Margaret Riddle: Hill Institute has been a city treasure

  • Hill Institute kindergarten teachers Jennifer Crowther, left, and Karen Sullivan and assistant teacher Annie Ryan, right, chat with a student in his car during a "drive-thru" graduation ceremony for the school's 12 students in Florence on Friday, June 12, 2020. The cars' arrivals were staggered at least five minutes apart so each family had a chance to visit with staff. gazette photo/kevin gutting

  • Hill Institute kindergartner Col Brody of Northampton leans out of his car to chat with teachers Karen Sullivan, left, and Jennifer Crowther and school administrator Chris Hammel during a "drive-thru" graduation ceremony for the 12 students on Friday, June 12, 2020, in Florence.

Published: 6/18/2020 4:24:51 PM
Modified: 6/18/2020 4:24:41 PM
Hill Institute has been a city treasure

The June 12 front page article reminded me of the significant contribution of the Hill Institute kindergarten to early childhood education in our area for almost 150 years.

As the first free public kindergarten in the country, it has provided invaluable recognition of the importance of education for young children. I remember that friends’ children who are now in their 40s attended Hill as their local public school kindergarten before they moved on to first grade at Florence Grammar School. Later, when I was a School Committee member, I became aware of the unique gift Hill kindergarten has been to our school district and the children of Florence.

Eventually, as principal at RK Finn Ryan Road School, the Florence elementary school, I welcomed those who arrived from Hill to join classmates in first grade. I often informed parents of the option of attending Hill, and I observed firsthand the evidence of the fine preparation they had received.

Finally, personally, I recently was fortunate to be grandparent to a Hill kindergartener. Attending Open House and regularly picking up our granddaughter after school helped me to appreciate even more the quality education, the cohesive learning community, and the dedication of the teachers at Hill. As a former kindergarten teacher myself, I especially appreciate the unique and valuable experience that Hill has offered children entering the elementary years.

The kindergarten at Hill Institute has truly been a treasure in our city’s history. As the Gazette article notes, Samuel Hill, “a champion of progressive social policies” understood the importance of education for young children when he founded the Hill kindergarten in 1876. Changing times for the families of young children may result in the loss of this special place for children, but we can all remember and appreciate the gift it has made to public education in Northampton.

Margaret Riddle


Daily Hampshire Gazette Office

115 Conz Street
Northampton, MA 01061


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