She's here, there, and everywhere
An occasional profile of teachers who make the grade with students and colleagues
Keeping up with Gloria Kingsbury, founder and director of Happy Hollow preschool and kindergarten, is like trying to track a hummingbird.Skip to next paragraph
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On a typical day, the effervescent Mrs. Kingsbury is always on the move, one minute helping a three-year-old with computer work and the next leading older children in a rousing rendition of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" while accompanying them on the piano.
"I'm a hands-on person," says Kingsbury, who manages to find time amid her other duties to bring doughnuts to her staff and take out the trash. As for students, they learn right away to expect a lighthearted touch from the director, who introduces herself with the rhyme, "I'm Mrs. Kingsbury, not Mrs. Strawberry."
When she opened Happy Hollow in 1955, this longtime educator had little idea what an influence she would eventually have on this community not far from Boston. A single mother, she had little money and wasn't sure what the future held. She knew she wanted to start a school - but loans were hard to come by for women. Finally, a local banker took a chance and loaned her funds to build a place to live and teach kindergarten.
A half-century and thousands of students later, the house has been fully converted into a school - and Kingsbury has developed a devoted following among parents, children, and educators here.
"She's probably one of the most talented early-childhood-education teachers I've ever met," says Nancy FitzGerald, one of two kindergarten teachers at the school and an early-childhood instructor at the North Attleboro campus of Fisher College.
Kingsbury earned a degree in education from Wheelock College in Boston, and immediately went on to get a master's degree in education at Columbia University in New York during World War II. Early-childhood ed was not a field then. "I learned my stuff from teaching," she explains.
She taught full time at the school for about 20 years until she got a license to increase enrollment to 65, and was required to devote all her time to being the school's director.
Know your children well
But that hasn't stood in the way of being intimately involved with the education of her students. She has sing-alongs each day with one group or another, and seems to know all pupils - past and present - by heart.
Each class at Happy Hollow begins with circle time, when students come together in brightly decorated rooms to talk. Children ages 4 and up say the Pledge of Allegiance. "I'm great about patriotism," says Kingsbury. "I feel strongly that children have to learn early in life that they live in a country where they can do a great many things."
She goes over the pledge line by line with the four-year-olds, and has them promise to do the best they can to help their country become a better place. She teaches students they have rights, but that others do, too. "I think a lot of schools are forgetting these values," she says.
The importance she places on such values is felt in the smallest of traditions at Happy Hollow: The school is still a place where writing thank-you notes and saying please and thank you are common.