It’s been a week of reflection, tears and well wishes for Manetuck Elementary School Principal Mary Anderson.
Since announcing her retirement effective the end of the current school year, Anderson has run the gamut of emotions as she prepares to embark on the next phase of her life that after 41 years will not include the West Islip School District.
Her career in West Islip started as a teacher at Westbrook Elementary School. She would serve for three years as principal at Paul J. Bellew Elementary School and eventually on to Manetuck, where she has held the principal’s position for the past 19 years.
Recently, Anderson spoke with West Islip Patch about her career in West Islip, her thoughts on the future of education and what she plans to do with the spare time she will have following retirement.
PATCH: What was your mindset in deciding to retire?
MARY ANDERSON: It’s something that I knew was eventually going to happen. My 84-year old mother is someone I still rely on for advice and I asked her how will I know when it’s time? She said, “you will know.” My mother is in good health and I want to spend more time with her and my daughters, one of who is graduating from pharmacy school and the other who lives in Connecticut.
PATCH: Was the decision at all bittersweet?
MA: Last week, I could not talk about it without filling up. This has been such a big part of my life. When I started teaching in West Islip, I did not live here, but moved here because I really liked the education system. There is something about the West Islip community that is special.
PATCH: What have been some of the bigger changes you’ve seen in the community?
MA: I think the big change is that people have more demands on their time. People are working hard to stay above water and it’s harder to have them come in during the day for meetings. We now have more PTA meetings and parent-teacher conferences at night to accommodate this. It’s not good or bad, it just how things have progressed.
PATCH: What have been some of the bigger educational changes?
MA: I think a lot of that has come from the state. They put out what their expectations are and we work to meet them. I’ve seen several rewritings of curriculum over the years. We also have so much more data to work with, which allows us to work with the teachers on what techniques are more successful. We have become better teachers because of the information that is out there.
PATCH: Are the kids today much different than the kids from when you started?
MA: I don’t think our kids are all that different from the kids years ago. They are much more savvy with technology, but they play the same sports and socialize on the weekends with their friends just like kids did years ago.
PATCH: What will you miss the most?
MA: I will miss the people and most of all I will miss the kids. It has been a delight and so rewarding working with elementary school kids. What I won’t miss is the paperwork (laughs).
PATCH: Do you have a better sense today of the impact you have had on generations of students?
MA: This is the first time I have really felt that impact. It has been very flattering to hear from former students that still reside in the community and now have kids in the school system. It’s a very warm feeling and why I feel so strongly about the community.
PATCH: What would you say to the next Manetuck principal?
MA: You’ve died and gone to heaven. The PTA and parents are so supportive and everyone works really hard to do the right thing for the kids.
PATCH: Is there one memory that stands out over 41 years?
MA: Just all the hugs the kids have given me.