Jenifer Elementary celebrates 30 years
Waldorf school opened in 1987 with 627 students
In 1987, a gallon of gas cost about 89 cents, the animated family “The Simpsons” first appeared on the “Tracy Ullman Show,” pop singer Michael Jackson released “Bad” — and the elementary school with the longest name in Charles County opened its doors to 627 new students.
On Thursday, Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer Elementary School celebrated its 30th anniversary and the unique community which has grown up around the school with music, reminiscences from past and present staff and a history lesson on the school’s namesake.
Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer, the son of Dr. Daniel Jenifer, was a colonial landowner in Charles County who served as a delegate to the Continental Congress and was president of Maryland’s first senate during the Revolutionary War; following the war, he was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention of 1787.
“He was a friend of Washington, he was a friend of Madison,” said Kevin Grote, a member of the Society for the Restoration of Port Tobacco. “He was one of the 39 signers of the Constitution.”
Almost 200 years after Jenifer’s death, a Waldorf elementary school opened bearing his name. Since that time, more than 19,155 students have passed through its halls, earning the sobriquet “Patriots” after the school’s mascot.
“Every day, Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer provides students with an academically challenging, quality education that builds character and leadership,” said Vice Principal Mike Hoffman. “At Jenifer Elementary School, we truly believe that every student can be the best he or she can be.”
Anna Lancaster, a former student at Jenifer, is now a third grade teacher at the school. She attended Jenifer while her mother was an art teacher there, completing kindergarten through fifth grade at the school.
“As a student here, I made many lifelong friends, some of whom are now doctors, nurses, U.S. Air Force captains and even fellow educators,” Lancaster said. “As a current educator, I enjoy making new memories with my students at Jenifer Elementary and cherishing those that I make with other students.”
Thadine Wright served as vice principal and principal of Jenifer Elementary from 2006 to 2011. She said that as a beginning principal, she learned many lessons in her first few years. Wright said she learned it was important to respect the leaders who came before her and consider the impact of her decisions on the leaders who would come after.
“I also learned the very important fact that you need to respect the history and traditions of a school,” Wright said. “I learned that very quickly here.”
She also learned the value of the surrounding community. “Jenifer Elementary is this nice, delicate pocket in Waldorf. No one knows we’re here, and so the community is very important,” Wright said.
Nancy Seifert has served as principal of Jenifer since 2013.
“At Jenifer, we consider ourselves a family, because we not only work long, hard hours together, but we celebrate our successes together, and we address our needs and our challenges together,” Seifert said. “I love Jenifer Elementary School; I love the children, I love the staff, I love the many successes we see every day; some are big and some are tiny.”
Seifert noted the school has grown, with the new kindergarten wing which opened in 2016, as well as additions of new security systems, expanded technology and a new roof.
“One thing though has remained the same: our heart is our children. The children that we greet every morning,” Seifert said. “We, the staff at Jenifer Elementary School, strive every single day to model for them and to teach them to be the very best they can be; to be outstanding moral citizens and to stand up for what is right and honorable.”
Susie Fowler was the principal of Jenifer from 1997 to 2007. She said visiting Jenifer for its 30th anniversary celebration was like deja vu, as she presided over the school at its 20th anniversary celebration. Fowler said that when the school opened, kindergarten was only half day, there was no standard curriculum in Charles County and most people shopped by going to stores or ordering from catalogs via mail.
“The world has changed dramatically since Jenifer opened 30 years ago, but what hasn’t changed is children who need teachers who will create a safe environment where children can thrive,” Fowler said. “You can just feel that this is a school that cares about kids.”
Members of the Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer Chorus perform a medley of patriotic songs during the school’s 30th anniversary celebration Thursday.
Kevin Grote of the Society for the Restoration of Port Tobacco speaks about the life of Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer.
Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer Principal Nancy Seifert welcomes guests.
Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer Elementary School fifth grader Brianna Goulbourne performs “America the Beautiful”.