Elementary schools are a hotbed for nostalgia. That’s why travelling back to Edgewood School brought forth so many emotions for this reporter and nearly 100 other alumni who returned en masse to witness Edgewood’s 100th anniversary celebration last weekend.
On Friday, April 5, Edgewood capitalized on that nostalgia with a school tour led by current fourth- and fifth-graders, a career panel that featured returning alumni, and afternoon tea in the newly renovated library.
The events brought back memories but also made me wonder if there is something that makes Edgewood special, beyond the fact that I spent my childhood there. I began to wonder why so many alumni, including some who graduated in the 1950s, came to take part in the festivities.
When I walked into Edgewood’s library on Friday, I was greeted by a barrage of elementary schoolers, who immediately took me on a chaotic tour of the school. Posted on the walls were factoids about the various paintings and murals I saw as a kid, but never thought much about. In one hallway, maps of Scarsdale through its history were pasted on the walls. In another, the story of the cupola, a pointless little structure on Edgewood’s roof. My tour guides, two fifth-graders named Laura and Elena, knew their stuff. “We got these packets and we ... just read over them,” said Laura, grade 5. “We basically just make sure we know the things that are important for Edgewood.”
According to PTA co-president Heedan Chung-Goh, class of ’81 and SHS ’87, the 100th anniversary of Edgewood was an opportunity to celebrate the various things that make education in Scarsdale unique.
“It’s an opportunity to look back on not just the history of Edgewood, but the history of education in Scarsdale,” she said.
One component unique to Scarsdale is the staff. While I was led around the building, I came across two teachers I knew from my time at Edgewood. Surprisingly, they both recognized me, despite it being seven years since my elementary school graduation.
“The teachers help kids if they’re struggling in math,” said Elena, a fifth-grader.
Not only does Edgewood have good teachers, but the way those teachers educate is unique, said Chung-Goh. “There are individual teachers who make an effort to expand the horizons of students in the school,” she said.
She also said the teaching style of Edgewood fosters creativity, which was evident as tour guides who took alumni around the building showed genuine curiosity in the history imbued in the walls of their school.
“Talking with the students, the intellectual curiosity is overwhelming,” said Rick Reuter, class of ’54. “I find them to be very interested in what happened years ago.”
Edgewood uses a teaching style known as Progressive Education, the belief that students need to have both an evolving curriculum and one that teaches them about the world outside of Scarsdale. This tradition of progressivism in Scarsdale is bolstered by the fact that Edgewood has preached it since its very founding.
“The reason why things seem to remain the same, yet different, is because there is a foundation that was put into the school long before any of us moved into this community … there is a tradition of progressive education … that’s what makes Scarsdale distinct,” Chung-Goh said. “There’s an encouragement ... of having the kids learn about the world they’re living in, to prepare them for the future that’s ahead.”
Indeed, the visiting alumni seemed to agree.
“I thought Edgewood inspired a lot of curiosity, hard work and believing in yourself to try new things,” said Laura Neale, class of ’88.
Edgewood’s ability to be progressive can even be seen in its walls. Toward the end of the tour, the student docents stopped by a miniature of the school, labeled with the years each new addition and renovation was built. It revealed that various regions of the school were built decades apart from each other, yet have no discernible difference from one another. The architecture of Edgewood, along with its teaching style, reflects the school’s particular ability to transcend the passage of time. Just as Edgewood’s education style has built on itself over the decades, the school has done the same.
Perhaps these analyses of Edgewood were steeped in nostalgia, and certainly many of the alumni were also humbled by their sentimentality. However, Edgewood’s uniqueness as an elementary school remains. In coming back to visit Edgewood, I found a like-minded group of individuals who all remembered the same gym, who all went to the same school I did.
“Part of what makes a community is having a common sense, and that is history,” Chung-Goh said. “What the 100th anniversary gives the opportunity to do is to teach, and learn, and reconnect with what makes us common as a community.”
Even if my memories of Edgewood are surrounded by childlike innocence, so are those of every other alum. Rick Reuter, class of ’54, echoed what many were thinking when he said, “It’s a wonderful place.”