An Extraordinary Example (Photos)

As a reporter you meet a lot of people as you move from story to story and sometimes you meet someone extraordinary and inspiring.

That happened to me last week when I visited Stedwick Elementary in Montgomery Village and met third grade teacher Mary Ruth McGinn.

Under her direction, McGinn’s students formed an opera company and they composed, produced, wrote and designed an original opera. It’s not just a fine arts program though. The teacher has integrated the third grade curriculum into this production.

Can you imagine creating an opera and in the third grade? Well these Montgomery County kids did.

I was lucky enough to be in the audience for the first, formal performance of “A Storm Inside,” on May 8.

“Wow,” was all I could keep thinking as I watched the story unfold on stage and as I experienced the profound theme of “longing” along with the rest of the audience members. I was moved by their central theme.

In the crowd this day, along with students and parents, were longtime supporters and partners of Ms. McGinn, including school board members, representatives from the Washington Opera, a state delegate, County Council staff and more. After the performance, they all praised the production and the “phenomenal teacher.”

It was the students, though, who just couldn’t stop raving about their teacher. They told me she was “amazing” and gave me example after example of how they had learned to be more self confident, expressive and independent under her watchful eye. They explained how they didn’t need an adult to solve their problems anymore because they had learned to handle difficult situations by themselves. They said they wished the school year was not ending and that they wanted Ms. McGinn to be their teacher again.

In the hallway, watching her young stars shine, stood the passionate and energetic teacher whose eyes were burning bright and whose face was beaming radiantly with success. During our interview, she seemed more proud of how her students handled things that did not go as planned in their live performance rather than the things that did go well. They kept going, she said, noting that the kids never looked for or expected an adult to step in and fix the snafus.

Then, she told me that this was some of the hardest work she has ever done. I didn’t doubt it.

And, yet, what could be more important?

She has taught her third graders that learning is fun, how to work together side-by-side, how to handle adversity, and, more importantly, she’s inspired them that there is nothing they cannot do.

The Montgomery County Council honored the Fire Starters Kids Opera Company at the May 14 meeting. See photos below:

  • FirestarterskidsoperaStedwickElementaryRiemerGroup 5-14-13
  • FirestarterskidsoperaStedwickElementaryRiemerStudentElexaEnriquezSpeaks 5-14-13

For more photos and a video report from Stedwick Elementary:

Sonya Burke

About Sonya Burke

Sonya Burke is the Multimedia Manager at Montgomery Community Media (MCM). You can email story ideas at or reach her on Twitter @SonyaNBurke.


One Response to “An Extraordinary Example (Photos)”

  1. Sonya Burke
    On May 15, 2013 at 8:34 pm responded with... #

    you are the best you made my dream com true I love you so MUCH!!!!!!!!!


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