It was said there might be a bouquet of flowers.
There was an entire table’s worth.
It was said there would be entertainment.
There were activities, stations, music, a bubble machine, a balloon arch, and the entirety of Geneva Day School’s sprawling Maryland Green School grounds to explore.
It was proposed as a “little get-together.”
It proved to be a Baton Passing Festival!
On Saturday, May 21, Geneva Day School’s spectacular GPA arranged this event in honor of Director Suzanne Funk’s three decades of service to the school and past 15 years at the helm of the ship.
According to GPA President, Mrs. Dory Halbe, “Mrs. Funk has grown the school into one of the best preschools in the DMV area and arguably, one of the best in the country.”
The throngs of attendees agreed. Whether expressions of love and enthusiasm came in the form of bouquets, cards, or mementos, Mrs. Funk was resoundingly referred to as “the reason my child does so well in school today” or “the game-changer in the Educational Plan for my son” or “the warmest welcome we could have received once we arrived from abroad.”
Passionate about early childhood education, Mrs. Funk sees each child as unique and is known for greeting her littlest fans by kneeling (with lightning speed!) to look them straight in the eye, grasping their hands in a firm handshake.
“You are so special. You are a wonderful, little boy,” she warmly pronounced to a three-year-old near the cake-cutting table.
The child responded with a wriggle and a smile.
During her tenure, Mrs. Funk ensured Geneva Day School became a destination for those aged two to five/six. Spectacular classes and superlative programs channel the “Geneva Method,” an approach that promotes student-led discovery of traditional pre-academics. Mrs. Funk advanced a spiraling curriculum that delivers rising students to a splendid perch; she architected the “Kindergarten Learning Cottage,” a light-filled structure adjacent the school.
Through grant-writing and meticulous planning, she also restructured the school’s grounds. These permit discovery of Nature at its unbridled best (take a stroll through the bamboo forest or follow the tree stump maze!). Yet the grounds are tame where necessary (explore the wisteria arbor, the butterfly chime, the bridge and the flowerbeds!).
Today, this Maryland Green School campus hosts a Monarch Butterfly Waystation and inspires student participation in green initiatives. The “outdoor classroom” (an elevated, latticework structure with permeable roof) Mrs. Funk designed so as to bring students into the heart of Nature. An amphitheater she still dreams of installing at the base of the hill.
Of her retirement, she states: “I thought this was a good time to start a new chapter. . . I also thought there was someone waiting in the wings who would be really effective.”
Ms. Daisy Lizama, Summer Program Director and Teacher who has been of equal presence in the school these last decades, assumed the position as of June 1. Versed in the Geneva Method, she is known for her kind, gentle demeanor, her superb insights into the individual needs of children, and her vision for tailoring programs.
“It’s an honor to be the new Director of Geneva Day School. Geneva is a place filled with a lot of wonderful students, family, and staff. And they bring joy to everyone around us,” stated Ms. Lizama of what the school means to her.
Readers of “Bethesda Magazine” have again recognized the school as “number one” within its category of “Best Preschool” and for a first time, awarded its Summer Program the same. Ms. Lizama’s attunement to what delights her population will be sure to deliver more innovation and fun to the academic year.
“I’m looking forward to. . . continuing Geneva’s legacy of being an outdoor Green School with fun activities for all students. . . I look forward to continuing to create an environment that is filled with a lifelong love of learning,” she said.
As Mrs. Funk charts her trajectory into a new chapter, Ms. Lizama graciously accepts the baton for Directorship of Geneva Day School, Potomac’s glittering emerald on a hill. A new era of excellence is sure to shine through the school’s many facets. . . See you outside!