Mary Green: A Hillside Original Says Goodbye
Although her community changed remarkably during her long tenure at Hillside Elementary, Mary Green’s career at the school had some bookend moments.
On one of the first days she pulled up to Hillside, Green encountered children selling lemonade. She bought some. She repeated this a few days before she retired with another set of children. Some things in life, Green mused, are constant.
“That was a real opening for me to get to know people in the community.”
Getting to know her community was something Green prided herself on.
“That’s one of the things I’m proud of; that I was able to make Hillside a community school. Parents know they can get in to see me anytime; show up unexpected… That’s all part of parents buying in and knowing they’re important to me and important to the success of the school.”
Green served as Hillside’s assistant principal when the school opened in 1998, becoming principal in 2000. She began her career as a first grade teacher at Alvin S. Hatch Elementary in Half Moon Bay, Calif., and taught in Kentucky and California before coming to Loudoun County. Green was a fourth grade teacher at Guilford and Algonkian elementary schools before becoming the assistant principal at Sully Elementary, then Hillside.
With the exception of five years she took off to raise her own children, Green has worked a school schedule her entire adult life. After years of a regimented existence, her plan is to have no plans.
“I’m going to figure that out. I don’t have a master plan, but I’m going to figure it out. I think it’s OK not to have a master plan right now. I don’t have any big trips planned. I live around here; I love being here. There are things I want to do.
“Generally in this job you don’t have time to develop (interests); it just consumes you. I want to have more time to develop friendships outside of school.”
Green said she wants to be more active in the community.
“I’ll figure it out.”
During her years at Hillside, Green was up at 5 each morning and at school by 6:30.
“I joke with people that I have to get an early start on the first crisis.”
The earliest she would go home was 5 p.m.
“It’s hard for me to plan my next life because this consumes me. That’s OK. That’s my commitment and what I took on. It’s been great. It’s been a good ride.”
One commitment Green made was to keep up with a Hillside community that grew much more diverse through the years.
“People speak Russian, Korean; all kinds of different languages. When the school first opened, we had a handful of kids who spoke Spanish.”
Green said greater diversity meant she had to be much more thoughtful in her dealings with parents. “To be sure that I am thinking of the values and the culture and the things that are important to families who come in this door. Whereas, when I first took this job, I didn’t make a concerted effort to think about that; everyone was pretty much like me. It became a job where you really conscientiously think so that you are respectful and learning about what issues are important to other people…
“It’s very much an international community…
“It’s become more complicated, lots more complicated.”
These complications, however, could be overcome by a simple philosophy.
“Keep an open mind and keep learning every day. Just when you think you’ve seen it all or heard it all, something new happens…You need to be continually open-minded, reflective and to expect the unexpected.”
In addition to being more diverse, Green’s students became much more savvy and world-wise. This led to some interesting conversations. Green said it wasn’t uncommon to have a student say they spent the weekend in Paris. “Then they’ll turn to me and say ‘Well, you’ve been there too, haven’t you Mrs. Green?’”
Although her students changed a great deal through the years, Green said what she wanted for them to get out of school stayed much the same.
“I hope kids develop stability here and trust here; trust in adults. Adults will help them. Adults will guide them academically, socially and emotionally. Stability in elementary school really does stay with kids the rest of their life. It’s where they learn that it’s OK to ask questions. It’s OK to make a mistake. Hopefully, I have provided the environment where the kids do feel comfortable doing that.”
Another change Green saw during her tenure was a rise in the emphasis put on standardized testing. She taught when the Virginia Standards of Learning were enacted. However, testing was yet to become high stakes while she was in the classroom. “I felt like staff and kids had much more room for creativity for open-mindedness, for problem-solving. Personally, that’s what I feel we need in the world; not ‘What did you do on this day, at this time on this test?’ To have that have such a big impact; I feel that’s a disadvantage to the kids.”
Asked about how she’d like to be remembered by her students, Green had a ready answer.
“That I stopped to listen to them, that I enjoyed them and that I just loved spending every day here.”