When Greensboro Day School began the school year in August without our Lower School science teacher, Rose Marie Cook, we were hopeful that her leave of absence would be very brief. During these unprecedented times in a global pandemic, Rose Marie has decided to focus her attention on her grandchildren and retire from teaching next month. After seeing Rose Marie in action at the pond and in the Lower School science lab, I affectionately refer to her as “Mrs. Frizzle.” She spent the last 24 years teaching and sharing her deep love for learning and discovery with the Lower School students at Greensboro Day School. Her teaching career in science at GDS is ending, but her legacy will thrive for generations to come.
The second oldest of nine siblings, Rose Marie spent most of her waking hours as a youngster outside. If a squirrel fell from its nest, its proximity to Rose Marie improved its survival tenfold. She brought home all of the proverbial stray dogs, put back together what her brothers took apart, and began to live what she would later teach. Discover how things are made; why are they made that way - and always question, test, and explore - it is at the very core of Rose Marie Cook.
Rose Marie has inspired the inner scientist in countless children chiefly because she never lost touch with her own. “I loved teaching children about the natural world - kids by nature want to experiment and explore, I want to help make that happen.” The GDS campus became a laboratory in which she could more easily achieve her goal. Changes happened in fits and starts, a ginkgo tree for Earth Day here; the fossil pit there.
During her GDS tenure, Rose Marie expanded campus gardens to include perennial pollinator gardens and others that feature plants native to North Carolina. By way of these planted museums, she taught lessons about butterflies, the arrival of spring, and Native American life.
When she couldn’t be outside, she turned attention to engineering in the broadest sense. Rose Marie launched a student-led recycling curriculum and an energy education program that helped develop habits and mindsets focused on caring for our planet.
As she reflects on her time at GDS, she is particularly proud to be what she called a “grand teacher - teaching the children of my children.” She added that “it’s true of colleagues as well - colleagues who were taught by me, and then I taught their kids.”
To walk into the Lower School Science lab is to be struck by the wide array of specimens taped to the walls is a testament to her connection with children. They are commonly referred to as treasures. According to Rose Marie, the excitement with which they shared finds from family trips, backyard adventures, and accidental run-ins were palpable. She recalls with glee the recent conversation with a college grad that began, “Do you still have that [fill in the blank: a bit of bone, seed pod, or uniquely shaped rock] I brought in?” The answer is yes, in part because nobody enjoyed a great discovery as much as Mrs. Cook!
The connections run as deep as Rose Marie’s commitment to scientific inquiry and lifelong learning. Rose Marie spent countless hours experimenting, questioning, wondering, and exploring with both students and colleagues. When asked, as she often was, “Mrs. Cook, how do you know so much?” her answer was always "I just lived for a long time and learned from my mistakes,” like any good scientist. Her deep love of learning and the natural world left an impact on the hearts and minds of many, and her kind and gentle spirit will truly be missed in our community.
When asked what she will miss most, her answer was quick, “I will miss the hugs, relationships, discoveries, smiles and most of all the joy expressed by a student on a full run holding something tightly in one hand and shouting, “Mrs. Cook, look what I found!”
The good news is that Rose Marie has one grandchild and another on the way. She does not want to be a stranger, so she is already thinking about how she will remain connected with Bengal Nation. I know you will join me in honoring Mrs. Cook for her tireless dedication to students, families, colleagues, and science education.
We are fortunate to have an incredibly capable and talented faculty at Greensboro Day School, and I am pleased to share that Sarah Pierce will be stepping in as the Interim Lower School Science Specialist for the remainder of the school year. Sarah is currently a full-time assistant teacher in our three-year-old program and serves as the Varsity Field Hockey coach in the Upper School. Sarah’s undergraduate degree in Environmental Science and her Masters of Teaching degree in Biology makes her a great fit for this interim role. Her knowledge of the Lower School students and the greater GDS community will ensure a smooth transition. Sarah and Rose Marie are already hard at work planning for an exciting return to school in January.
Please join me in congratulating Rose Marie Cook on her retirement. We look forward to gathering as a community in the near future to celebrate Rose Marie in person.