Home Education and Careers Barbara Wanner remembered in tribute at St. Mary Magdalen School

Barbara Wanner remembered in tribute at St. Mary Magdalen School

St. Mary Magdalen
Andi Degnan (right), the advancement director at St. Mary Magdalen School, checks out the work in the Barbara Wanner Learning Commons with the McConnell siblings, from left, Emily, Kate and Kyle. The new facility, named after the longtime former school principal, replaces the traditional library. (Dialog photo/Mike Lang)

BRANDYWINE HUNDRED — St. Mary Magdalen’s library is undergoing a makeover this summer that will transform it into a modern learning space while reaching into the school’s past to honor a longtime advocate for education.
The Barbara Wanner Learning Commons will be dedicated in September. Wanner, who died last November at 73, was principal at St. Mary Magdalen for 25 years before retiring in 2014. Following her death, the pastor, Father James Kirk, asked school leadership to come up with some ideas for the donations the school received in Wanner’s memory, said Tina Gillen, the student activities coordinator.
“Kathy O’Toole (the principal) and I decided the library meant so much to Barbara because she was such an advocate for reading and literacy that we thought it would be appropriate to name the library after her. But we’re going to use it for more than the library. It’s going to be the library, but it’s also going to be the computer center,” Gillen said.
In mid-July, workers were busy tearing up old sections of carpet as boxes of books and other supplies were stacked on the opposite side of the room. St. Mary Magdalen’s previous librarian, Mairead Browne, was happy to see the activity, although that will no longer be her work space. She is now the school’s assistant principal.
“We’ve had the idea for a while,” Browne said. “We’ve been thinking it’s time to update this part of the wing. It’s 25 years old. This is the new wing. It had some normal wear and tear.”
She said the technology teacher and the librarian both will work out of that room, and they will do more as a team.
“They’re going to include a lot more collaboration in their lessons. The students will have a chance to visit the space weekly, some more than once a week depending on the grade. It’s sort of the wave of the future. It’s what libraries are doing now. They’re sort of combining technology and libraries in order to teach those skills because so many of them overlap,” she said.
Edwin Hernandez, St. Mary Magdalen’s technology teacher, will have a new home in the learning commons. He said the school has ordered a new batch of Chromebooks, and the sixth grade will join the seventh and eighth as one-to-one learners with the tablets. The desktop computers and computer lab have been eliminated.
“The space where students will be engaging with technology will be here in the learning commons,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to it. I think it will be a good use of the space we have here.”
Hernandez will share the space with Megan Geragthy, the school’s new librarian.
The donations in Wanner’s memory helped pay for the project, but Gillen said more money was needed to complete the renovation. St. Mary Magdalen sponsored the “Wanner Walk” on June 1, with students, families and a large group of Wanner’s relatives taking to the streets in the neighborhoods surrounding the campus. More than $10,000 was raised.
The former principal’s name will be posted outside the learning commons, and a photo of the notoriously publicity-shy Wanner will hang inside. Gillen added that the Class of 2018 is raising funds for a statue of St. Mary Magdalen to be placed in the room as well.
Browne’s nameplate still hung outside the room as of mid-July. She’s glad to see the work getting done, but has one regret — she’ll be in a new office upstairs.
“I’ve been asking for the renovation for a long time, and now that I’m leaving the job I’m getting it.”