There stood Miss Mask, with Midnight Special, the women’s quartet in which she sings, belting out “In the Still of the Night” before a crowd of more than 100 adoring fans. Her red sequin dress sparkled and shimmied along with the beat Saturday night in the ballroom of the Tysons Corner Crown Plaza Hotel during a celebration honoring the beloved retired English teacher from Falls Church's J.E.B. Stuart High School.
Harriet “Ozzi” Mask taught English and journalism for thirty years at Stuart, while also sponsoring the school newspaper, cheerleaders, theater group and “It’s Academic” teams. She retired in 1990. Mask is one of those teachers who make an indelible mark in the lives of her students and Saturday that kindness was, in part, repaid to her.
Former students from all over the country arrived to honor their teacher with dinner and to create a college scholarship fund for Stuart students in her name. The celebration was aptly dubbed “Ozzifest,” playing off of Mask's middle name.
Nancy Mills (Stuart class of ’66), initiated the planning for the “Ozzifest” tribute. On Saturday night, Mask revealed some of her sentiments towards her former student during her teaching days.
“Most of the time I was going to kill you,” Mask said to Mills with a smile.
Mills, along with a planning committee, contacted more than 1,000 alumni, soliciting interest in the proposed scholarship and homage.
“She is awesome!” Mills said, despite the notification of the facetious death wish.
The night was filled with love and Mask seemed overwhelmed by it all. Everyone wanted to talk to her, catch up and hug their favorite teacher, the one they can’t forget.
“I never wanted to be a teacher, that's for sure,” Mask said. “I was like, 'Oh no, oh no.' but my uncle, who was sending me to college, suggested ‘Why don't you get a teachers' certificate?’”
She took her uncle's advice and started taking education courses. Although, other students were ahead of her, she caught up and completed her certification. “I did my student teaching my senior year and it was a class of sophomores in Fredericksburg and they were really lively, but I thought this is fun. This is funny.”
Mask doesn’t seem eager to be in the limelight during the evening.
“I’m not much into the speeches and things, but seeing my kids, like Art and his sister, I had them both,” Mask said. I had the school newspaper, Raider's Digest, and I had cheerleaders also, so I think it's a mixed bag, they're still all my kids.
“They are too kind and I am just glad to see them. They are still my kids.”