Retiring North Elementary School Principal Mary Coltin was honored by her staff and students at a surprise and often emotional assembly Thursday, June 19.
“The assembly was supposed to be a surprise but Mary thought it was the end of the year assembly that she runs and she changed the time, so we started a little earlier and she found out it was for her,” Assistant Principal Jill Connors said.
Coltin was given a robe of crimson and a golden crown and was seated on the stage with family members.
Wiping away tears and with the whole school and staff at her feet, she watched as one by one, each class performed for her.
The first grade gave a rendition of “If You’re Happy and You Know It,” with the lyrics lightly altered to say they would miss her and wished her to stay. The second grade recited the poem “Hug of War” by children’s author Shel Silverstein, and the third grade sang “Let It Go.”
The fourth grade sang “My Wish,” with the last line being “I hope you never look back but you never forget all the ones who love you,” and Carleigh McRitchie, 11, led the fifth grade in a rendition of “Cups (When I’m Gone).”
The teachers and staff would not be outdone, as they serenaded Coltin with a lively rendition of Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band’s “Old Time Rock ‘n Roll,” with incoming Principal Paul Dutton playing a mean faux guitar and dancing around.
Parent Teacher Association (PTA) member Deb Johnson told the assembly that a new courtyard was being named the Coltin Courtyard and a North School Bear statue would be placed in it, as well as a bird bath.
Johnson presented Coltin with a planter signed at recess by students, “so you can take it to the lake house and never forget how much we all love you and appreciate you.”
When the assembly was over, many students broke ranks in the lines leaving the gym to give Coltin a hug.
“It’s all about you,” Coltin told the students.
In a previous interview with the Londonderry Times, Coltin said she has had one career in two locations with only three jobs. Her one career has been in education; her two locations were Pelham, in a job she took right of college in 1972 and that lasted for 22 years, and in Londonderry, where she’s been for the past 20 years. She was a teacher in Pelham and then assistant principal and finally principal in Londonderry.
Superintendant of Schools Nathan Greenberg said Coltin is only the third principal North School has had.
“One of my mantras is ‘life is about choices.’ I wanted to be a teacher from when I was a very little girl,” Coltin said. “My high school guidance counselor urged me to go to a two-year college and I said no, I want to be a teacher, so I went to Plymouth State, and that was one of my first choices in my life.”
She was hired for her first teaching job after one interview, and taught primarily second grade, but also taught third and fourth grades.
A resident of Londonderry since 1975, she said her children attended North School and she decided she would like to work there. When the assistant principal job opened in 1994, she was hired.
Coltin said that when she interviewed for the job, she was asked how she could leave the classroom because she “obviously had a passion and a love of children and teaching.
“I told the interviewer, Mary Donovan, Human Resources Director at the time, that I would take the four walls of my classroom where I have all those little kids, and I’m going to push it out and hopefully make a difference to all the children that are in the school,” Coltin said.
In 2009 Coltin was named Assistant Principal of the Year for the State of New Hampshire.
“I made a choice to be a teacher, I made a choice to be a wife, I made a choice to be a mother and I made a choice to be an assistant principal and principal, and now I’ve made a choice to be a retired principal,” she said.
As to that last choice, Coltin said it would be hard walking out the door on her last day, but the choice to retire is still a good one. “We bought a house on Pawtuckaway Lake and have been spending weekends at the lake,” she said. “I look forward to not having to pack up and come back to Londonderry because I have to be somewhere. We have four kayaks at the lake and I look forward to kayaking, and I want my mother who made braided rugs to teach me how to make them. There’s a lot left to do, and I am looking forward to my retirement to do them.”
The school’s new principal, Paul Dutton, is leaving his position as Assistant Principal at Londonderry High School to take on his new duties. Coltin said she has left a file on her computer that details what she does every day and what is needed on a day to day basis.
Even leaving her position was a teaching opportunity.