After 44 years, Laney Silva Retires


Laney Silva and members of the English Department pose before graduation.

Claire Fennelly, Contributing Writer

In 1973, many events took place; the Watergate scandal was well underway, Nixon resigned from the White House,  and Ms. Helaine Uchenick starting teaching in the Hingham Public Schools.

Ms. Uchenick, more well-known as Ms. Silva, the Director of the English Department, is retiring from Hingham after 44 years of dedicated service.

Personally, I have known Mrs. Silva all of my life. Because my mom has been teaching at HHS 21 years now, the school and the faculty, especially the English department, have always had a special place in my heart. From running around the school as a toddler, to visiting teachers in their classrooms, to even just hanging around the “English Department Meetings” at my house, I have come to know how caring and dedicated Ms. Silva is to her job and her colleagues.

When I asked Ms. Silva, or Laney as I call her outside of school, about her favorite teaching memory, she said “Some of my best memories are of the little day-to-day things that happened in the classroom, you know, that day when what you’re doing together is just such fun. I suppose one of the ‘bigger’ moments that ranks up there would be when I got to accompany Dr. Girouard McCann to Washington, D.C. to receive the Blue Ribbon Award for HHS. What a proud moment that was for the whole school and community – national recognition for our amazing achievements.”

Growing up as a teacher’s kid, I witnessed first-hand how much work goes into teaching. There is so much that students and parents never see.  Like any job, of course, there are highs and lows.

“The best thing about teaching,” Laney said, “is the fact that you get to work with subject matter that you love and hopefully inspire others to feel the love. And you get to do that work in a close community of people. There’s nothing better.”

As far as the worst part of the job, Laney said that “…the paperwork – the correcting, the forms, the reports, etc. It’s part of the job, but if you have to pick something, that would be it.”

I know my mom would agree; however, it is through the amounts of grading that teachers witness the improvements in students’ work, which is one of the best parts of the job.  

Considering how long Laney has been teaching, I wondered how much the profession and the school culture have changed over 44 years. She said “…the changes in students and the town reflect the larger changes in society. Things are definitely faster paced. If someone had given me a crystal ball in 1973 and showed me a picture of a school or classroom today, I would have thought it was science fiction. I don’t think we could have imagined then the kind of technology we have at our fingertips now.”

While technology has made many school assignments easier to handle, like group projects, Laney said that “…it also creates challenges, many of which circle back to how fast-paced and frenetic things can get for people.”

Yet, she admitted that some things never change:  “Kids will always be kids. And kids are wonderful. That will always remain a constant in teaching.”

When I asked her about the switch from classroom teacher to Department Director 13 years ago, Laney said “I loved every minute of [teaching 30 years], but that was a good opportunity to take things in a new direction. It gave me the opportunity to think about things from a broader perspective and hopefully shape and support programs that would benefit students system-wide. I guess I was just ready at that point. And yes I have enjoyed it immensely. The teachers in the English Department are amazing – and I am constantly inspired by and proud of the work they do.”

It will be weird this fall when school starts and Laney Silva is not asking me about my classes.  I won’t see her on her visits to my house. I won’t be jumping in her pool for the annual “last splash” of summer swim.

As odd as it will seem, I know she has plenty of exciting new plans for her and her family this year. In classic Laney fashion, she alluded to the 1989 movie Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure and a 1984 Muppets movie, when she shared her plans: “My husband and I plan to go on an ‘excellent’ adventure after retirement. In our own version of The Muppets Take Manhattan, we plan to spend a year in New York City, enjoying the culture, the sights, and most of all the grandchildren.”

As her final thought on transitioning from Boston to New York, Laney said “I promise I will never become a Yankees fan, though.”

As one of your biggest fans, I and the HHS community wish you the best of luck in your retirement.

We will miss you 🙁