As a philosophy of education, it sounds deceptively simple, but for Herbert Boyd it meant years of hard work. But he left his mark.
"I always felt my main task was to make it possible for teachers to teach and children to learn," said Boyd. "When my children leave school each day, they should feel a little bit better for having been in school.
"I know it sounds corny, but where there is love in a school, learning is bound to take place. Without it, you can usually forget about everything else."
A teacher and administrator in the city's public schools all of his adult life, Boyd retired last December as principal of Brent Elementary School on Capitol Hill.
Last Saturday several hundred students, former students, parents, teachers and friends gathered at a testimonial luncheon at L'Enfant Plaza Hotel to say thank you to Herbert Boyd for 32 years of service in the public schools.
Mayor Marion Barry said Boyd has "given us the leadership we need. I belive very strongly in the public schools of the District of Columbia, and we need people like Mr. Boyd who will stand up for the education of our young people."
"Herb's a very popular guy and this is something like his last hurrah," said Herb Ressing, a former PTA president at Brent and one of the organizers of the luncheon.
"He is what I would consider to be one of the finest models of an elementary school principal in this city," said Even Nelson, who got her first teaching job under Boyd at Brent School.
"He encouraged me and supported me when as an inexperienced teacher I felt like I was losing my mind. He gave me a sense of accomplishment and he encouraged me to continue. As principal, he taught a class and he did lunchroom duty. Everybody loves and respects him beyond words."
Named principal of Brent in July 1970, Boyd was the first principal in the city to be chosen by parents of the children attending a school. For the next eight years, he led a school that remained about one-third white and two-thirds black with a range of well-to-do, middle-income and poor families.
"He was always starting up programs to involve more parents and more of community," said Ressing, who had two children at Brent.
"You had people all over Capitol Hill who were outside the Brent district pulling all kinds of strings to get their children into Brent. I started out as a reluctant PTA member. Herb Boyd persuaded me I ought to get more involved and I ended up being president of the PTA."
A native of South Carolina, Boyd moved to Washington with his family in 1930 when he was in the fifth grade and attended public schools and teachers college here. He was class of 1937 at Dunbar High School, where he was captain of the football, basketball and baseball teams.
In the fall of 1946, after 4 1/2 years in the Army, he took his first teaching job, as a fifth-grade teacher at Lovejoy Elementary School. There were 48 children in the class.
"you can discipline yourself to certain things, if you have to do it, and we had to do it," he recalled.
For the next 20 years he taught at Lovejoy, at Spingarn and Dunbar high schools and at Logan Elementary School, 3rd and G streets NE, where he became principal in 1966.
Three former students, John Kinard from Lovejoy, now director of the Anacostia Museum; Alfred Moye from Spingran, now deputy commissioner of education at the U.S. Office of Education, and Andrew Jenkins from Dunbar and Spingarn, now assistant superintendent for Region 3 in the city public school system, were on the program at the luncheon testimonial.
"My students have always been my best public relations agents," said Boyd. "Kids in a school have just as much right as I do. If a child wants a conference with me, he has just as much right as a teacher. Everyone will be treated decently."
Jennifer Janke, who was graduated from Brent last year, agreed. "Mr. Boyd threw himself into the school, but perhaps the most outstanding thing he did was how much he cared about all the people connected with Brent. He seemed to have a talent for making people feel better about themselves."
While at Brent, Boyd made a point of seeing to it that custodial staff and cafeteria help were included in all social functions of the school, and when it was time to clean up, he made a point of grabbing a broom or helping out with the washing.
"A principal should be visible doing those things," he said.
In 1973, Boyd was the recipient of the D.C. Citizens for Public Education award for "outstanding service in the field of public education," and two years later he was given an honorary life membership in the National Congress of PTAs.
Although he had been a burly, vigorous man, his health had begun to deterioriate in the last few years and by last December, at the age of 60, as he puts it, "I decided to hang up my shingle,"
"I would have liked to have stayed on, but it was time to step aside and turn it over to a younger person," he said. "The job needs somebody who can give it full time.
"I wish I could have touched all my children in a way that would have made them successful, but of course that was not always the case."
In retirement, Boyd says, he plans to spend more time on community activities and tend his garden at his home in far Southeast Washington. He is looking forward to the retirement next year of his wife, Frances, a supervisor with the city's public schools. He has two children, Herbert, Jr., a psychiatric social worker, and Saundra, a building manager.
At first, he said, he didn't like retirement at all. "It was terrible, but that slowly faded away and I go to the point where I am certainly enjoying my retirement," he admitted CAPTION: Picture 1, Mayor Marion Barry, left: "We need more people like M. Boyd."; Picture 2, Present and former students surround retired principal Herb Boyd at testimonial luncheon. Photo by Craig Herndon-The Washington Post