After Forty Years, Walpole Public Schools Bids Farewell to Barry Greener

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Coach Greener during his last days on the field.

James Cullinane

Coach Greener during his last days on the field.

 

Upon the conclusion of the 2012 school year, Walpole Public Schools will say good-bye to a man who for the past four decades has molded the minds and characters of countless students with undying commitment.  Whether it be at Walpole High School, where he taught History from 1972-1987, or Johnson Middle School, where he has taught Physical Education since 1988, Barry Greener has earned the respect of students with his demanding, yet undeniably hospitable demeanor.

Coach Greener’s road to Walpole High School began nearly 22 miles down the road at Weymouth High School.  Following high school, Greener went on to the University of Maine, playing guard at the D-1 level at merely 160 pounds, a weight he maintains today.  Greener would not only be named MVP of the UMaine football team following his senior campaign, but would also captain his wrestling squad.

After graduating college, it became apparent that Greener did not wish to part ways with sports.  He signed on to become a student assistant coach at Maine and received his Masters degree in Physical Education.

A mainstay in the Walpole Athletic Department, Greener was the head coach of the wrestling team from 1972-2002 and, after 37 years of assisting the football program, took the reigns as head coach in 2009.  Seeking his eighth super bowl ring in the fall, Greener’s approaching retirement will not include leaving the football program.  While Greener is revered by many for his impressive coaching resume, he has never allowed his coaching responsibilities to interfere with educating students.  Thomas Morris, a close friend of Greener’s during his 15 year tenure at Walpole High and the current History Department Head, said, “If one of his wrestlers was struggling in class, Barry would teach him in a different manner after class.  He had a way of getting through to those guys.  Academics always come first with Coach Greener.”

This remains true to this day, as Greener has instituted a new policy in the Rebel football locker room; at approximately three week intervals during the fall, Greener disseminates academic check sheets to every member of the football team.  His expectations?  Not only must they be returned in a timely manner, but they must also include passing grades and satisfactory conduct and effort.

“That’s how Coach Greener has been since taking over the program,” said Rebel football captain Craig Hanley.  “He understands the importance of getting good grades.  He doesn’t just push us to become better athletes.  He pushes us to become better students.”

Hanley, who first met Greener as a sixth grader at Johnson, typifies the average students’ reverence towards Greener: “On one hand, you have this legendary sports figure who could definitely be considered intimidating. But on the other, you have one of the most friendly, most helpful teachers you’ll ever have.  He always made gym class fun–even for the kids who weren’t into sports.” Whether it be allowing students to walk laps around the back field rather than participate in softball or simply accepting feedback from students regarding gym activities, Barry Greener always provided a comfortable and flexible environment, without lessening the demands of a traditional physical education class.

Though Greener noted that JMS was a great environment for the past 25 years and that he will greatly miss Joanna Madge, his teaching partner, he appears to look back most fondly upon his years at Walpole High.  When asked how he would describe his tenure at WHS, Greener said simply, “I had fifteen great years in the History Department at Walpole High School.”

Said Greener, “The high school was very social.  Whether it be within the faculty or the athletic department, we were always socializing together.  I would always be with Terri Thornton, Billy Tompkins, my colleagues in the history wing[…]it was a great time.  While Johnson was full of great people as well, I didn’t socialize as much because I was always sort of hiding away in the gym.”

When asked to share some of their favorite memories of their time working together, both Morris and Greener pointed to an ironic moment in history. “Anyone who knows Barry knows how much he loves Richard Nixon,” said Morris. “During the summer of ’72, when Watergate originally broke, I can remember working on the next year’s curriculum with Barry and noticing him getting progressively further away from the radio as we listened to the news.  I kept turning it up until he was almost out of the room.”

Greener also fondly recalled this event, saying, “I loved Nixon.  I had to hear about Watergate everyday during our 1972 summer workshop.  One of my colleagues at the time, a great friend of mine, was the first person to sport the famous ‘Don’t Blame Me.  I’m from Massachusetts’ bumper sticker.”  This was exactly the type of playful banter that made the History Department so close said Greener.

Morris also reminisced about Greener’s unique teaching methods, saying, “Barry was very passionate about politics.  I remember him teaching a U.S. History course backwards.  He started with the Cold War and worked his way back from there.  He wanted to put emphasis on current events, which was an idea ahead of its time in many ways.”

“I don’t know how Tom remembers these things,” joked Greener.  “I did try that method once.  Did it work?  I don’t know.  It was an interesting way to look at things though.  I think the students found it more entertaining than the average note-taking course.  The Vietnam War and all of the other Cold War issues were of such great importance at the time that I just thought the kids should be informed for future elections.”

This is a prime example of what made Barry Greener such a valuable educator.  Not only did he provide students with knowledge, but he also focused on assisting their development.  For this reason, one would be hard-pressed to find a former student or player that would not credit Barry Greener as being a positive influence in their life.  After forty years of utter dedication to the town of Walpole, all of Greener’s grateful students bid their beloved teacher the best of luck in his well-deserved retirement.