Mary Beth Funtow, a teacher at Hiawatha Elementary School in Essex, sought to create the best learning environment possible for her students (Courtesy photo).

Courtesy of Essex Westford School District

After 21 years of teaching, longtime Essex teacher Mrs. Mary Beth Funtow will retire after the end of this school year and begin a new chapter in her life.

A graduate of the University of Vermont’s College of Education, Mrs. Funtow taught at Fleming Elementary School and other schools in Southern Vermont, before settling in at Hiawatha Elementary School.

She worked tirelessly to support every child placed in her classroom over these last decades. It is hard to quantify the amount of time that Mrs. Funtow dedicated to her students.

Mrs. Funtow typically arrived at school before seven o’clock in the morning and would finally, almost unwillingly, tear herself away at the end of the day before her return to school the next day. And yes, Mrs. Funtow would also spend time in her classroom on weekends, holidays, and over the summer recess.

All of this effort was based on a few primary principles that undergirded her work.

She believed that with the right approach, every child could succeed; she understood that with the right balance of love and firm expectations, children would ultimately acquire self-responsibility and self-discipline; and lastly, she demonstrated that empathy and understanding toward her students and their families are requisite in establishing caring, supportive, and transparent relationships.

Although Mrs. Funtow was amazingly structured, organized, and prepared, she also knew the importance of flexibility and responsiveness. Her attentiveness to a child’s needs on any particular day provided opportunities for differentiated learning and individualized instruction.

Mrs. Funtow strongly believed that it was her responsibility as a classroom teacher to provide the best possible learning environment for her students. This created an open and inclusive classroom where all students were welcome.

Over these many years, Mrs. Funtow worked on dozens of school district professional committees, school based committees, and grade level teams. Her work targeted improvements in supervision and teacher evaluations, math and science curricula, looping, school scheduling, school climate, assessment protocols, and literacy instruction models. Mrs. Funtow also assisted in the hiring process for many staff at Hiawatha, serving on hiring and interview teams.

Although critical, these endeavors pale in comparison to the importance that she placed in her relationships with her students. Mrs. Funtow predicated all of her efforts on ensuring that her students would benefit—academically, behaviorally, and emotionally—while in her classroom. Plain and simple, Mrs. Funtow loved her students!

As the school year draws to a close, Mrs. Funtow will end a remarkable career. During her journey, she has touched the lives of thousands of children, parents, and colleagues. Such dedication is unparalleled.

To be sure, even after retirement, Mrs. Funtow will always be a teacher. As she embarks on this next leg of her journey, with her husband Boris, Mrs. Funtow will remain the dedicated, loving, and strong teacher that she has always been.

Mrs. Funtow, you will always be our teacher!