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Bidding Farewell to Barry Merritt

Jonny Gherman, Writter

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As the school year winds down, and kids make plans for summer, Sandy Spring Friends School makes plans to see off one of its greatest teachers. Barry Merritt has been a long lasting member of the SSFS community, and after 38 years, we wish Barry a happy retirement. Barry has helped the community in a variety of ways. He’s done everything from coach cross country to teach generations of students what the asymptote on a graph is. Barry even has a hand in the school’s winter assembly as the annual Christmas tree. Barry is beloved by all and has seen generations come and go through the SSFS community.
Out of dozens of schools in the Maryland/DC area, Barry chose Sandy Spring in the fall of 1983. He had just come over from a long term substitution job, and the head of a summer camp thought that it would be a good fit. He instantly felt that this was a place where he would be included and accepted. “I originally worked at N.O.A.H (a wealth management company) and then decided that I wanted to be a teacher when I was 28.” Barry put his application in, and the rest is history.
After teaching his first trimester in 1983, Barry temporarily left the school to train for the Olympic Trials in Los Angeles, California. Although Barry did not qualify for the US Olympic canoeing team, he was immediately welcomed back to SSFS as a teacher.
Barry has spent decades at Sandy Spring. He’s seen freshmen become seniors, seniors become college graduates and alumni become faculty. When asked what his most memorable moment at Sandy Spring Friends School is, Barry paused, trying to pick one out of a thousand. “Having my children go to this school and be a part of the community is something special that I’ll never forget.” 38 years of teaching is a long, repetitive, and demanding job. Barry persevered every year. “Every year I thought ‘Should I continue?’ The answer was always I enjoy a place with a sense of community and the opportunity to help others (either in the classroom or out in the field). The goal is to produce good citizens of the world and people who can help solve the world’s problems. It’s fun! And it was never about the money.”
Barry has left a legacy at Sandy Spring. “I’m going to miss the interaction with the students and coaching” Barry said when concluding his story about teaching at Sandy Spring Friends School. Barry has made an impression on every student, in one way or another. While he is leaving the school as a faculty member, he will never leave the community.
Barry plans to take retirement easy. While he certainly will miss the SSFS community, he is keeping track of the days left. Barry has just a few plans for retirement. He plans to continue coaching cross country and come back as a substitute for classes. “My wife is also retiring. She’s been teaching for about 35 years. We’re going to do a little bit of traveling, but nothing fancy.”
Barry has been teaching longer than most students in the SSFS community have been alive. His overall experience at Sandy Spring has been characterized by the feeling that he belongs to something bigger than himself. “As more and more years went by, it felt like a safer place, both physically and spiritually. This was a nice group to be a part of.”
Barry’s replacement teacher is Kwame Darko, a class of ‘98 graduate of SSFS. As Barry has done for years, he gave Kwame some advice. “Because he knows the school already, I would say be yourself. Don’t try to be something that you’re not. He is a well-qualified teacher that we’ve been trying to get to Sandy Spring for years. I feel good having him come here as my replacement.” Although Barry is leaving the school, he will always remain a vital member of the SSFS community.
Barry has spent the majority of his life teaching students at Sandy Spring Friends School. While he departs on the next phase of his journey, students say goodbye to one of their favorite teachers. “Keep up your motivation till the end” Barry says to his students, as both he and his class push to the finish line. “As busy as you are today, take time to play and keep up your well being.” Barry Merritt has put in a tremendous amount of work, and in his own words “It’s time to move on. I don’t want to be a Peyton Manning and be past my prime.”

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1 Comment

One Response to “Bidding Farewell to Barry Merritt”

  1. Rose on May 30th, 2017 10:31 am

    Barry was my math teacher when I was a freshman. He is a really great and awesome that I have ever seen. He’s not very strict in class, but like a friend of us. He taught me a lot in and out of the class. I got lots of knowledge and fun when I stay with him. He is so great that I will miss him a lot after his retirement. I wish Barry a happy retirement.

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Bidding Farewell to Barry Merritt