Winston History

A Tradition of Visionary Educators

The Winston School was founded in San Diego in 1988 by a group of visionary physicians, parents, and educators led by pediatrician Dr. John Richards. Dr. Richards, the creator of the first Center for School Problems at Kaiser Permanente, had long recognized the need for a local school to serve those with dyslexia, dysgraphia, ADD, and other learning differences. Inspired by schools of the same name in Texas, Dr. Richards recruited charismatic educator Paul Erwin as Winston’s first headmaster. Under Mr. Erwin’s leadership, the vision of a safe and nurturing school for bright children with learning differences became a reality.

Three years later, Mark Kimball, assistant headmaster of The Gow School in New York, took over the reins of The Winston School. He guided us through the next 14 years with great skill, modesty, and grace. His knowledge of how to educate students with learning differences and his expertise in private school administration helped Winston evolve into a highly-regarded example among schools of its kind.

In July 2005, after a nationwide search, Mike Peterson of The Field School in Washington, DC, became the third headmaster of The Winston School. He successfully guided the school into the summer of 2016.

Dr. Dena Harris joined as Head of School in August 2016. With the school operating on a solid foundation, Dena focused on upgrading the facility, technology, and programs and developing and deepening relationships with our community partners and supporters during her six-year tenure.

Since March 2023, Mary Sterling-Torretti has served as Head of School. She has been a recognized leader of Winston since 1989, serving bright students with learning differences in a rich, rigorous, nurturing environment in which students gain the skills and confidence necessary to learn, grow, and reach their full potential. She recognizes our responsibility to create a diverse and inclusive environment that supports and celebrates each individual in our school community.

We look forward to her continued guidance and leadership as we broaden our reach to students, families, and professionals inside and beyond our school community.

Never, never, never give up.

- Winston Churchill

Named After a Great Statesman

The Winston School is the namesake of Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill, who overcame multiple learning differences on his way to becoming one of the greatest statesmen of all time. A quote from his historic speech to the students of Harrow School, where Churchill struggled to learn to read and write, produced The Winston School motto: Never, never, never give up!

Churchill’s strength was forged in part through his own trials as a struggling student. We believe this personal triumph provides an inspiration to our students. If a great leader and eloquent orator can arise from a young man who was written off by his teachers, what future great men and women labor in our classrooms today? If you never give up, and never give in, you too may achieve great things.

Churchill often concluded his memos with the phrase “Action this day,” to indicate he wanted action immediately. The Winston School has also adopted this call to action, as a constant reminder that we are all working together, striving for higher achievement on a daily basis.