NEWBURYPORT — Sister Mary Braley of the Immaculate Conception School is retiring at the end of the school year. A veteran of 40 years at Immaculate Conception, Braley is the last member of the Catholic school’s founding community, the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, to remain at the school.
Braley’s teaching duties will be passed along to the newly hired Bridget Lacefield, former director of religious education at Bradford’s Sacred Heart Catholic Primary School. Braley will continue to serve as a teaching assistant, focusing on teaching reading for third- and fourth-graders.
“I’m thrilled about it still, I still love education very much,” she said. “It’s sort of been building a little bit, but at the end of the school year I realized that this year I would’ve been completing my 50th year in the classroom, 40 here and 10 previous to here. I just thought it was time for me to step aside.”
During her 40 years, Braley has seen the world of education change unpredictably from her post in elementary education: screens, portable devices and Internet access have become staples in the classroom. She said the children are the one constant.
“Children are children,” she said. “I think the things around them have changed, but the child has not changed … They may know how to turn on an iPod and so forth, but they’re still a 7-year-old and they’re going to approach that as a 7-year-old would.”
But the biggest evolution in her 40 years has not been technology, but teaching theory.
“Everybody sat in their desk and were on the same page in the lesson,” Braley said. “But it’s not that way anymore. They work with partners sometimes, they work together. Rather than me doing all the teaching, sometimes they take over and do a little teaching of what they know … We never had the opportunity to do in a classroom what these kids are doing.”