Village School celebrates a unique breed

Photo by MaryEllen Kraft

Just like the end of any school year, teachers will now have time off for the summer. Physical-education teacher Gigi Breed, however, will have to get used to not returning come September. Breed has retired after 19 years as a mainstay in the Village School. On June 22, the school surprised her with a student-led parade celebrating her legacy.

The entire school community lined the back road, waving signs and cheering as Breed paraded through in the passenger seat of a fellow teacher’s convertible. Breed discussed what the surprise was like from her perspective, and her emotions upon realizing what was happening.

“It was a fabulous, big surprise,” Breed said. “I did not know anything was going on, we were just organizing our supplies to be able to close out the school year and my colleagues said ‘Gigi, can you come with us?’ I went out to the front door and that’s when I knew… It was just breathtaking.”

All the classes filed out the back door of the school to avoid suspicion. Breed explained how a small faculty gathering the day before led her to wrongly believe that was the only fanfare she would be receiving. A tiara was jovially bestowed upon Breed as she rode by her admirers; it proved to be very appropriate.

“One student said, ‘Mrs. Breed you look like a princess,’ and oh my gosh, I felt like one,” Breed said. “It was just a spectacular way to end my 19-year career here in Marblehead.”

That 19-year career began with her spending time at the Gerry, Bell, Glover, and High schools. However, Village was the one constant school she taught at for her entire tenure in town.

Breed was the driving force behind numerous activities in Village School. She said her training as a PE teacher instilled in her the instinct to connect with students through many different avenues.

“We teach the whole child,” Breed explained. “We teach from the brain, to the heart, to the full body, to sportsmanship and interpersonal skills.”

She introduced activities such as pickleball and badminton to her curriculum. She also brought snowshoeing to the school with the help of a grant from the Friends of Marblehead. However cribbage, a game that exercises the brain primarily over the body, was perhaps her most popular addition.

“One of my students who is picking up the game pretty well was so upset he asked ‘If Mrs. Breed is retiring, who’s going to continue with our cribbage?’” Breed recalled.

One of the reasons Breed and her coworkers started a cribbage group was to give students who may not necessarily have a passion for physical sports a chance to express themselves and have competitive fun.

Breed formed countless friendships with her colleagues that will continue long after her retirement, and two of those friends lent their perspective on what her impact on Village School was.

Gigi spends the time to make connections with our students and goes leaps and bounds beyond the job description of a teacher,” Killeen Miller and Annie Madden said in a joint statement. “She’s lived her life as a role model for the community so people will understand the importance of kindness and a healthy lifestyle. She’s changed the lives of so many and all who are surrounded.”

Breed’s retirement plans include running the Boston Marathon and raising her first grandchild, and she is undoubtedly excited. However, she fully plans on remaining close to the Village School community.