Excerpted from Green Hedges, The First Sixty Years by Sherry Dart
Green Hedges School was founded in 1942 by Frances Kilmer, daughter of Impressionist painter, Frederick Frieseke, and Kenton Kilmer, son of famous American poet Joyce Kilmer. The Kilmers sought to provide a positive learning environment free from prejudice, and enriched curriculum that included the best in all the arts, a global exposure to history, and a commitment to citizenship and character. Green Hedges began in the Kilmer’s Arlington home with ten students and one full-time teacher. Mrs. Kilmer taught classes and was involved in all aspects of the school. Mr. Kilmer frequently took time away from his job at the Library of Congress to read aloud to the students.
“My wife and I started this school in 1942 for a variety of reasons,” Kenton recalled in an early Green Hedges Bulletin. “We had heard of neighboring schools with classes of forty to sixty pupils, and we wanted both to do what little we could to relieve this crowded condition and to provide for our own children classes small enough to allow for some individual attention.
“We also wanted to give our children an enriched curriculum and encourage an appreciation of the best in literature, music and pictorial art. Most of all, we wanted to develop in our children and in the others, the love of God and neighbor, a strong sense of justice and devotion to freedom, and a generous patriotism.”
“Children leaving our school should have the courage to act according to their own conscience, and to meet the strange, the foreign, the new with eager and joyful interest,” he said.
By 1955, the Kilmer family had grown to eight children and the School to sixty students; it was bursting at the seams. A property found in the historic neighborhood of Windover Heights in Vienna, Virginia proved an ideal solution. Both the Kilmer family and Green Hedges School moved from Arlington to Vienna that year, and the School expanded to eight grades.
Fifty years later, with Green Hedges expanded and established in Vienna, Frances expressed her guiding sentiments. “One of our operating principles, perhaps the main one, may be called the enjoyment of learning,” she said. “Living next door to the school, as we do, we have had the pleasure each morning of seeing the children running, skipping or dancing on their way into the school buildings. Many of them are early each day; they’re in no hurry, just happy and eager. It is our endeavor to encourage and develop this spirit in each student so that he or she will approach the tasks and problems of life with the same eagerness.”
Today, parents and community leaders serve on the Board of Trustees, and the school enrolls no more than 190 students.
The school has flourished under the leadership of seven subsequent Heads of School: Charles A. Wright, Mrs. Kathleen Battaglia, Mr. George Schumacher, Mr. Scott Votey, Mr. Frederick W. Williams, Mr. Robert E. Gregg, III, and Jennifer P. Bohnen.
The dedicated efforts of a school’s leader must embrace the institution’s core values and facilitate the creation and preservation of an environment where young children comfortably grow intellectually, emotionally, physically and spiritually. A truly sustainable school setting is one in which children and adults learn together as they enthusiastically pursue their thoughts and inspirations.
Jennifer P. Bohnen, Head of School
In the winter of 2019, Jennifer Peterson Bohnen was appointed the eighth Head of School at Green Hedges School. Jennifer officially began her tenure on July 1, 2019. Jennifer came from Aspen Country Day School in Aspen, Colorado where she served as Head of Lower School. Jennifer earned her Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership from George Washington University and her Bachelor of Science Degree from Northern Arizona University. Jennifer and her husband, Dave, are parents to Colby, a Green Hedges student.