‘FULL-CIRCLE MOMENT’: Principal welcomes former student to staff as a first-year teacher


Maxwell Intermediate School principal Lisa Leliaert, left, shows the yearbook photo of Abby Phillips when she was a 4th grader.

Tom Russo

GREENFIELD – In the fall of 2010, a young Abby Phillips was welcomed to her first day of fourth grade by her teacher, Lisa Leliaert.

This fall, she’ll be welcomed back to the school by Leliaert, but this time as a fourth-grade teacher.

Phillips was among the first fourth-grade class to attend Maxwell Intermediate School after a school district restructuring, and was part of Leliaert’s first fourth grade class.

The two women reunited at a recent Greenfield-Central school board meeting this month, where Leliaert proudly introduced her new hire.

“It’s definitely a full-circle moment,” said Phillips, who looks forward to preparing her classroom this summer.

Having graduated from Ball State University this spring, Phillips applied to a handful of other schools but was especially excited to be interviewed for the job at Maxwell.

“I’m super-excited to start there,” said the fresh-faced teacher, who graduated from Greenfield-Central High School in 2019.

Her mother, Megan Hawsey, also works for the school system as a secretary at the junior high school.

Phillips can’t wait to lay down roots and start impacting young lives, just as Leliaert impacted her.

“She always challenged me, always pushed me. Her class was always interesting and never really a dull moment,” said Phillips, who hopes to emulate that same upbeat energy in her own classroom.

“I definitely want to be an engaging teacher. I strive to keep all my students interested and ready and excited to learn at all times,” she said.

Leliaert has no doubt she’ll succeed.

“I think (Abby) is going to excel at engaging our students in the learning process,” said the principal. “She has high expectations for herself, and I hope she has the same expectations for our students. I am excited to see her in action.”

Even as a fourth-grader, Leliaert recognized Phillips’ ability to lead, choosing her to demonstrate lattice math at a school board meeting.

Although the presentation was canceled due to snow, Phillips fondly remembers the afternoons she stayed after school preparing with Leliaert, who recognized her young student’s affinity for math.

“I remember loving that one-on-one time with her. She was very warm and very kind, and super engaging for all of her students at all levels,” Phillips said.

Leliaert remembers Phillips as being respectful and responsible, and serving as a positive role model for her peers.

“My experience with her as a student and through the interview process has shown how Abby is coachable and wants to use feedback to continually show growth. I am confident that she will positively impact student achievement and growth,” said the principal. “I am excited to see her work with students and model lifelong learning.”

Leliaert herself taught for 15 years and served as an instructional coach at Greenfield and Maxwell intermediate schools before transitioning into the assistant principal role at Maxwell four years ago. She took over as principal at the school last fall.

Phillips can’t wait to begin her own career when school resumes July 31.

“I’ve wanted to be a teacher my whole life,” she said. “I’ve never wanted to do anything else.”