EDMOND — Nancy Hetherington keeps a painting of her first fifth-grade class hanging near her desk. In 1995, they were the first to leave for middle school from St. Mary's Episcopal School in Edmond.
She keeps the picture up as a reminder of how the school has grown. After 23 years as head of school and more than 30 years working at St. Mary's, Hetherington will retire in May.
There have only been two heads of school, and the third will be named early next year. It's a position that takes passion, endless energy and abundant patience, Hetherington said. More than that, she said, it takes someone who's willing to grow and lead at the same time.
‘Make a difference'
“Your hope is that you have an opportunity to make a difference, and this school has given me that opportunity through my life's work.”
In the mid-1970s, the principal of St. Mary's, Susan Radke Craig, saw Hetherington, guitar in hand, leading a children's Bible study class. Craig offered her a job as a preschool teacher. Hetherington accepted and led classes for a few years until her youngest son was born.
She returned when her son entered St. Mary's as a student. In 1990, Hetherington took the helm after Craig's departure.
St. Mary's at that time offered preschool, kindergarten and first-grade classes. Hetherington set goals to add more grades and become accredited by the Southwest Association of Episcopal Schools.
In 1995, the school's main building burned. Even after a replacement was built, there was no room to grow. In 2006, the school relocated to 51 acres in north Edmond.
“I feel like my professional growth mirrored the growth of the school,” Hetherington said. “We both grew up together, so to speak.”
Growing and learning
In 35 years, the school has gone from offering half-days of early childhood courses to rotating fifth, sixth and seventh graders through core classes and arts, technology and physical education. Next fall it will add eighth grade, and school leaders hope to build a gym and a stage along with other new rooms.