As she settled into her sunlit office overlooking the main entrance of Glen Head Elementary School, Principal Lori Nimmo eagerly told the Herald Gazette about an upcoming event that would showcase her students’ academic talents. It was clear that she had not yet stepped away from the school’s day-to-day routine, despite being a month away from retirement.
For the past 18 years, Nimmo, 57, has walked the halls of Glen Head Elementary School, greeting students with a smile, some with a hug. Now, after 36 years as an educator and administrator, she is retiring.
Nimmo said she knew she would become a teacher as a kindergartner at May Moore Elementary School in Deer Park. She still remembers her teacher, Ms. Barilla, whom she loved and admired. “I wanted to be just like her,” Nimmo said.
In 1983 she accepted her first job as a teacher, in the East Meadow School District. She taught fourth- and sixth-graders at Bowling Green Elementary School for nine years before moving up to W.T. Clarke Middle School, where she worked for five years. While Nimmo enjoyed teaching, she said, she wanted a challenge, which spurred her involvement in the Nassau County Math Teachers Association. As a workshop presenter there, “I ended up teaching the teachers,” she said.
She accepted her first administrative position in 1991: assistant principal of Jericho Middle School. The experience, she said, prepared her well to challenge herself once more by applying to become an elementary school principal. When she happened upon the North Shore School District, and by consequence the Glen Head community, she found it to be a perfect fit.
“I heard so many wonderful things about this community, and what I learned is that the teachers here are incredibly dedicated to their students,” Nimmo said. “Here they become part of the family, and there’s an incredible bond of mutual respect and care and concern.”
This was most evident during her first week as Glen Head Elementary’s principal. On Sept. 11, 2001, “I pulled my first fire drill at 8:46 that morning,” she said. In the wake of that day’s attacks at the World Trade Center, dozens of parents showed up at the school to help in any way they could. Some even offered to help out at night, and stay with the students who hadn’t been picked up yet. “That’s the day that taught me how special this community was,” Nimmo said.
She described her first few years as principal as a trial by fire. After 9/11, the school reviewed its safety protocols to ensure that the building would be secure in the event of an emergency. That November, construction began on a new wing. Nimmo also oversaw the reconstruction of the school’s playground area, which she said could not have been accomplished without the help of Glen Head parents.
“Everything in the backyard has been renovated in some way,” she said, noting the benches, walkways, jungle gym and water fountain, “and all of that work was done by parents.”
Meghan Shedlick, co-president of the school’s Parent Teacher Organization, has lived in Glen Head for as long as Nimmo has worked there. She recalled Nimmo’s consistent presence at the school during morning drop-off and afternoon pickup, after-school activities, nighttime PTO meetings and even on weekends.
“She has all the qualities of a good leader — everyone speaks so highly of her,” Shedlick said. “I’ve been on the board for three years, and she’s very supportive of what we bring to the school.”
By all accounts, Nimmo is equally supportive of the students. PTO Co-president Claudine Gallo had heard about Nimmo from a friend who lived in the district before she moved there. Gallo was apprehensive about her daughter’s transition from private to public school, but said that Nimmo quickly eased her mind.
“From the minute we got there, we saw that she really does know every single child well — she gets down on their level,” Gallo said. “There’s not one doubt in my mind that she’s done everything she could to give the school the best of everything. This was her life’s work.”
To further her students’ education, Nimmo preached creative problem solving, teamwork and inclusivity. “Something that I was able to do was include everybody in the learning process,” she said. “We want parents and grandparents and people from the community to feel like this is their home and . . . to share their experiences with children.”
Her favorite school traditions are the spring and winter concerts, pasta and game night, visits from the Harlem Wizards basketball team and the annual bike rodeo, an event she is no doubt partial to, as an avid bicyclist. One of her plans for retirement is to scour new places to ride with her husband, Bill. The two are members of the Huntington Bike Club.
Though they live in East Northport, Nimmo admits that she has more friends in Glen Head. “I can drive through the neighborhood to go home and see children playing basketball, or somebody learning how to mow the lawn with his father, or somebody decorating their house with Christmas lights or kids riding their bikes, and I can just wave to everybody,” she said. “That’s such a wonderful feeling, to feel like you’re part of this great community.”
It’s apparent that Nimmo has become a part of that family she found 18 years ago. In her office, she pulled down framed photos given to her by parents and blew dust off tchotchkes made for her by former students. She thumbed through a memory book commissioned by the PTO for her retirement, which contained students’ hand-written letters wishing her well, and more photos of her with faculty members at her favorite school functions.
“This has been a gift, to be able to work with such extraordinary children, their parents and the teachers,” Nimmo said. “I never imagined that I’d have as much fun as I did going to work every single day, but it never felt like work.”