Mount Alvernia Academy Principal Mrs. Barbara Plunkett’s Franciscan roots run deep. “I was blessed to have the influence of a Franciscan Sister of the Immaculate Conception (MFIC) my whole life,” she said with a big smile. As a high school student at Notre Dame Academy in Hingham, Mrs. Plunkett was tutored by a Franciscan sister, who taught at Mount Alvernia High School. Their academic relationship became a lifelong friendship that instilled in her the Franciscan spirit of service for others through education.
Mrs. Plunkett began her education career as a librarian for the city of Cambridge. “I was a generalist. You name it, I did it,” she laughed. Although she enjoyed helping the never-ending flow of new students on their projects, she quickly realized something was missing. “I realized I really wanted a closer relationship with students. I wanted to be there for them, day in and day out.” That desire for a personal connection with her students led her to pursue a Masters in Education so that she could be a classroom teacher.
It was supposed to just be practice, but sometimes things are just meant to be. “I had no intention of ever teaching at MAA,” Mrs. Plunkett laughed. “But when I came in for an interview here,” she laughed again, “Sr. Irene, who was the Principal at the time, simply would not take no for an answer.” Sr. Irene’s persistence paid off and Mrs. Plunkett figured she may as well give teaching at MAA a try. “I just had so much respect for the Franciscan sisters, how could I say no? I think they knew this Third Grade teacher role would become something more long before I did.”
Mrs. Plunkett was a third-grade teacher at MAA for 13 years, a time that she fondly looks back on. “Oh, yeah! I loved teaching. My classroom was right above this office,” she said. Her time teaching reinforced the importance of having a strong relationship with students. “For me, that personal connection was so gratifying that my goal as an administrator is to get to know every child as best I can,” she stated. It is a difficult task to be sure, but one well worth the effort in her mind. “I try to work at it starting in preschool. I just think it is so important. I still see myself as an educator, just with a broader, more global focus.”
She is able to take a big-picture view when approaching her role as Principal in large part because she has not only been a teacher at MAA but a parent as well. “My youngest daughter went through here, so I have really seen the school from all angles.” Her experience as a parent, teacher, and now Principal has made one thing very clear to her, “this school is really a partnership between home and school. That spirit of cooperation and mutual respect between students, faculty, staff, and parents is just so important. Everyone works together for the common good, which, for me, is the children. The children come first and foremost.”
For Mrs. Plunkett, the students always come first. They are why she became a teacher almost two decades ago, and they still bring her joy. “It may sound phony, but the most important thing for me is knowing that we are always striving for the children. I want them to meet with as much success as possible,” she stated. She particularly loves when alumni come back to visit and she gets to see the unique individuals they have chosen to become. “When the alumni come back it is so rewarding and satisfying,” she said with feeling. “Just knowing that they can be successful and got something out of their time here means the world to me.”
Nothing sums up Mrs. Plunkett’s Franciscan spirit more than her desire to help students become the best versions of themselves. We are blessed to have a Principal so steeped in the Franciscan tradition as a role model for all of us here as we strive together to make MAA the best place possible for our students.