On Wednesdays, District 25’s Communications Coordinator Adam Harris, catches up with a District 25 retiree. This week he was able to find time with a very active and involved D25 legend.
March 2, 2016
Can you start by telling us the details of your career in District 25?
Mary Stitt began her teaching career in District 25 in 1961 as a Science Consultant, focusing on the K-5 schools.
“The population was 25,000 when I moved here,” Stitt said. “I have seen it grow to the 75,000 it is today.”
In 1967, Stitt took the principal job at Olive Elementary and wanted to focus on that one school to make a difference using her passion, science. There, Mary Stitt stayed and served the students, teachers and the Olive community as Principal until 1992 when she retired.
“I could have moved [schools] but we were doing really good things,” Stitt said. “I had teachers that didn’t want to just sit in straight rows and be on the same page. I had teachers that were willing to try things and make a difference.”
Stitt described her time at Olive as “yeasty,” which completely fits her passion for science.
“We partnered with the University of Illinois and we had visitors from all over the world come to Olive,” Stitt said.
The visitors wanted to see the innovative mindset in action at Olive, something that still stands today throughout the District.
What is your fondest memory of working in D25?
Mary Stitt lit up when answering this question. She was very sure of this answer.
It’s the people. The people here in Arlington Heights are your extended family. I got to know the families and follow them throughout their entire lives. It’s great when you get to see former students that you remember as kids, now having children and starting families. I’m proud of what my former students from Olive are doing. In fact, we have a dentist here in town that has come back to work with an orthodontist; they were both friends in their District 25 days and now they work together in town.
It is great to follow the journey of the students. It’s really neat to see.
Finish this sentence: “I remember when…”
I remember when…across the street from Olive Elementary was a cornfield. Neither Thomas nor the houses had been built and Olive school was a K-3 building when I worked there.
What have you been up to since retiring?
Mary Stitt retired in 1992 and then expanded her learning environment and desire to serve from here in Arlington Heights to circle the globe.
After I retired, I started volunteering all over the world. I went overseas nine times, four times to India and Nigeria and once to Niger, with Rotary International to give Polio drops. I am very active in my church. In fact, I have been to Hati, Costa Rica, Panama, Alaska, Belarus, and Moscow all through church.
I asked Stitt if she had taken any trips for leisure since retiring. She said she has been to many other places in Europe that she described as opportunities to learn and grow.
What did you enjoy most about working in D25?
I enjoyed the environment of District 25 the most. I had great relationships with my superintendents, but especially with Superintendent Dan Strong [Supt. from ’68-’88]. He trusted me, and I trusted him and then I trusted the teachers and they trusted the kids, and we all trusted the parents.
At Olive, we decided to allow parents into our school and make them a part of our team. That took a long time to be viewed as the norm. People forget that parents weren’t allowed to come into the school during school hours. We hoped to change that.
I felt like I had an equal amount of responsibility/accountability and freedom to run Olive the way we all thought best.
How’s the fam…?
Mary Stitt’s children have ventured to live all over the country. She has a son, who is retired and has a house in Door County, Wisconsin and a house in Florida. She has a son in New Hampshire, a daughter in Nashville and a daughter right in the area in Crystal Lake. Stitt was able to see her family very recently at a wedding in New Hampshire.
Any message to the Arlington Heights community?
Get involved. Find out what’s going on in the District and live an active lifestyle.