Ferrara to succeed partner and mentor Allen in Greenville | Top Stories

When the Edgemont School District added vice principals to elementary schools three years ago, Greenville Elementary School principal Jennifer Allen knew longtime reading specialist Marisa Ferrara would be the ideal recruit, as she had already been involved in many facets of the building outside of her. assigned tasks. And now that Allen is retiring at the end of the school year, she knew Ferrara was more than ready to take over as the two had worked side by side on a daily basis for all these years.

Allen is thrilled that Ferrara will be her successor at what she called a “fantastic school” with “amazing staff, amazing parents, amazing kids.” Leaving the “warm and nurturing place” in Ferrara is a victory for Greenville.

“I’m sure everyone who came in would be highly qualified and I would leave anyway thinking it was time for me to explore other experiences, but knowing that Marisa is the one who is going to be at the helm is like a huge sigh of relief,” she said. “I can’t think of anyone who could be a better choice, that the school could be in better hands…There are so many challenges in our field and knowing that someone as bright, talented and capable as she is, is going to lead Greenville in her next chapter, that’s a lot of weightlifting.

Ferrara is completing her 23rd year in teaching. She taught fourth through sixth grade in New York City before becoming a literacy coach for three years with students in kindergarten through eighth grade. She then worked as a literacy instructor for undergraduate and graduate students at UNC Chapel Hill before coming to Greenville as a reading specialist in 2006.

“As a literacy coach and working at UNC, most of my work was with adults,” Ferrara said. “I was in school when I was at UNC and I was in school as a literacy coach and I realized that I like working with adults, but I also love working with children. I have seen my reach grow throughout my career. As a teacher, you can influence the children in your class. As a literacy coach, it grows because you work with an entire school population. At UNC, I was working with future teachers, so your vision grows again and you can reach more people. »

Ferrara helped professionals and future professionals transform their teaching into a workshop methodology and helped them learn “all the components of literacy”. She also wrote the curriculum for Teachers College at Columbia University.

At Greenville, Ferrara said she enjoyed her 13 years as a reading specialist because she worked with both K-2 students and teachers.

All of the different career stages have been rewarding for Ferrara and have contributed not only to her own personal growth, but also to that of the students and teachers she has worked with during this time.

“I enjoyed the personal and professional development aspect of being a literacy coach, being a reading specialist here and also being a school administrator,” Ferrara said. “I really like working with teachers to improve pedagogy.”

The transition to vice principal was easy for Ferrara because she already knew the faculty, staff, children, and families of Greenville, and her three children are all Edgemont graduates.

“At the heart of what I’ve done here is relationship building,” she said. “Having those already established with a multitude of stakeholders really helped the transition.”

Ferrara has spent most of her time as assistant manager helping Greenville navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. “It goes without saying that it was a challenge,” Ferrara said. “With young children, you always know school is important, but you realize how important it really is to them.”

After the students left school in mid-March 2020, they did not officially return until September 2020, mainly for half-days in morning and afternoon sessions at the start of the school year before finally come back full time with distancing and masks.

The day the students returned in the fall, Ferrara overheard the second graders outside her door talking about how lucky the kindergartners were to have a full day of school.

“You just realized that even though kids are grumbling about school, even though adults are grumbling about school, we all really want to be here,” Ferrara said. “It’s really a sense of community, a real sense of family. It’s a testimony from the community, a testimony from the staff and faculty here, from the administration, both building-based and in the district. We love being with each other and this mission.

She said the vision helped everyone stay on track through phone calls at 11 p.m. when they discussed issues such as: how are we going to handle lunch when they return? How are we going to make sure they stay away? – and that made this job even more rewarding.

“Everyone was in the same position. We all had to recreate the school. Even if you had been an administrator for 20 years or two years, you had to work together to recreate the school. In a way, it leveled the playing field,” she said.

Masks were no longer required at the beginning of March this year and for Greenville there remains a post-pandemic hurdle to overcome, which will occur in the fall when students return to lunch in the cafeteria, which has been used as a staff lounge. , for orchestra and COVID-19 testing. Lunch took place in the classrooms and outdoors.

As part of the $54 million two-part bond passed last year, Greenville will get a new wing, but throughout the pandemic it has been “challenged from space,” Ferrara said.

“This really is our last check-off to normality,” Ferrara said of the cafeteria, but noted the “silver lining” of getting students “outside for so much more than in the past by necessity, but now we realize it’s a good thing and they’re out a lot. It’s an extension of our school.

While cherishing Greenville’s history and traditions, Ferrara said she also wants to be “innovative to keep us going.” She adheres to district goals in areas such as social-emotional learning and diversity, equity and inclusion in and out of the classroom.

“The infusion of this work helps our students better understand themselves, better understand others, and truly contribute to the world,” Ferrara said. “With this, we’re really focusing on problem-based learning and having kids be more civic and allowing them to kind of shape what they’re learning.”

This is in addition to the already “fundamental” elements of education.

“Our end goal is to make them contributing, productive, empathetic members of society who can go out and do great things,” Ferrara said. “It’s really about creating the whole child and helping the whole child move forward in a world that’s kind of unfamiliar for so many reasons. Who would have imagined a global pandemic? And we don’t know what jobs they’ll be doing in 15 years. We can’t even imagine them. It’s about nurturing those creative, curious people who can get ahead and do great things.

Ferrara and Allen developed a mutual personal and professional admiration for each other.

“We realized she would be retiring in the next few years, and as hard as she works, she has made it a priority to build my leadership capacity, which is just a testament to who she is. is as an educator,” Ferrara said. “She is always looking for people to improve herself. [and] teach people. She’s smart, she’s caring, she’s incredibly detail-oriented, she’s the most amazing writer I’ve ever met in my entire life. I really appreciate what she taught me and she will be greatly missed.

Ferrara has also been touched by the leadership of Superintendent Dr. Victoria Kniewel, who will retire at the end of June.

“She focused on understanding a problem before trying to solve it,” Ferrara said. “I feel like she helped me – and she says, ‘Don’t jump to a solution’ – to really really understand that sometimes you’re solving a problem that’s not really the problem. She sees the big picture and she’s really going to sit down and talk about something so you really understand what you need to address, and her insight into that has been really inspiring.

Allen is retiring after 32 years in teaching, 18 at Edgemont, the first five and a half years as vice-principal at the junior/senior high school before coming to Greenville in January 2010. Allen and Ferrara had a lot interaction right away.

“I was the only administrator in the building, and she always volunteered for all sorts of other things we needed, like hiring committees or school-wide curriculum work and working on planning and support for special educational needs,” Allen said. “She really had her hand in everything, which is why she was such a good candidate to become assistant manager when that position was created three years ago.”

Ferrara’s support in an official capacity led to a great partnership as Allen knew she had to prepare Ferrara for a managerial position, whether at Edgemont or elsewhere.

“I said this – and I’ve been in education for 32 years – that Marisa is the most talented educator I’ve ever worked with and I’ve worked with many talented educators,” Allen said. “She’s brilliant, compassionate, the most extreme level of integrity, talented, funny – every possible category you can think of, she’s superior.”

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