DERRY — Mary Anderson has had two sets of teachers in her life — her parents and a man who gave her a job that remained a part of her life for 39 years.
Anderson, Pinkerton Academy headmaster, not only credits her parents for instilling the love of education into her soul, but she celebrates her first boss, Bradford Ek, for giving her the opportunity to make the Derry high school her home.
She is retiring from the top job at the end of this school year.
Anderson has worked at Pinkerton for 39 years, first serving as a teacher, then leading the school’s business department. She then become assistant headmaster before landing the top job.
Pinkerton has only had three official headmasters in its history, Ivah Hackler, Ek and Anderson. Most had long careers.
Sitting in her office one recent afternoon, Anderson reflected on her years at the school and how much she would miss the students, her colleagues and the campus.
Her office is filled with many things showing her interests, not only in education, but in stock car racing and everything Disney.
She said she is tapping into some of those interests as she crafts her final commencement speech for the graduating class.
“I want it to be special,” she said.
Anderson grew up in Fremont, still living in her family home and staying close with siblings, nieces and nephews who live in the area.
She knew she wanted to be a teacher early on.
“I was the oldest of four children, I was always the bossy older sister,” Anderson said. “We always played school. I knew I always wanted to be a teacher.”
Anderson went through the Sanborn School District and then on to college.
Her roots kept her in the area though, and she landed her first teaching job at Pinkerton following college graduation.
The school was different then.
Still big with about 2,000 students, Pinkerton welcomed students from many towns, including Londonderry and Windham.
“There were more people on this campus than in my hometown at that time,” Anderson said.
She taught business for many years, then worked her way up into administration and eventually to the head office on the hill, a job she loves and will miss.
“I’m so proud of the kids, their accomplishments, the teachers, staff, my colleagues,” she said.
There have been dark times.
One of the hardest things Anderson dealt with leading Pinkerton was handling the death of a student, no matter what the circumstances.
“It’s the most difficult thing any school has to deal with,” she said. “We always came together as a community when needed.”
There were also many joys.
One of her favorite memories was the opening of the Stockbridge Theatre.
“Without a doubt,” she said.
Anderson said she will miss everyone she has ever had the pleasure to work with and will remain involved.
That means once she retires she will still be a familiar face, attending Pinkerton events, supporting the school and taking on other volunteer positions, including serving on the Fremont Budget Committee.
She is also very involved in the planning of Pinkerton’s 200th anniversary celebration schedule in 2014.
“My roots have always been local, I’ve traveled to China and all over, but my roots are here,” she said, “and deeply embedded in this community.”
When asked to describe Pinkerton in three simple words or phrases, Anderson offered “progressive, traditional, and the best place to work and learn.”
Her advice to incoming headmaster Griffin Morse was simple — always think of what’s in the best interest of the students.
“That’s why we have such a phenomenal school here,” she said.
She said it’s time to go and she looks forward to her next chapter. Her bucket list contains many things, including travel, time with family, learning to play the piano, and maybe even a return to her church choir.
The list also includes her hopes of visiting just about every NASCAR track in the country.
“It’s just time to take the time,” she said.