For the past 35 years, Valerie Parry has inspired Westfield students to appreciate literature, theater, and their own unique gifts of creative expression. As many of you know, at the end of this school year, she will retire from full-time teaching. Her dedication to teaching and reaching the intellectual and social strengths of each student has shaped this community. Generations of students, parents, grandparents, and colleagues have been grateful beneficiaries of her caring guidance.
Valerie began teaching at Westfield in 1985. The school already had a special place in her heart as her husband, Jack Parry had attended Westfield. Westfield Friends Meeting and School had been a tradition in his family for many generations - a tradition they continued with their three children. In fact, the Parry family was there at Westfield’s inception in 1788 and one of the first teachers at the school was a Parry!
Valerie began her career at Westfield as the Pre-K assistant the year her youngest child entered kindergarten. The following year, she served as an assistant in the sixth grade, leading the Language Arts portion of the curriculum. For the next eighteen years, she taught third grade and was delighted by her imaginative and inquisitive young students. A lasting contribution from that era, what has become a Westfield institution, a physical motivation to get students to read at higher levels, was building the reading loft. She also fondly remembers the annual “Colonial Day”, during which the whole school worked together on samplers, dipped candles, and wrote with quill pens.
When Bette Ann Califf retired as the seventh and eighth grade Language Arts teacher, Valerie “graduated” from third grade to a position in which she could use her education and love for English Literature even more fully. From then on, she taught Middle School Language Arts. The annual Christmas plays, trips to Williamsburg and Washington DC, and, of course, graduation - from speeches to their final goodbye - were some of the many highlights throughout the years.
Valerie shares that she has loved every minute of working with the bright, enthusiastic, and insightful children she has taught. She reflects that she is most proud of her writing program and being able to introduce the world of Shakespeare to so many students. Modeling life-long learning, she is most gratified about what she has been able to learn from so many amazing students and colleagues over the years. "My years at Westfield have been a true joy, and it has been an honor to work with so many gifted colleagues throughout my Westfield career."
As expressed by Head of School, Margaret Haviland, "I am hopeful that we will continue to benefit from her skill in helping young people find their own, unique voice as writers. Valerie has grounded her teaching practice in the Quaker beliefs that have served Westfield from its founding. From using the Peace Table to resolve student conflicts, to encouraging her students to speak out against climate change, to helping them approach controversial and challenging topics with integrity and respect, she has modeled for her students how to live their values. Her students know her as a teacher who believes in them and helps them achieve beyond what they thought possible. Listening to students thank her at graduation affirms their appreciation for their teacher who took the time to know them well. From learning to debate respectfully, to teaching classic literature, to providing opportunities for deep understanding of the US constitution and its relevance to students' lives today, Valerie helps her students make meaning of their history, their cultures, and their lives. When I talk with recent alums they all reflect on her uncanny ability to help them find their voice as writers and speakers. Older alums speak of her engendering in them an early love of reading as 3rd-grade students just discovering the amazing breadth of books they could read.
Valerie is unique in her history with Westfield; she is a master teacher at the height of her practice; she is a scholar of literature, she provides her colleagues with measured leadership."
To enhance your tribute, we have created an opportunity to make a gift in honor of Valerie, dedicating these funds to the Responsive Tuition Program.
Read the article in the Cinnaminson Patch about Mrs. Parry's retirement.