Retiring South School Principal Mary Eastwood says experience was ‘like being the conductor of an amazing symphony’

July 1, 2024 By Carol Britton Meyer

Principal Mary Eastwood, who has retired after spending the majority of her 45-year career with Hingham Public Schools at South Elementary School, feels fortunate to have “something this special in my life that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

Her favorite  part of her job as principal for the past 12 years was engaging with students, families and other professionals every day “and having a bird’s-eye view of everything that was happening, and how everyone took care of one another in our South School Village,” she told the Hingham Anchor. “It was like being the conductor of an amazing symphony.”

Among her biggest contributions as principal was working hard “to keep the South School culture alive and accepting others for who they are,” she shared. “Every child learns in a different way, and that’s okay. It’s important to accommodate different learning styles and to ensure that all students feel accepted and loved.”

‘I knew HPS has a phenomenal reputation’
Eastwood began working for Hingham Public Schools in 1978 right out of college. “I got hired at the last minute, right before Labor Day in 1978 on a day when I had meandered down to Hingham to get myself on the substitute list,” she recalled. “I knew HPS has a phenomenal reputation and that Hingham was a lovely town that supported education, so when I was offered an opportunity to work there, I jumped at it.”

That “accident” turned out to be one of the most “serendipitous” events of her life, Eastwood said, because she was able to work in one of the “finest public-school systems that exists, with amazing colleagues each and every day of my long career with HPS.”

She started off as a grade 7 to 9 social studies teacher at the then-South Junior High School (now Hingham Middle School), spending 12 years in that position.

After becoming accredited in special education, Eastwood assumed the role of the K-6 special education teacher at South Elementary School, “which became my new home,” she explained.

‘The magic of congenial teamwork’
Eastwood then spent a number of years as a fifth-grade teacher at South School, moving into the role of principal for the past 12.

All of her educational experiences led to “learning and experiencing the magic that comes from congenial teamwork,” she said.

As a teenager, Eastwood loved watching the movie “Camelot” — the fictitious name of a place where King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table lived.

“The idea of Camelot is deeply rooted in ancient folklore and later became synonymous with the noble pursuit of the perfect situation . . .’an idyllic place or period, especially one of great happiness. . . ,'” Eastwood shared. “I feel as though good fortune brought me to Camelot many times in my professional life with the HPS.”

These include working at South Junior High for more than a decade “with so many wonderful mentors who took me under their wing and helped me to be the best I could be”; her experiences in various positions at South School “with the most collaborative professionals I ever knew, our ‘Teamwork makes the dream work’ mantra, and living our ‘BEEING kinder than necessary’ to each other motto (the bee is the school mascot) each and every day.”

Making South School ‘the best it could be’
Eastwood’s other “Camelots” include her 12 years as principal “working for great supervisors and alongside gifted district administrators — especially our assistant principal, Lori Jacobs” and with South School staff of all ages “who helped me, and help each other, out, no matter what it took to always put the students first and make South School the best it could be”; and overall, “always being surrounded by staff members, students, and families who cared for others ahead of themselves.”

It has been “an honor to work in the HPS, which attracts very dedicated professionals who work together with the best interests of students and their families in mind,” Eastwood said.

School Committee Vice Chair Jen Benham, the parent of three former South School students, shared her thoughts with the Hingham Anchor.

“Mary has been an integral part of Hingham Public Schools throughout her 45-year journey in education. Her unwavering commitment, passion for education, and genuine care for everyone have positively impacted countless students, educators, and families,” she said.  “She has inspired so many, and I wish her a retirement filled with happiness, relaxation, and new adventures. I will miss seeing her around the district.”

While her last “official” day on the job was June 30, she is onboard to help with the transition to the new principal/assistant principal team of Tara Boening and Jennifer Driscoll.

“I won’t be far away!” Eastwood said. “My immediate goal is to help these two great people assume their new roles in the amazing South School Village, which I know will welcome them with open arms.”

After that’s accomplished, Eastwood said she will be ready for a little free time and a change and “whatever good may come from that, perhaps the pursuit of more Camelots! The ones I found here in the HPS will always be near and dear to my heart!”

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