Diving In at Sussex 1

New Director Is Eager For Challenges And Laughs

Greg Friedman knew he wanted to work in education by age 12. That early awareness led him to some incredible opportunities. His latest (and he hopes his last) brings him to Missoula where, this fall, he will start his 20th year in education as the new director of Sussex School.

Educated at Duke University and the University of Colorado, Friedman credits the foundation of his own success with the great fortune of having wonderful parents that prioritized his education. His love of teaching has taken him around the world, from California and Colorado to Honduras and Bangladesh to, most recently, Denmark. Throughout, Friedman and his wife Amy had been looking for a small mountain community where they could put down real roots. They jumped at the chance to come to Missoula when they heard about the position at Sussex. Zollie and Bela complete the Friedman clan and will both be attending Sussex with Dad as fourth and second graders, respectively.

As the first day of school approaches, Friedman is eager to dive in—both at Sussex and in Missoula.

What brought you to Sussex?

A wonderful colleague in Copenhagen and former Sussex parent and teacher, Jennie Bucher, approached us to tell us about Sussex and how she thought it would be a great fit for our family and our values. Sussex and Missoula tick a lot of our boxes for where we’d like to be as a family and as educators. In many ways, Sussex is our dream school: small, child-centered, progressive, caring, fun, outdoorsy and excellent. The chance for our family to join the Sussex School community as a leader, parents and two students is an opportunity that we are honored to receive and one that we couldn’t pass up.

What do you envision your typical day will entail once school starts?

Nearly all of my days start with a run, hopefully on Missoula’s excellent trails. At school, my priority is to see a little bit of as many classes as I can each day to get to know what the school is like for our students. I also want to collect information from as much of the school community and larger community as I can, and I expect to have a lot of conversations—both formal and informal—helping orient me to Sussex and Missoula. My door will be open and I hope many people will drop in. I expect most days to end with time with my family: participating in after-school programs, outside exploring, inside playing games and having dinner together.

What sets Sussex apart from other schools where you have worked?

Sussex is the first place I will have worked where both parents and staff have clear school choices and are very intentional about choosing Sussex because of its strengths and values. Families and staff choose Sussex because of what it offers to children, what it stands for in education, and how it is more than a school. It is a community hub.

What part of the school year are you looking forward to the most?

I really love every part of school, even the meetings. However, I know the activities and programs beyond the typical day often stick most firmly in student and staff memories. I am really looking forward to the Fall Camp, where the whole school community—staff, students, and many parents—spend a few days and nights together outdoors getting to know each other and ourselves better, exploring, learning and having fun. I am also looking forward to teachers inviting me to come along for field trips in the community. (Hey, teachers, I hope you are reading this!)

Describe your perfect field trip.

One where several things come together at once: Students are engaged, a requirement for learning; connections are made between learning in the classroom and the world beyond; adults participate as mentors and learners; food and laughter are shared; and at least one knee (physical or proverbial) is skinned as kids explore and are challenged.

What excites you about working in the school system?

Schools are amazing institutions, created by societies to prepare the next generation to join and uplift our community. Children are incredible human beings that never cease to impress me, challenge me, and make me laugh. I think I have the dream job.

What do you hope to accomplish by the end of your first year?

I hope to become intimately familiar with everything that makes Sussex tick. Additionally, I expect us to complete the visioning process that we have started and to create a cohesive and coherent plan to guide our decisions moving forward.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I hope I am still happily living in Missoula and working at Sussex. Sussex has a history of keeping directors around a long time; I am only the fifth director in more than 40 years. I hope not to break that trend. Although I have moved a lot as an adult, my wife and I hope that Missoula and Sussex will be a good place to put down some roots.