Mary Jane Tierney is retiring after more than 40 years working in the Wayne Public School System.
“It has been such a privilege to work with the students of this district,” Tierney said. “There are so many opportunities available for educators here. It’s really been a wonderful place to work.”
Tierney is one of four principals at the end of the school year. The other three are , Stella Cosmas, and Scot Beckerman of , , and , respectively.
Tierney's last day is July 31.
The George Washington Middle School principal has held multiple administrative positions in the district. She started working in Wayne in 1966 teaching French at Wayne Valley High School. She taught French and Spanish at Wayne Hills High School for 18 years beginning in 1973.
She then became assistant principal of . She joined what was then a new administrative internship program. She worked with the assistant principal and learned about the duties the person performed and skills like how to create a master schedule.
“I remember many questions were asked prior to me being appointed to whether or not a woman could do that job,” Tierney said. “There were questions as to whether or not a woman could handle issues with boys who were big and tall. Could you handle breaking up a fight between boys?”
She said that in the end, the concerns were moot.
“I handled every situation in the school just like my male counterpart and we collaborated very well together,” Tierney said.
She remained in that role until 1996 when she became the principal of Pines Lake Elementary School. Elementary school principals are often the only administrators in their building and often have a very small support staff.
“It can be a very solitary experience however, it is wonderful to have such a dynamic impact on teaching and learning,” Tierney said.
The school was named one of 13 outstanding elementary schools in the state by New Jersey Monthly magazine. The publication noted that the extensive level of parental involvement at the school, something Tierney wholeheartedly encouraged. She became principal of George Washington in 2004.
She said teaching middle school-aged students is a challenge because they tend to have short attention spans, about 10 to 15 minutes, so lessons are very active and hands-on, something that she believes is simply just a necessary characteristic of good teaching.
“You need to have a lot of active learning during your lessons,” Tierney said. “It is necessary to engage your students throughout the period.”
Technology’s role in the learning process has increased throughout Tierney’s time at the school.
“We are preparing students for a world we do not presently live in so we are attempting to incorporate technological tools that will allow the students to be successful in the world they will live in,” Tierney said.
Tierney said that teaching is a very rewarding profession.
“There’s nothing that can possibly compare. Students show their appreciation for everything that you do for them,” Tierney said. “You feel like you’re making a contribution to society and to the community. There is no job more satisfying job than being a teacher.”