Maria Archer has been named principal for kindergarten through grade eight at Eastern Mennonite School. She has been elementary (K-5) principal since the school began in 2005.
“Maria has earned the deep respect and trust of her co-workers and parents over the past decade with her integrity and instinct for connecting with students’ individual strengths and capacities,” says Paul Leaman, head of school.
In her expanded role, Archer, a 1981 graduate of the school, will have the opportunity to further engage — from early learning through eighth grade — a seamless curriculum focused on learning through experience and developing the skills needed to be successful in school and in the workplace.
Archer is excited to carry on into middle school what has been successful in the school’s elementary program where students are encouraged to ask questions and to think creatively. During the critical time of middle school, students learn “to listen to others’ perspectives, to articulate their point of view, and to practice what it means to be a member of a community of faith,” says Archer. “I look forward to being a part of a great team of middle school teachers as we continue to build the program together.”
“Maria created a culture that nourishes each students’ as well as faculty members’ individual gifts at the elementary school,” notes Lynette Mast ‘84, peacebuilding teacher who has been involved with the elementary division since its inception.
Prior to her founding role in establishing the elementary division of EMS, Archer taught fifth grade at Hunter McGuire in Verona and middle school at Friends Select School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
A 1986 graduate of Temple University, Archer spent her childhood in Meridian, Miss., where her parents, Titus and Ann Bender, were involved in Civil Rights Era organizing, working alongside movement leaders such as the Rev. Martin Luther King and Vincent Harding. “I was profoundly shaped by my parents’ work, by the way they welcomed people from many walks of life. They modeled for me the importance of working towards finding ways the marginalized in our society can be heard.” reflects Maria.
As a teen, her parents settled in Harrisonburg and Archer attended Eastern Mennonite High School, graduating in 1981. An accomplished pianist, Archer is married to Joseph Archer, mother to three adult daughters — two of whom graduated from EMS — and grandmother of one. She is a member of St. Jacobs Lutheran church and enjoys baseball, gardening and crocheting in her spare time.
Eastern Mennonite School was established in 1917 and now serves nearly 400 students K-12 EMS offers excellent academics from a foundation of faith and values in a caring community with a global perspective. The campus is located at 801 Parkwood Drive in Harrisonburg, Virginia.