Charlene Vickery, Parkwood School

Clarene Vickery, shown here at a celebration at Parkwood School in Vienna on May 15, 2016, has been the guiding force behind the school since its inception in her Vienna home in 1956.

The year was 1956, and Charlene Vickery saw a pressing need for early-childhood education in Vienna.

At a time when Virginia localities did not even offer kindergarten, she started a school for young children in the front room of her home. Given the wooded area surrounding her Park Street neighborhood, the endeavor was promptly named Parkwood School.

On May 15, about 150 students and 18 faculty members were joined by 200 parents and friends at the 60th annual “May Day” end-of-school-year festivities. The event also was a precursor to the birthday of Mrs. Vickery, who turned 98 years old on May 22.

“This is a glorious tradition and the best May Day ever,” said Mrs. Vickery, who continues to run the school.

In addition to an array of songs – including “Happy Birthday” – and dances performed by students, there was the traditional May Pole to conclude the festivities.”

“I am so grateful to the generations of students, parents and faculty who have made Parkwood a success and enabled me to serve preschoolers in the community for these 60 years,” Mrs. Vickery said. “Lord willing, we’ll do it again next year.”

For her efforts, Mrs. Vickery has received numerous accolades, including a lifetime-achievement award from the Virginia Association for Early-Childhood Education.

Congratulations poured in, including one from Hillary Clinton, who said Mrs. Vickery’s pioneering work and commitment to the youngest learners “remain beacons of inspiration for parents, educators and all those dedicated to giving our children every opportunity to succeed.”

Since its founding, about 5,000 students have attended the school. Among those in attendance at the anniversary celebration was Donna Boyd of Clifton, the school’s first May Queen.

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