Laurie McDonald: A Genuine Face of America

Anthony J. Mussari, Ph.D.
The Face of America Project
Copyright Mussari-Loftus Associates, 2011

I saw the Face of America on this fine day in Leesburg, Virginia. It belonged to a woman of dignity and class, a woman with a caring heart, a woman who leads by example, a woman who is generous and kind, a woman who nurtured, helped, encouraged, and taught students who were placed in her care for 38 years.

This Face of America always looked beyond the obvious to see the innate goodness in everyone she met.

This Face of America always looked for ways to make people feel good about who they are and what they do.

This Face of America had a perfect blend of competence, caring, compassion and love that characterized her work.

This Face of America belonged to Laurie McDonald, the principal at the Evergreen Mill Elementary School.

Laurie was a mother, a wife, a teacher to many, and someone who was very special to her students, faculty, staff, and grandparents like me.

What made her so special was the magical way she had with students and the welcoming environment she created in her classroom and her school. She was a teacher first, last and always.

Central to her being was a belief that schools are a place for creative learning, a sanctuary for growth, a place of hope, happiness and tranquility in a turbulent world.

Everything about the Evergreen Mill Elementary School in Leesburg, Virginia, spoke to the heart and soul of Laurie McDonald. From the moment you entered the building to the time you left, you felt the energy of belonging, community, discovery, happiness, and service to others. You felt the spirit of America on its best days.

Laurie McDonald was woman of beautiful ideas, beautiful deeds and beautiful thoughts. Her life is a priceless collage of accomplishment that was deeply rooted in her limitless love for her students, her respect for the profession of teaching, and her keen understanding that education works best when educators cultivate a productive relationship with parents and members of the family.

After more than a generation of experience and outstanding community leadership, Laurie McDonald recently took a medical leave of absence to courageously battle an insidious form of cancer that weakened her body but not her spirit.

The news of her passing brings with it great sadness, and a profound sense of loss.

Would that every student in America had a principal like Laurie McDonald, what a wonderful gift this would be.

Would that every teacher in America had a principal like Laurie McDonald, what an effective teaching team it would be.

Would that every parent in America had a principal like Laurie McDonald to work with, what an enjoyable experience it would be.

For those of us who were privileged to know Laurie McDonald, the term Face of America takes on new meaning and purpose, because Mrs. McDonald, as she was respectfully known by her students, was a radiant example of what America is on its best days.

Laurie McDonald’s Face of America will live on as an example to others of why education is important and how it can work for the good of everyone involved.

When I think about the life and legacy of Laurie McDonald, the words of Thomas Merton apply: “Every moment and every event of every man’s life on earth plants something in his soul.”

Thank you Mrs. McDonald for planting thoughts of learning, life and growth in the lives of those of us who admired and respected who you were, what you did to transform the lives of students and the kind and gentle way you did it. Yours is a Face of America we will never forget.,