by Carla Occaso-
MONTPELIER — Latin teacher Mary Redmond is retiring after 46 continuous years at Montpelier High School.
The Bridge visited Redmond on May 27 in a classroom chock full of well-used Latin books. During our discussion, Redmond conveyed her enthusiasm for the school, her students, her subject, and her job. She started teaching right after graduating from the University of Vermont, where she studied Latin and English. Her teacher suggested she concentrate on Latin because she would always teach “the cream the crop.” Redmond said this proved to be true because “you don’t get unmotivated kids in Latin.”
Students who study Latin learn more than just a language, according to Redmond, who said the kids themselves report learning grammar skills for all languages, word roots (because it is so methodical), and problem solving for any kind of situation. “The value of it is the transferable skills that go into other languages,” Redmond said. “One child told me that on every single SAT question she applied her Latin.”
Why so long at the same place? “The (Montpelier Public School) system has been very good to me. It is why I never left. The townspeople are extremely supportive, and we turn out a good product,” she said of her students. “I love teenagers. I love their sense of humor. They keep you young. The kids know I love Latin, so I think it rubs off on them.”
Redmond said a big part of being a successful teacher is building relationships with students. This philosophy spilled out beyond Latin teaching the last couple of years when students noticed she was an avid knitter. When they asked her to knit something for them, she agreed, as long as they supplied the yarn. This side activity became an enjoyable recess event, she said. Redmond said the mother of one of her students thanked her for teaching this skill because it helped her get through a difficult personal situation.
It seems students aren’t her only fans. Outgoing principal Adam Bunting wrote in an email to The Bridge, “Mary Redmond leaves a legacy to which all teachers aspire and very few achieve. She is one of the greats, who is fueled by the length of her career as opposed to tired out because of it. She is progressive, wholly student-centered, and a professional through and through.”
Montpelier Public School board chair Sue Aldrich said, “My kids had Mary Redmond for Latin and it was absolutely one of their favorite classes. My son George developed an amazing desire to learn about classical civilization and is now planning to be a classics major at Colgate. He is taking not only more Latin but also related subjects such as classical Greek and the history of Greece and Rome. I credit Mary Redmond for inspiring his love for the classics. She also knit gorgeous Irish sweaters for three of my kids.”
Superintendent Brian Ricca said, “Mary Redmond is the consummate professional — teaching any student who wanted to learn Latin, anytime, anywhere. She has literally never turned a student away. Mary is a gift to the students she has taught, the colleagues she taught with and anyone who has sat and learned with her. I am proud to have crossed her educational path and am grateful for her feedback regarding my leadership. She will be missed.”