After 46 years of service to the Milford School District, Benjamin Banneker Elementary School Principal Jean Wylie will be retiring at the end of this year. Since 1968 Wylie has been an advocate for helping teach young kids academics and leadership. Her influence on the community has spanned over six decades of Milford children and families as she provided leadership at Milford Elementary and Middle schools.
After student teaching under the direction of Jo Wood at Lulu Ross Elementary school, Wylie began teaching first grade at Lulu Ross for two years and continued to teach pre-first grade before any early childhood development school was added to the district. In 1989 she became the Assistant Principal at Milford Middle School where she worked among 1,400 students between the ages of eleven and fourteen. On her very first day she was challenged as she found herself in the middle of a circle of kids ready to fight.
“I just used a voice that showed to them that as the adult I need to be respected and that I also had expectation for them.” commented Wylie. She states that several of her past students still remember that voice of reason and respect that she continued to keep with her throughout her career in education.
Ten years later she became Assistant Principal under Dr. Kae Keister at Benjamin Banneker Elementary and in 2003 Wylie took on the opportunity of opening the newly constructed Benjamin Banneker school as principal. She admits that this was a challenge for her as she opened the school and became the principal simultaneously.
“It was scary at first, opening the school, making sure teachers had what they needed, and making sure the kids were comfortable in the new school,” commented Wylie. “It was an ongoing challenge but I knew I was responsible and I knew I would do my best. I remember that following September thinking to myself ‘you made it’.”
Wylie insists that her ability to face challenges head on comes directly from her students. She remembers one student in her class while teaching at Ross Elementary that had no thumbs. Before special needs accommodations and to some extent acceptance of special needs in the classroom, Wylie had to not only teach the child to adapt to her surroundings in school but teach the others about acceptance and tolerance.
“It was a real challenge to see what she could do and what the other students would do. I taught them that yes she may do things differently but she could do the same things as them,” commented Wylie. “One day as we played a game where they all gathered in a circle and held hands I saw that the other kids were holding her hands just like any other child, they had accepted her. I remember crying right there.”
Her greatest reward from her 46 years of service is seeing former students succeed in their lives. As Wylie starts to chart the course forward into retirement she will remain active as a pastor of her congregation at Burton’s Chapel Church in Milton, DE. Although she will be leaving the Milford School District, she still has the desire to help provide the best education to local children.
“I am not giving up on education, I will attend board meetings and support my community. I want to be active,” stated Wylie. “I have done my part for the district and now it is someone else’s chance to make a difference.”
Wylie offers some words of advice for the next principal of Benjamin Banneker Elementary. “Remember that learning should be fun and hands on. Help the kids understand that they can think for themselves and stretch their imaginations,” commented Wylie. “Challenge them to take on responsibility and become leaders, with the right attitude they can do it.