Irish workers building the railroads across America in the nineteenth century. The name most commonly occurs in the old folk song, “Drill Ye Tarriers Drill.” The Tarrier emerged victorious in a vote of the student body and was given graphic representation by CWA Middle School student Chuck Matthias ’67 of cartooning fame. Chuck remembers that he modeled the Tarrier on one of the O’Rourke brothers. You can’t get much more Irish than that. His derby hat became the name for the student service organization the Green Derby. So now you know all that we know.