Student-MadeMay 8, 2022

updated Jul 18, 2022

A Few Minutes with… Ms. Rutledge

Horizons Media Intern Hannie Truong ’22 interviews MHS ESOL Teacher and Greenhouse Manager Marian Rutledge

(Hannie Truong ’22)

Ms. Rutledge is an ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) teacher for international students at Miss Hall’s and also the Manager of the Ara West Grinnell 1901 Greenhouse. In that role, she works with 9th-graders, helping them learn greenhouse skills and to manage their annual Horizons Plant Sale at the end of the school year. Horizons Media Team member Hannie Truong ’22 caught up with her for this conversation.

How did you come to work at MHS? What did you do before you came here?

I have been at MHS for 11 years. Originally, I came to work as the “OD,” the officer of the day. My first role was to oversee Study Hall and make sure students were safe and where they needed to be. One winter, the Greenhouse manager was going to Florida, and she asked me to manage the Greenhouse. After that, I began to tutor students in the ESOL class, and then I was invited to teach ESOL. It’s a pleasure to work with the students here.

How did you learn about the Greenhouse? How did you become an expert in plants?

My mother was an amazing gardener, and I learned a lot from her. I also took classes and studied different aspects of horticulture, but mostly, experience in life has taught me. I find there is something very special in working with plants. We need to open our life to plants. I think if we close ourselves off from them, it is very unhealthy.

What is your role with ninth grade Horizons? Explain the 9th grade Horizons program.

In the second semester, the ninth-graders work in the Greenhouse to learn how to propagate plants by different methods, and they spend months working on that. The plants they propagate get sold in a big sale in May. Part of the money raised in the sale goes to the class, part of the money goes to the MHS Annual Fund, and the rest goes to an organization that the class chooses.

9th Grade Horizons at Work in the Greenhouse

At work in the Ara West Grinnell, Class of 1901, Greenhouse, 9th-graders select seeds and begin their work to prepare for the annual Horizons Plant Sale in May.


How do students benefit from their work in the Greenhouse, particularly ninth-graders who are new to the School?

I think we are no longer in touch with nature as much as we used to be. Lots of students who come to the Greenhouse live in cities, and they haven’t had the chance to work with plants, and they discover they enjoy it.

This is also a project that the students collaborate on, working together to explore plants and business models and create sub-projects. As a group, they pick the seeds and decide what they would like to grow. They take care of the plants, and by the time we get to the sales, they really step up, and they sell the plants. I think the Greenhouse Project is an indispensably important project at MHS. In this space, students from different cultures work with plants, but they’re also working to build the skills of kindness, empathy, patience, collaboration, and celebration.

What do you most enjoy when you're working in the Greenhouse? What makes the Greenhouse special?

Sometimes, when it’s very quiet, I can hear the plants breathe, and that is extraordinary. There is a spirit in here that is special. Some of the plants in here are over 60 years old that I know of, and they may be older. How were they propagated? What events might they have witnessed? To think about the genesis and the stories of all these plants can connect us through space and time: with the past, the future, with other countries around the world.

Can you tell us a little bit about Poppa, who is really in charge of the Greenhouse?

Poppa is not the original greenhouse dog. Judy Clarke had a greenhouse dog that was a golden retriever. After that, I had a beautiful westie, named Nana after my godmother, in the Greenhouse. Poppa, my newer Westie, is a much more active greenhouse dog than Nana was. He races around in circles with the kids, loves getting dirty, and sometimes has to go outside to chase the squirrels. He is four years old, and he is from Downeast Maine. He’s a great presence in the Greenhouse, although none of us have been able to teach him to actually work with plants!