Remembering Jack McGovern

PMFS has dedicated a sugar maple sapling to the memory of Dr. Jack McGovern, PMFS Head of School 1984-1989.
Dr. Jack McGovern, who passed away in June 2021, was Head of School at PMFS from 1984 to 1989. He was a lifelong educator, winning the School District of Philadelphia’s Teacher of the Year award, teaching graduate courses at Chestnut Hill College, Cabrini, Arcadia, and Penn, and serving as Board Chair of the Children’s Literacy Initiative, among many other career accomplishments. At PMFS, Jack’s most lasting legacy was expanding the library collection and coordinating the capital campaign that converted Journey’s End from a home into classrooms. 
Jack was beloved by his colleagues at PMFS, and 30 years later, many of them came together to share their memories of him.
People quoted in this article, in order of mention:
Willard Terry
Frumi Cohen
Megan Hess
Jane Bourbeau
Will Starr
Jinya Jennings (bottom left, with other School Committee members)
Debbie Bakan
Ann Alberts (Brown)
Holly Terry
On Jack’s sense of humor:

Everyone remembered how funny Jack was. 

Willard Terry, then the Sixth Grade Teacher, called Jack’s sense of humor “poetic” and “Irish”.
Retired Music and Drama Teacher Frumi Cohen remembered this scene after months of work writing and staging the annual Musical: “The Monday after the final performance, as I stood in the office, Jack would say with his boyish smile, ‘Frum, you look like you just had a baby.’”
Megan Hess was a teacher also serving on the search committee that hired Jack as Head of School. She said she tried to give him fair warning about the kind of job it was, that he would need to be on call 24/7 and occasionally plunge toilets. To that Jack replied, “Hey, I run marathons!”
On Jane Bourbeau’s first day as a classroom teacher, she got nervous when the first student walked in. She ran to Jack to ask, “What do I do?” and Jack said, ‘You talk to her!” 
On Jack’s kindness and advocacy for teachers:

Jack was a warm person and supportive boss. 

Jack hired Will Starr, who still teaches at Plymouth today. “He was always very caring and supportive [...] and helped me quite a bit to learn the ropes,” Will said. In fact, Jack drew up contracts for new teachers that said, “We will do all we can to make you feel at home.”

“Jack was the same when you were talking to him in the parking lot as he was in School Committee meetings,” remembered Jinya Jennings, a School Committee member during Jack’s time.

Retired Primary Teacher Debbie Bakan spoke about how Jack empowered faculty to chair their own weekly meetings. “And,” she said, “I don’t think I ever saw Jack get angry or raise his voice.”

Ann Alberts (Brown) felt supported by Jack when he was Head of School. She recalls Jack as having “a twinkle in his eye, and he didn’t hold back. I remember once being introduced to prospective parents with the words, ‘Ann is THE BEST art teacher … AND … she is from England!’”
Jack and students with author Lloyd Alexander
Jack as an educator and storyteller:

Jack inspired everyone around him with his love of reading.

Retired Third Grade Teacher Holly Terry remembered Jack as “a storyteller, but a good listener, too.” Jinya called him “an encyclopedia for quotes,” and Debbie and Megan wondered if Jack had a photographic memory. “He could hold an audience of any age with his stories,” said Ann.

Jack encouraged students and teachers alike to take ownership of their learning. He encouraged many teachers at Plymouth to get postgraduate degrees, and even taught some of them at Chestnut Hill College. When Jane first introduced the Ocean Animal project to Third Grade, it was Jack who advised her to let the students choose their own animal to research so they would be more invested.

Jack put a literacy specialist on staff at PMFS and loved reading to classes, and brought his friend, author Lloyd Alexander to campus. Teachers remembered his love of Roald Dahl, and the way Jack gave children credit for understanding difficult emotions presented in books. “He always had time to be in the moment with kids,” Holly said. When the PMFS class of 1989 dedicated their yearbook to him, they called Jack, “A great friend.”
“If there’s anyone I’d want to talk to again, it’s Jack.” -Jane Bourbeau

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