Thursday, January 27, 2022

Person of the Week

Mary Angus: Celebrating a Career Caring for Kids

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After more than three decades at the Killingworth Nursery School, Mary Angus will retire as director this June. Photo courtesy of Mary Angus

After more than three decades at the Killingworth Nursery School, Mary Angus will retire as director this June. (Photo courtesy of Mary Angus)

Mary Angus is retiring as director of Killingworth Nursery School (KNS) next month. She began working at KNS in 1987 when her daughter, Jodi, now an English teacher at Eliot Middle School, was enrolled in preschool there.

“When she was first there, a teacher’s daughter was really sick, she had cancer, so the teacher was out a lot,” Mary recalls. “I’d be going to drop my daughter off and they’d say, ‘Oh, can you stay today?’ So that’s how it started, and then the very next year they gave me a job.”

Mary eased into her new role, starting with one or two classes and only working mornings. Eventually she was working five days a week and that progressed into her running the school.

Due to COVID, enrollment went from around 60 kids to 10 this year, Mary says. The last day of school, and therefore Mary’s last day of a prolific career at KNS, is planned for early June.

“My husband already is retired so he’s been bothering me to retire,” Mary says with a chuckle. “Hopefully we’ll do some traveling, and our daughter just got a house so we’ll be doing work there, but mostly we would like to travel some.”

Mary’s husband, John, worked at AT&T for more than 35 years and then worked for the Madison school system for about five years.

Mary comes from a large Italian family from New Haven. She is the 4th of 12 children—8 girls and 4 boys. John was her brother’s friend, which is how they met.

Having such a large family “was fun,” Mary says. “You always had somebody to talk to, you always had somebody to play with. But we didn’t do much vacation-wise or anything like that because there was just too many of us.”

It seems Mary was made to be surrounded by lots of children.

Of her career at KNS, she says, “I just enjoyed the kids so much that it was just a pleasure being there. Yes, it was a job, but most of the time the kids are just so much fun. At that age, they’re just cute and they’re not really fresh yet.”

And with kids came parents, another aspect of her career Mary enjoyed.

“Being this small co-op nursery school, I met so many great parents, too,” she says. “Some of them I’ve been friends with and so it’s been like a fun community job. There were times when I would be out in the hall when the kids would come in, so I would talk to the parents, too.”

Having comforted many children during bouts of separation anxiety, Mary was just what the families needed as they sent their little ones off to school for the first time. A recent press release announcing Mary’s retirement quoted one parent as saying, “We all needed Mary, not just the kids.”

“It’s just instinct,” Mary says. “I’ve been there so long I just know what they were doing most of the time. One time, one of the kids was crying and crying and she said, ‘Where am I gonna sleep?’ She thought she was going to have to stay there. I said, ‘It’s OK, Mommy’s coming back to get you! I don’t sleep here either!’

“But they’re so innocent and you have to get in their head,” she adds. “They don’t know what’s going on at first.”

Now, Mary is looking forward to new experiences and adventures of her own. She and John are hoping to travel to Italy, the Everglades, and some central states.

“We’ve been to both coasts, like California and Washington state and stuff on this coast, but we haven’t been to a lot of stuff in the middle,” she explains.

At the time of this interview, Mary was looking forward to a Mother’s Day outing with Jodi the next day.

“She said was making me breakfast in the morning,” Mary says. “I have a kind of rule that I don’t cook on Mother’s Day, I don’t cook on my birthday, and I don’t cook on my anniversary. It’s been good!”

Any alumni who would like to share a photo, memory, or message to celebrate Mary’s time at KNS can send them to alyssacaphurley@gmail.com.


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