Sometimes educators’ personal and professional lives blur as friends become mentors and leaders in teaching excellence. Such was the case with Mary Ellen Baron, a dear friend and beloved educator who passed away on July 20, 2015 after refusing to let cancer define her life for the last 7 years.
A born educator, Mary Ellen saw teaching and learning moments in most moments of her life as a wife, mother and grandmother, teacher, administrator, and friend. Never too busy to listen and help, she served those who were fortunate to cross her path — from students to custodians to colleagues — in the Westfield and Springfield schools, the Springfield School Department, and on the Monson School Board.
Mary Ellen attended Westfield State College for undergraduate and graduate degrees and began her career as a math teacher, eventually being promoted to senior administration in the Springfield Public Schools. She dedicated her life to working with underprivileged middle school and high school students where she thought she could do the most good. Before her retirement, she had reached many of the pinnacles of professional development in her field and was one of the first teachers in Springfield to become a National Board Certified teacher, followed by a Fulbright scholarship from the Japanese government.
When she was nominated for Cathedral High Schools’ prestigeous St. Joseph’s Award in 2014, Dan Warwick, Springfield Public Schools’ Superintendent, said of her, “Mary Ellen is a talented and dedicated individual, who has contributed significantly to the students in her long and distinguished career,” adding “she is a wonderful human being – as nice a person as an educator.”
One of her favorite administrative duties was overseeing the nominations of Springfield teachers for the Pioneer Valley Teachers of Excellence Awards. Knowing the challenges of teaching and the importance of celebrating accomplished educators, she took joy in accompanying Springfield school superintendents to each school to congratulate recipients of the coveted award.
While Mary Ellen’s loss is deeply felt by family, friends, and former colleagues, she leaves a legacy of inspired teaching that will continue to serve countless individuals, among them students and educators.
(Note: Some of the details here are take from Mary Ellen’s friend and fellow educator, Dr. Mary Gormally, who nominated her for the St. Joseph’s Award.)