Thank you Mary Kay!

Mary Kay O’Brien

Mary Kay has been in education for 45 years! She has taught in the Burlington Schools for 34 years. Mary Kay was a Quest Coach at Flynn, Smith, Champlain and the Sustainability Academy (SA) at Barnes. As a teacher, she was at Flynn and at SA. She has always been a member of the BEA.

Mary Kay has been a tireless and fierce advocate for her students and for their families.  She has brought music and fun into the lives of her students. Her care and warmth are apparent in everything she does.  It is no wonder that the word most commonly used to describe Mary Kay is ‘dedicated’.  Her dedication, warmth and the joy she has brought us all will be greatly missed.

Try to strike a balance between work and relaxation.

Mary Kay

Words from Mary Kay:

What I will miss:  I will miss the kids and my colleagues.

What I am proudest of: All the plays I have put on that, along with being lots of fun, taught the students vocabulary, pronunciation, and confidence in singing and speaking in English. Also, running the International Summer School for EL students for many summers.

Advice to pass on:  Try to strike a balance between work and relaxation.

Future Plans:  I want to travel and read and have more time to share with my friends and family.

Words from Colleagues:

It has been my absolute honor to have worked with Mary Kay over the years. One of my favorite things about her is her sense of fun. She brought joy to her students and this is why they always loved her. Mary Kay is an innovator. She continually improved her practice to help students engage and learn. Students traveled the world with her using her famous green screen. Mary Kay is an accomplished musician and music lover. She brought this passion to her students. She taught many of them songs and dances. It is no wonder they eagerly attended her small group work and were disappointed if a lesson was canceled.  Mary Kay and I loved to chat and laugh together. She always made my day happier. She has dedicated her entire life to make the future brighter for the thousands of children she has worked with over her long career.  Deirdre Morris


I can write a thesis on Mary Kay but to be short, I say this:

  1. Mary Kay is a well organized, persistent, compassionate and caring teacher for students.
  2. She is always thoughtful about the progress of her students especially EL students.
  3. She not only helps EL students but also helps EL parents in various ways, ex- calling telephone companies for the EL families, calling electricity companies, DCF for 3 Square etc. She does not hesitate to make home visits when needed.
  4. She is extremely dedicated to helping New American families because she understands the hardship the immigrant families have gone through.
  5. Many times, she has shared with me about the discrimination and atrocities faced by her ancestors back in Ireland, so she knows what discrimination, racism and atrocities look like.
  6. She becomes very sensitive and emotional when she talks about the problem of racism and discrimination. I think this topic is associated with her ancestors, so often her eyes fill with tears.

Mary Kay, I will miss you each and every day and you will be much missed by EL families and students as well. Than you for your service in the school. No words can express fully how lucky we all were to get your help. You were always fun to work with. I wish you a happy and peaceful retired life. Ganga Sharma


The word dedication is the first word that comes to mind when I think of Mary Kay O’Brien! At the end of a long school day she could usually be found in her work space surrounded by a group of students needing extra help with literacy or math or just someone to talk to. She worked tirelessly supporting and advocating for EL families while always managing to take the time to connect with and support her colleagues. Her kind hearted spirit will be deeply missed at SA and I wish her a joyful and restful retirement! Jen Lenihan


Mary Kay has been a strong advocate for kids and families for decades. Whether arranging to find furniture for a family’s first apartment in the US, working tirelessly to ensure all her students have solid summer plans or teaching literacy and math to multi age English learners, Mary Kay was indefatigable! As a colleague, Mary Kay kept us on our toes with show tunes, the green screen and the next fun theater project to bring literature alive. We will miss so many things about Mary Kay but are so glad to have shared these years with her. Enjoy your well deserved retirement Mary Kay! Much love from your friends at SA. Chaska Richardson


When I think of Mary Kay the first word I think of is dedication. “Sister” Mary Kay gave everything she had to her students, often spending hours after school (never before, she was always running late) working with them and helping them achieve their goals. I have many wonderful memories of doing summer school with her including a time on the ferry where she forgot her purse and wanted the ferry captain to turn around to go get it… that did not work out! I remember singing “Banana Phone” with her and our students and laughing with delight at how amazing we sounded. Mary Kay was always available for students for extra support, a gentle ear to listen and  master teaching.  She worked so hard with the families of all of her students and I remember many times she helped families get apartments, go to doctor appointments and fill our confusing and overwhelming paperwork. The thing I will miss the most about Mary Kay though is her delightful sense of humor, her friendship and her model of what it means to be an outstanding educator. May her next adventure be amazing! Amy LaChance


Mary Kay is one of the most dedicated, warm and nurturing souls a child could ever hope to work with. Whether it was a reading group, a lunch bunch, her late nights preparing something to support a child the next day, or taking a whole family under her wing, she was always looking for something more that she could do to make a difference in these children’s lives. And we can definitely say, she made a huge difference. Joby Gallagher

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