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South Boston Online
  Wednesday, March 4, 2015
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The Gate of Heaven's Mary McLaughlin
By Rick Winterson

     Mary McLaughlin became the Assistant Principal of the Gate of Heaven School last September.  Her particular area of responsibility is the Gate of Heaven/St. Brigid Middle School.  And it’s a responsibility she loves.

     As you know, the sixth, seventh, and eighth grades from both St. Brigid and Gate of Heaven Schools were combined at the beginning of the school year last fall.  A hundred students in five classes are now fulfilling their middle school requirements at Gatey.

     The middle school years are known to be critical to a student’s development.  Growth spurts occur, both physically and mentally.  Young people visibly mature during those years.  They begin to think seriously about their futures.  They have homerooms and go from class to class seeking more specialized knowledge.

     Sr. Pat McCarthy, the Gate of Heaven Principal, and the school administration decided to bring in someone to oversee the newly combined St. Brigid/Gate of Heaven Middle School.  This person would need to be more than “just another pair of hands”.  The individual would have to bring an extensive breadth and depth of experience.

They selected Mary F. McLaughlin, who was appointed the Assistant Principal at Gate of Heaven School last September.

     Mary McLaughlin obtained her History degree from Regis College, with concentrations in American and Western European history.  She then completed her teacher certification requirements at Framingham State.  She spent her first year teaching sixth grade at St. Raphael School in West Medford.

     The next year, she joined St. Clement School in Somerville.  That was to be her professional home for 33 years – ten years teaching fifth and sixth grades, ten years in the seventh and eighth grades, and 13 years as St. Clement’s Assistant Principal.

     Following her long stint at St. Clement School, Mary joined Sacred Heart as its Assistant Principal, where she served four years.  When asked, she decided not to move up to the Principal’s position.  Her very strong preference is to remain where she can work directly with the teachers, contribute to curriculum development, and interact with the middle school students.  “I get my energy from them”, she says.

     Not only is Mary happy to be in on the ground floor of the combined St. Brigid/Gate of Heaven Middle School, she also thinks it’s an advantage to be connected with Gatey’s Elementary School.  Among other things, all the classes share in liturgies and the Student Council activities.

     Mary doesn’t see her job as being someone who “organizes” or “administers”.  She wants to use her long experience in middle schools to provide the new St. Brigid/Gate of Heaven School with a center, or a focus, or additional energy (“energy” is one of Mary’s favorite words).  She wants to be constantly available, so she holds weekly meetings on “What’s working?”, “Who’s Struggling?”, and “What have we done well?”  Among the things done well are “The Wall of Stars”, which recognizes respect and other “student positives”, and a newsletter entitled “The Middle School News”.

     Since coming to work here, Mary has been delighted with the commitment shown by the middle school professionals.  There are five homeroom teachers, who teach religion as well as their own academic fields.  They are Denise Maloney (Gr. 6, Science), Rachel Fawson (Gr. 6, Literature), Robert West (Gr. 7, Mathematics), Tracy Marshall (Gr. 7, Grammar and Writing), and Sheilagh McLoughlin (Gr. 8, Social Studies).

     Christine Connors serves as Guidance Counselor; Steve Fahrig is the Gatey Youth Minster.  Computers and Arts are handled by Liz Cleary and Debbie Putnam, respectively.  Spanish is taught in Spanish, which seems eminently sensible, but try to find such a program elsewhere (especially in a middle school).

     With such resources available at Gatey, Mary hopes to add several more classes to the Middle School from Grades 6 through 8.

     On the personal side, Mary is the daughter of Frances (McGah) and Thomas McLaughlin.  Despite her Massachusetts roots, she was born in Utica, N.Y., near where the salt mines used to be.  Her father worked for the FBI and was transferred back here soon after she was born.  She has one brother, Thomas, who lives in Virginia and works for the government.

     Mary was raised in Wellesley, and now lives in North Quincy.  She’s a non-stop walker, especially along Wollaston Beach, and an avid gardener – tomatoes (not too hard) and roses (quite difficult).  Reading is her favorite pursuit, from mysteries to poetry by Maya Angelou.

     And during her four decades as a dedicated educator in Catholic schools, Mary has helped shape upwards of 5,000 young minds.

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The Gate of Heaven School's Assistant Principal, Mary F. McLaughlin, about to start her day.
The Gate of Heaven School's Assistant Principal, Mary F. McLaughlin, about to start her day.