Mary Ann Richards Legendary Educator 2013 Progress School 1977-1993 Walnut Middle School 1995-2008

Mary Ann Richards
Legendary Educator 2013
Progress School 1977-1993
Walnut Middle School 1995-2008
“In every case, Mrs. Richards accepted that challenging position in response to a
perceived call to love the unlovable, welcome the outcasts, and care for young
People who desperately needed her unique blend of tough love and unconditional
acceptance.” - colleague
Mary Ann McGuire Richards was born and raised in Lexington, NE. She came from a family of educators.
(E.F. Starr School is named for her grandfather.) She knew from the time she started school that she wanted
to be a teacher. She graduated from Lexington High School as co-valedictorian in 1964, having been active
in band, pep club and student government.
Richards earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Education from Hastings College in 1968 and a Master’s Degree
in Counseling and Educational Psychology from the University of Nebraska at Kearney in 1979. She began
her teaching career in 1968 in Trumbull, NE, where she taught English and Social Studies and served as
speech and drama coach.
In 1975, Richards and her family moved to Children’s Village, a shelter for abused and neglected children
in Grand Island, where she served as director. It was during her time there that she became aware of the
struggles of students whose life situation made it difficult for them to succeed in a traditional classroom.
When she approached GIPS administrators about her concerns, this exchange of ideas led to her employment
as the first instructor for Grand Island Senior High’s Progress School.
Richards served as a teacher and counselor at Progress School for 17 years, helping students graduate from
Grand Island Senior High in spite of problems that could have otherwise prevented them from earning a
After a work trip to the Navajo Nation, Richards was inspired to leave Grand Island for two years to serve
as a counselor at a K-8 school in Tonalea, AZ. Richards returned to Grand Island in 1995, as counselor at
Walnut Junior High.
As a member of the Walnut Middle School staff, Richards worked with this team to implement a number
of programs including a curriculum for all sixth graders focusing on bully prevention. She was dedicated
to the group counseling program at Walnut, particularly groups designed to support students and families
who were dealing with grief issues. Her belief in character education and her development of activities
implemented by the Walnut staff played a part in Walnut gaining national recognition as a 2003 National
School of Character, a 2005 Operation Respect National Model School, and a 2007 Hands Project National
Model School. In 2007, Richards received the Kim West Dinsdale Excellence in Teaching Award.
Richards has two children, Robyn and Rob, who both graduated from Grand Island Senior High.
“Mrs. Richards loved us students when we were unable to love ourselves. She believed in us and didn’t
judge us. She planted a seed in me to help me become who I am today.” –former student