As she took one last spring break as principal of Richmond Hill Primary, Mary A. Tiedemann shared her love of education, her gratitude for her career and the importance of this week to help teachers get ready for the final stretch run of the school year.
“It was my love of children and realizing I was happiest when around them,” she said of why she chose education as her career and stuck with it for the last 35 years.
After spending the last 10 years at Richmond Hill Primary, Tiedemann will move to the brand-new McAllister Elementary School in the 2015-16 school year.
She said this last spring break at Richmond Hill Primary is somewhat bittersweet.
“The familiarity of the faces, staff and support are all things I treasure,” Tiedemann said. “The years spent here and depth of intimacy with the teachers — honestly, I try not to think about it too much.”
McAllister will be a new school, but she said her main focus will stay the same — to “make a difference” in the lives of children in Richmond Hill.
“Hopefully, a little piece of (Richmond Hill Primary) will go with me. That makes me feel the support and level of excellence will be with me at McAllister Elementary,” Tiedemann said. “Change wakes you up and invigorates you; it’s an exciting time.”
It was during her college years that she began to see that education was a field that would allow her to truly “make a difference,” she said. That was her driving force.
“Over the years, I’ve been really blessed,” she said. “I feel like I’ve been supported, been able to do creative things and have been stretched.”
When asked what one word comes to mind when thinking of spring break, Tiedemann smiled and said “relief.”
Teachers, she said, need this break from their duties. Even before spring break began, several teachers asked Tiedemann when they could get back into their classrooms. But she said she hopes they at least will take a few days off to recoup.
As for Tiedemann, she planned to unplug at Jekyll Island before getting back to work late this week.
The students at Primary have had much excitement over the past few months, from St. Patrick’s Day to the hatching of baby chicks. Children in this age group, she said, have an excitement unlike that of any other grade level.
In fact, the week off is not what created the biggest buzz among the school’s 950 students, Tiedemann said. Instead, they appeared to be more excited about the baby chicks than anything else all year.
When students return next week, they, along with administrators, teachers and support staff, will face the school year’s final stretch. This is the time to refocus on the “goals we’ve set for our students and prepare to do whatever it takes to meet these goals,” Tiedemann said.
Everything will soon be in “fast-moving mode,” she said, adding that everyone at Richmond Hill Primary works diligently to do all things necessary to “turn these kids over fully prepared” for the next grade level.
Administrators have to complete evaluations of teachers and staff. They will strive to complete them early so they can enjoy all the fun end-of-year activities with the staff and students. The volunteer brunch, announcement of the school’s Teacher of the Year and many other festivities that will wrap up the year are all important, she said.
As she embarks on this new journey in her career, Tiedemann said she can’t take full credit for Primary’s unity, though she thinks she has played a role.
She said that when she moves to McAllister Elementary, she intends to focus “more on working with people versus pulling people behind you.”
“You must be willing to help and take help from those around you,” she said. “These are essential in keeping the momentum moving forward. You’ve got to have a team effort.”
As a leader, Tiedemann prides herself in not asking her staff to do something that she will not do herself. As many parents can attest, she is often seen in the carpool lane loading and unloading students, rain or shine.
The legacy of her leadership at Primary can be summed up in one word: “growth.” Simply knowing that in one way or another, she has helped her teachers and students grow is extremely important to her.
“Just to know you’ve moved it forward and know you worked hard to increase the value of the school and the lives in it” is priceless, Tiedemann said.