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School News: A teacher for the ages

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Mrs. Mary Humpert is finishing her 44th year of teaching in Summit’s Montessori program

If you were to describe the ideal teacher for young children, you might think of someone who loves to make her students feel valued and safe, who is dedicated to their growth and learning, who has experience, patience and a sense of humor. That would be the perfect description of The Summit Country Day School’s Mary Humpert, Montessori teacher.

Humpert’s many wonderful qualities have made her a beloved teacher for generations of Summit Silver Knights. Currently, she is teaching not one, not five, not 10, but 12 children of her past students.

Those parents are now in their 30s and 40s – some are turning the big 5-0 this year – and they are thrilled that Mrs. Humpert is still in the classroom so their preschoolers and kindergartners can experience the same joyful education that they did back in the day.

“Going back into Mrs. Humpert’s classroom today, I have déjà vu when I see some of the materials that are still essential to the Montessori philosophy,” said Patrick Newton, Summit class of 2002. “I was 3 years old and over 30 years have passed, but I remember my imagination really blossoming.”

With so many past students returning to Summit with their brood, Humpert says she often experiences flashbacks, too: “Sometimes I’ll see a child’s smile, a look or body language and I think, ‘Yes, I’ve seen that before.’ It takes me back.”

The granddaughter of 1916 Summit graduate Antoinette Daly Homan, Humpert recalls getting a part-time teaching offer from Ed Tyrrell back in 1976. She turned it down, but two years later she accepted a full-time position when it came open. That makes 44 years of service to date for this remarkable woman. She estimates she’s taught over 1,000 Summit children so far in her career.

“It’s so important to build good relationships with the children and their families,” Humpert said. “I truly love the children. If you love them, they are empowered to be their best selves and they learn so much better.’”

And you could say she learned from the best. She was trained in the Montessori method by Hilda Rothschild, Martha McDermot, Ann Burice Neubert and Nancy McCormick Rambusch. Growing up in the Mt. Lookout neighborhood, Humpert attended Cardinal Pacelli School until eighth grade, and she was taught almost exclusively by the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, the same group of women who founded The Summit.

“I tell my son Oliver that Mrs. Humpert and some of his other teachers taught me when I was in school at Summit,” said Mia Escudero Myers, Summit class of 2006. “It makes the connection between us extra special. The hardest part for me is that Mrs. Humpert wants me to call her ‘Mary,’ and I just can’t do it!

“I love having Oliver in her class because with so much classroom experience, she has truly seen it all and I know she can handle any situation that arises.”

Summit’s Montessori program opened 60 years ago and is still going strong thanks to wonderful teachers like Mary Humpert, whose own four sons attended the school as “lifers.”

“Teaching young children is so much fun,” she said. “They keep us smiling and you just never know what they are going to do or say.”

Established in 1890, The Summit Country Day School, 2161 Grandin Road, serves students ages 18 months to grade 12. As a Catholic, coed, independent school, The Summit stands on five pillars of education: academic, spiritual, physical, social and artistic.

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