Mary Hogan teacher ends lengthy tenure

MIDDLEBURY — Mary Hogan is an almost mythical figure at the Middlebury elementary school that bears her name. The former principal retired back in 1970 and passed away in 1995, so her legacy is now largely encapsulated in black-and-white photos and historical records.
But teacher Alwyn “Algy” Layden doesn’t need to search an archive to get knowledge about Mary Hogan. He not only worked with the legendary leader of the school, she hired him in 1968.
“I don’t think I even considered any other offers,” Layden said of his quick hiring after graduating from Castleton State. “It is a wonderful school and has always been well supported by the community.”
Layden will retire this month after 43 years of continuous service at Mary Hogan Elementary School, four productive decades during which he saw great expansion of school facilities and technology, a recent decline in enrollment, and the third generation of some Middlebury families.
Layden started his teaching career during one of the most tumultuous years in recent U.S. history. The Vietnam War was escalating while becoming increasingly unpopular at home. The year 1968 also saw the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy.
But 1968 was also a year during which the student population was abundant and teachers were in high demand, Layden recalled. Even as a new teacher, Layden had his pick of several jobs, but felt a special affinity for what was then Middlebury Elementary — which had two campuses at the time. There was the current campus off Court Street and a separate College Street School (in what is now Middlebury College’s Twilight Hall) that served students in grades 5 and 6.
Layden first took charge of a fourth-grade class among what was then a total Middlebury Elementary student population of around 600.
In those days, the Court Street building was around 30 to 40 percent smaller than it is now, yet it served more children than today, Layden said. Back then, there was no C-wing, which today houses first- and second-graders. The B-wing existed, but minus what is now the library. And there was no cafeteria, nor a formal lunch program, he added. The Mary Hogan school entered an expansion phase during the 1980s, after the College Street School closed. Layden spent time at both campuses, as he taught grades 3, 4, 5 and 6 during various phases of his career.
He never considered teaching to a higher-grade level.
“I loved teaching the third- and fourth-graders,” Layden said. “Those students are still at the idealistic stage; they love the teacher, the school and learning. They are delightful to be with.”
In the beginning, Layden’s students did their work in notebooks and on the chalkboard. He was there when the school system began integrating computers into the curriculum during the 1980s. He has wholeheartedly embraced the Internet and other technological advances that have enhanced students’ learning opportunities.
“As a teacher, you have to keep up with technology,” Layden said. “And the Web has helped history seem real to the kids.”
Math and history have been two of his favorite teaching subjects through the years. He has been particularly pleased at the strides his students have made over the years in math skills, crediting a hands-on curriculum known as “Bridges.”
Seeing students progress in learning is just one of the joys that kept Layden in the teaching profession for 43 years.
“Every day is so different and challenging in so many different ways,” Layden said. “It’s never the same day twice. It’s always changing, and that’s what’s great about it.”
Not all of the teaching has taken place in the classroom. Layden recalled with particular pride a field trip that he and his students took to Washington, D.C., in 1976 to help mark the nation’s bicentennial.
“It was a wonderful trip,” Layden said, noting the group went down by train.
Longevity at the school has allowed Layden to teach the third generation of some Middlebury families.
“There are several kids in my class right now whose parents I’ve taught,” he said. “You definitely recognize the parents from the children.”
Asked why he was retiring, Layden said, “I knew it was time to move on. There are things I want to do.”
Layden has two grown children of his own, and he sees retirement as a way to spend more time with family and friends. He plans to travel and continue his involvement with the Middlebury Community Players. Layden recently produced “The King and I” for the Players.
Bonnie Bourne is one of four Middlebury elementary school principals with whom Layden has worked during his career at the school. Bourne has worked with Layden for 24 years.
“(Layden) has contributed positively to a whole generation of Middlebury youngsters,” Bourne said.
“He has very much contributed to the community in which he has chosen to teach,” she added.
While he is moving on, Layden is leaving with fond memories of his teaching career.
“I will really miss my contact with the children and my colleagues,” Layden said.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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