Goodbye, sweet Danae Marr!

English teacher and department head Danae Marr will retire at the end of this school year.Photo: Sara Barber-Just

The classroom of English teacher Danae Marr looks like any other room in the building, with the same tiled floors, white walls, metal chairs, and institutional lighting.

To combat the stress and boredom evoked by the blandness of such a room, Ms. Marr dims the lighting and covers the walls with her students’ artwork and posters.

Students in Ms. Marr’s class are calm, relaxed, and prepared to discuss the last night’s readings, and to listen to Ms. Marr’s analyses.

They understand how much Ms. Marr loves the classics they are reading, and how much she cares about the success of every student in the room.

As students raise their hands and rattle off ideas and opinions, the discussions which ensue feel less like mandatory school participation, and more like a conversation you might have over a coffee table with some good friends.

This year, Ms. Marr will retire after 14 years at ARHS and 22 years of teaching, but her services extend beyond the realm of education.

Before teaching, Ms. Marr directed the New England Learning Center for Women in Transition in Greenfield, which serves the survivors of sexual and domestic violence, and their families.

Though she loved the work she did there, she said, “I realized it was distorting my world view. I knew it was time to pursue something else.”

She received the Ada Comstock scholarship for non-traditionally aged students at Smith College, where she obtained her master’s degree in the art of teaching.

Ms. Marr started her teaching career at Northampton High School.

As a faculty member at ARHS, Ms. Marr loved teaching Ancient and Medieval Literature and American Literature and Nature, but said she wished she had “more flexibility” to offer other courses.

Ms. Marr’s favorite teaching memories were times when class discussion took off and people became so engaged it stopped feeling like school.

“Two years ago, we ran out of time for Crime and Punishment, so we met at Rao’s two weeks after school ended to discuss the end of the book,” said Ms. Marr. She also enjoyed meeting one-on-one with kids about their work.

Though Ms. Marr has many positive memories of ARHS, there were some challenges she faced daily when planning classes.

“Meeting the needs of a variety of students in classes is difficult,” she said. “Each kid is coming to the material from a different point of interest.”

Though she’ll miss the school, students, diversity, and the respect for education that ARHS offers, it is time for Ms. Marr to move on.

“It was difficult to balance home and work life,” she said. “I was either not working and feeling bad about it, or not doing my other life.”

After school ends, Ms. Marr will spend more time with her granddaughter. She also plans to continue gardening and Tai Chi, and she will begin learning how to play the cello.

During her years in retirement, Ms. Marr hopes to work part time at a community college and to travel the world.

“I’d like to road trip through the United States south to visit authors’ homes and end up in New Orleans to listen to some jazz,” she said. “I love being anywhere in the world, walking around, seeing what there is to see, whether it be in Iceland or the Ganges.”

The loss of Ms. Marr is both a blow to the English Department and the school community as a whole.

Her presence in ARHS will remain through the friendships she will continue with her colleagues.  But the community mourns for the generations of new ARHS students who will never experience one of the kindest, most caring teachers on the planet.