He ends 42 years in education


June 16, 1993|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,Staff Writer

Marvin Heptinstall will get out of Glendale Elementary School this month -- finally, after 22 years.

He is retiring as principal, taking his cow collection, his sailboat picture and stacks of paper inches deep that contain the tender nTC farewells of 515 students.

"I won't want to come to school," penciled one second-grader.

"You need brand new shoes," wrote a first-grader.

Over the two-plus decades, Mr. Heptinstall has seen thousands of children learn to share and to master column addition. He remembers parents of some current pupils from their days in Glendale, learning those same things.

School system officials said it is unusual for an administrator to stay at one school for so many years, though it is not unheard of. The school board probably will name a new principal at tonight's meeting.

"I have worked with him for three years. It has been a wonderful learning experience -- in all ways," said Helen Norris, assistant principal.

"He always takes time to listen -- to the children, to the parents," says Cathy Guay, PTA president.

Parents say it is the kindly manner and soft voice of the tall principal with thin gray hair that invites youngsters to seek him out, even to say hi in the hallway.

"A principal should be visible. A principal should be in the classroom," he says. He spends mornings wandering among rooms that have the ABCs on the wall and lunchtime on cafeteria duty, often beginning paperwork only once the children head home.

"I love this age group. You can see then grow socially, academically," he says.

Though teaching strategies have changed and children seem to know more nowadays before they walk into prekindergarten, kids are just kids, he says. The crucial things they learn in elementary school have to do with getting along with others and learning how to learn, he says.

He walks into the kindergarten, and an unhappy boy asks if the principal will help him find friends. A fair-haired girl insists that he look at the butterflies that emerged overnight from their cocoons. A boy toting a book wants Mr. Heptinstall to listen to him read.

He sympathetically talks with the first boy, then stoops to peer at the butterflies and listens to the young reader -- with a fan club of pupils, teachers, aides and parent volunteers in tow.

"I'll miss it," he says, though he notes that he's ready to call it a career after 42 years. Principals and teachers at other county schools have asked if Mr. Heptinstall would volunteer at their schools.

He may take them up on it, he says. "I feel like I have a lot to offer yet," the 63-year-old says.

Other things will come first. Later this month his daughter Janet will be wed. On June 30, he officially retires. He has to clean the basement of his Pasadena home over the summer. He and wife will vacation at North Carolina's Outer Banks in September.

He may pursue a doctoral degree, or take up studies in a related field for the challenge.

Born and raised in rural Bedford County, Va., he planned to become a Baptist minister. A year and a half into college in 1951, he started teaching because he needed the money. The superintendent of schools there told the mostly female group that teaching was a calling.

"I'll never forget it. He always considered teaching the next thing to the ministry. You can affect more lives. It kind of consoled me," Mr. Heptinstall says.

He arrived in Anne Arundel County in the summer of 1957, to teach fifth grade at Overlook Elementary School. A year later, he married the principal, Cornelia Anderson. He worked at five other elementaries before coming to Glendale in 1971.

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