Career in Chapel Hill

Mary Ann attended Catawba College from 1952 to 1954, and while there she worked for the chair of the business department.  She knew she would be leaving school to get married and move to Chapel Hill, NC, with her husband, so the chair helped her get a coveted secretarial position in the Department of Statistics at a Chapel Hill graduate school.  She did not know anything about statistics at the time, but she enjoyed the job.

Career in Charlotte

In 1956 when Mary Ann, Lin, and their first child Sandy moved from Chapel Hill to Charlotte, NC, Mary Ann did not return to work right away.  When they returned to Chapel Hill briefly in 1963 so her husband could get a degree in English, she worked in the biostatistics department as a research assistant.  While at this job, she started taking a math class during her lunch hour, and quickly developed an interest in and enjoyment of math.  When her family once again returned to Charlotte in 1964, this time for good, she began working as a school secretary at John M. Alexander junior high school in Huntersville, NC.  She took night classes at UNC Charlotte to finish her degree, and graduated with a major in math.  By 1968, she had her teaching certificate and began teaching at Hawthorne junior high school.  After one year, she applied to transfer to John M. Alexander, where she had previously served as secretary, thinking she would get a position in the next five years, since there was not much turnover in terms of job positions at the school.  Fortunately, there was an open spot and she began teaching the following year, and ending up staying for 26 years!  She moved to teaching at the Davidson IB middle school for two years when it first opened, before her retirement.


Mary Ann retired in 1996 from teaching.  Her love of school and learning math even made her consider returning to school to get a PhD in math after retirement.  She decided against it, and took a few years off before beginning a consulting business in 1999 with a friend.  The business worked with middle school math teachers to instruct them in different ways to teach mathematical concepts, and they did this until 2002.  Mary Ann then took more time off, before starting classes on how to do taxes at H&R Block and working for them from 2004 to 2010.  Now she is taking more time off, but her days of working may not be over!

When Lin retired in 1981, he began to devote more time to sailing.  He took many sailing trips to the Bahama islands, both by himself and with family members.

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Teaching as Life Work

Mary Ann described the most interesting part of being a teacher as getting a whole new group of students every year, since she always enjoyed interactions with her students and other teachers.  She loved teaching and the students with “personality,” and admitted that she was always partial to the ones that stayed in trouble.  The most challenging part of her job was worrying about the students who had difficulty in class, but also worrying about ones that were really quick with the material, since she needed to be sure they were understanding everything as well.  She did not enjoy the administrative aspects of the educational system that just seemed to create busy work for teachers and would take away time from more important things like planning lessons.

Click below to hear an audio clip of Mary Ann sharing her favorite aspects of teaching.

Click below to hear an audio clip of Mary Ann’s thoughts on what makes a good teacher.

Mary Ann taught classes that included, at most, 38-40 students.  She taught eight periods of different math classes a day, so in the course of a single day, Mary Ann had to keep track of an extremely large number of kids.  She mostly taught math courses, but occasionally took over a course for another teacher.  She remembers teaching a typing class one year that was enjoyable because it was an unusual and unique experience for the students, and it was interesting to see how they reacted to a lesson that was more interactive and different from that in a typical school day.

Click below to hear an audio clip of particularly proud moments from Mary Ann’s teaching career.

Mary Ann had an interest in teaching from a young age, and always intended to teach elementary school.  She took classes at Queens College in the fall of 1956 and spring of 1957 to take basic elementary school classes to learn about art and literature for young children.  Although she did not end up needing those classes in her professional career, she said they came in very handy when raising her own children.

When asked if she would repeat the career choices she made and do it all again, Mary Ann said she believes that many of the choices were due to coincidence, convenience, and happenstance.  But if she did have a choice, she would not change anything.

Click below to hear an audio clip of Mary Ann giving advice on how to choose a career.


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