Greg Friedman wore shorts and flip-flops for the first day of school at Sussex School.
And his white shirt and tie.
“I’m dressed for work. School is about having fun, and I am dressed for having fun,” he said.
The new director of the private Missoula school started the year last Wednesday morning with Sussex's traditional meetup of parents, students and staff, greeting one and all as they arrived on campus.
Friedman also addressed the school community at a gathering on the playground before students split off to their homerooms.
“This school is not like other schools. There are a lot of things we do that are very special,” he said.
The route that led Friedman to Sussex took him to schools around the world.
After growing up in Los Angeles, where he decided to be a teacher, Friedman worked in public schools before moving to Boulder, Colo., where he met his wife Amy.
Around 2004, as the couple considered moving to a smaller mountain town in the region, a friend told them about the possibility of teaching internationally.
A visit to an international school job fair in Iowa became the start of 11 years teaching overseas. Friedman worked for two years at a school in Honduras, where his son Zollie was born. The new family moved to Bangladesh for another teaching job, and grew with the addition of daughter Bela.
After five years of living and teaching in Bangladesh, Friedman and his family took a year off to travel and experience what he called the “school of life.”
When they were ready to returning to teaching, Friedman’s former administrator in Bangladesh let him and his wife know about open positions in Denmark, and that became the family’s next destination.
Early in 2015, Friedman was looking for a new opportunity when he was approached by a colleague.
“She said, 'Have you ever thought about Montana? I have this school I think you would love,' ” he said.
Before he had started to travel and teach internationally, Friedman had gone through school administrator training, which made him realize that he didn’t want to run a public school and be forced to deal with the bureaucracy, red tape and politics of those positions.
When he visited Sussex earlier this year, though, the organization of the school was immediately compelling.
“All of those things I had gotten excited about before were possible here,” Friedman said.
At Sussex, he replaces Robyn Gaddy, who was director of the school for eight years. Gaddy said she decided it was time to take a step back from a leadership role to be able to focus on other projects.
“I felt like the school was in a good place,” she said.
Gaddy’s daughter is still a student at the school, and she said she is excited to continue to support Sussex as a parent.
Friedman said he is still getting to know the students and parents at Sussex, and is looking forward to spending part of his time every day walking between the classrooms to sit in and learn more about what makes the school special.
He said Sussex aligns with his own teaching philosophy of working to make sure students aren’t just learning course material, but growing up ready for life.
“What are we really trying to teach? Is it multiplication tables and knowledge, or is it learning to be a person?” Friedman said.
His children will also be students at Sussex: Zollie in fourth grade and Bela in second.
“This is that small mountain town we’ve always thought about,” he said. “There’s a great sense of home.”