GHS bids farewell to Mrs. Tarr 


GHS will miss Donna Tarr who, after nearly 25 years of teaching, is retiring.

MILA BARRY, Editor-in-chief

As students and staff walk onto the second floor each morning, the first thing they will hear is Mrs. Tarr’s cheerful, enthusiastic voice greeting them with a hearty “Good morning!” 

“The hallway is another avenue to meet and greet students and staff. For me, it is another way to connect with students I may not have a history with,” said Mrs. Tarr. “Building relationships does impact learning!”

Yet this morning tradition is coming to an end this week, when after a nearly 25 year career, hundreds of students, and more memories than she can count, Donna Tarr will retire from teaching. 

For Tarr, teaching was the fulfillment of her life long dream. “I’ve always wanted to teach,” Tarr said. “I used to play school with my dolls. I had records, and a seating chart. I was already committed!”  

Mrs. Tarr’s influence has impacted her students, her colleagues, and the school on many levels. 

“She is always there for you if you need help with anything – in school, or out of school. Anytime you need her she is always there,” GHS junior Lidia Quintanilha said. “When I first had her, she was very tough. After a while, we got to know each other. She is one of my favorite teachers who has really helped through the years. I couldn’t have done it without her. I’m sad to see her go, but I know it is for a good reason. She’s really happy, so I’m happy for her.”  

Tarr graduated 1978 from Lesley College, where she studied Elementary and Special Education. She went on to earn a Master’s Degree in Special Education from Endicott College in 2000. 

Her first job was at Woburn High School, where she was an itinerant special education aide. She taught for five years in Woburn at the elementary and high school levels, until her first daughter was born. 

When she took a leave from full time teaching to raise her daughters, she couldn’t stay away completely.  During that time, she taught swimming lessons, volunteered at the preschool and subbed  at her daughters’ elementary school.  She was a lifeguard, a room mother, PTO treasurer, and worked in the library.  

“The Principal of Manchester Memorial school told me I needed to get a life,” Tarr said. “Fast forward 14 years, when our youngest Miss Meg went to first grade, Miss Donna came to Gloucester High!”  

That was the fall of 1996, and she has been at GHS ever since. 

“Donna has been a wonderful colleague to work with,” said history teacher Rich Francis, who has worked with Tarr since he began teaching.  “For most of the time, she was the Special Education History teacher, so she has had one foot in two departments.  Everyone in the department has learned a lot from her. She has shown that a teacher can be stern with students without being mean. She has been very generous to students and staff. She will leave big shoes to fill.”

When asked how she would describe her time here at GHS, Tarr said, “It’s like a beach. The waves come in, the waves come out. They crash. We have high tide, we have low tide. It ebbs and flows. It’s ever changing.” 

“Every day is different, said Tarr. “It’s always a challenge. Students come from such different backgrounds. You don’t know what kids deal with, what they don’t have to eat, how cold they are. It is hard to shut off because you worry about them. You develop relationships with them.” 

“It can also be a very pleasant experience,” she said. “We are a family here. No matter where you are, what you teach, who you are with, we are a family here. And we protect each other.” 

“Mrs. Tarr was the best thing that could have happened to me in all four years of my time at GHS,” said class of 2014 graduate Benjamin Paige.  “She checked in on me day in and day out. If there was homework, she would oversee me doing it until it was done. She was always there to help and explain if I was confused about something.”

“She helped me get on my feet from day one and has never forgotten about me since. I look at her as family and I am very grateful for everything she did for me. She even came to my wedding in NH. She is a very bright light with her larger than life personality, I am forever grateful to have had her kick my life in gear. Had it not been for her, I do not know if I would be here today. To get right to the point, Donna Tarr changed my life.”

Tarr will be moving with her husband Evan to University Place, in Washington “so we can watch our grandchildren grow, because family is first,” Tarr said. “Even though people have FaceTime and Zoom, you can’t beat having them in front of you. It’s exciting to think there are little people in our lives that are going to make it richer.” 

Her daughter Liz Tarr, who also teaches at GHS, will follow her West in June.  

In her retirement, she looks forward to her new role as a full time grandmother, spending time on her new terrace, experimenting with recipes from her cookbook collection, and exploring her new neighborhood. “There are a lot of things I’m looking forward to,” she said. “This is like a brave new world! 

But she is not leaving Massachusetts for good. She plans to summer at her family beach house in Scituate every August. 

When asked what she will miss most about GHS  she said  “I’ll miss the people, I’ll miss the students.  When I think about the things I’ve been through.  I mean, this place has been extraordinary.” 

Her advice to new teachers:  “It is the most rewarding job,” she said. “The best is yet to come.”