Unlike all of her colleagues, Middle School (MS) World Languages Department Head Margaret Hardy ’61 first encountered 80 Sparks Street as a student at the Buckingham School.
“I particularly enjoyed the unbelievable support of my teachers at what was then Buckingham,” Ms. Hardy said. “[But] the first time I discovered I like teaching was my first year teaching in a public junior high school in Rochester, New York.”
In 1972, just over a decade after graduating from the Upper School, Ms. Hardy returned to the MS campus—with a Bachelor’s degree from Goucher College and a teaching certificate—to tutor students in French, a language she learned as a child when she lived in a small village outside of Geneva, Switzerland. Former MS Director Francis Ackerly invited her to join the school as a full-time French teacher seven years later.
After 38 years at the school, Ms. Hardy will retire on June 9 to spend time with her family in the Boston area.
“I really like teaching—in fact, it’s kind of odd how much I like it,” Ms. Hardy said. “But because I’m older, I get tired, and I have less and less tolerance for the extras—the meetings, the study hall proctoring, the things that aren’t teaching.”
During her tenure at the school, Ms. Hardy also taught Latin and Spanish, both of which she learned in summer classes and extension courses.
“I learned Latin because the school needed a Latin teacher,” she said. “And then it became clear to me in the early ’90s that they were going to put Spanish into the MS. Since both the French teacher and the Latin teacher had been at the school for eternity, I was looking at losing my job. I knew [the school] would get rid of me before them.”
Ms. Hardy added, “I took classes and did everything I could to learn Spanish and practically begged them to let me teach it here.”
In addition to teaching French, Latin, and Spanish, Ms. Hardy has worked in MS admissions, served as the assistant to the MS director, mentored new teachers, advised students, and helped develop the daily schedule and the co-curriculum for advisory groups. She has also led the MS World Languages Department for the past 25 years.
MS Latin Teacher Tony Breen, who has known Ms. Hardy for all of those years, described her as a department head intensely imbued with the idea that the students should be at the center of their planning.
“What’s in it for the students is very much at the base of her assessment of the department, the languages being offered, and the way they’re being taught,” Mr. Breen said.
In 2009, Ms. Hardy received the Jeanette Markham Master Teacher Chair, which recognized her as an outstanding educator at the MS.
“I always considered her way more than a teacher and advisor. By the end of middle school she was like my grandma,” former advisee Lauren Bernier ’18 said. “Whenever she saw me in the halls, she always went above and beyond to ask how my weekend was or if there was anything she could do to help me. She was always looking out for everyone.”
The MS honored Ms. Hardy on May 30 with an assembly that commemorated her love for potato chips. MS Director Mary Dolbear, who organized the day, presented her with a crown, a medal, and a collection of new chips to try. The MS Chorus also performed “Ode to Chips,” written for this occasion by Music Teacher Kathi Gellar.
“It was a fun, lighthearted way to acknowledge our beloved Ms. Hardy,” Ms. Dolbear said.
“She creates a safe place, believes in her students in their vulnerable moments, and works her magic, so then they can do things they never thought could do,” she added. “I can’t think of a better way to spend your life.”
Mary Randolph and Eli Waisburd (both ’22)—who took Latin 7 with Ms. Hardy this academic year—honored her with a book of memories from students that they presented at the final MS assembly during the last week of school.
“We always have fun in class with Ms. Hardy because she can make anything fun—even dull topics like how to use Latin prepositions!” Mary said. “Because she’s so great and has become one of our favorite teachers, we wanted to do something special and show her that we realize and appreciate everything she’s done for us.”
To make the book, Mary and Eli sent an email to Ms. Hardy’s current and former students requesting memories from their classes with her. Over 30 Upper and Middle School students ultimately contributed typed messages.
Mary and Eli also bought a wooden sword that their whole Latin class signed for Ms. Hardy.
“In Latin class, Ms. Hardy taught us that the best gladiators are given a wooden sword to symbolize that they don’t have to fight again,” Eli said. “We thought this idea symbolized Ms. Hardy, too, since she is one of the best teachers and doesn’t have to work again.”
On the same day, the MS faculty presented Ms. Hardy with a book of their own memories with her.
Ms. Hardy said that she will greatly miss those colleagues, but she will also miss her classes.
“I’ll really miss the interactions with students in class, watching their successes, seeing the humor, getting them to do their best, and keeping them engaged,” she said. “It’s been a challenge, but definitely a fun challenge.”