If you took Spanish at Oyster River High School (ORHS), chances are that you got to meet one of the most friendly and fun teachers, Mary Beaton, who is retiring this year.
After 44 years of teaching, Beaton has taught thousands of students who have fond memories of her caring, energetic personality and love for Spanish. She will be missed by her colleagues in the language department and many students who had the opportunity to spend a year or more learning with her. Even though Beaton will miss spending each day at ORHS, she is looking forward to continuing her passion for Spanish by potentially traveling to some Spanish-speaking countries and most of all, getting to sleep in!
Beaton had always known from the young age of five that she wanted to be a teacher. She would play ‘school’ often as a child, so being a teacher was always on her mind. Spanish became part of her career plan later. She said, “I took Spanish in 9th grade and I kind of fell in love with [it].” As soon as she graduated from college she started teaching and has been ever since.
This definitely stuck with her colleague in the language department, French teacher Barb Milliken, who said, “something that’s really interesting about Mrs. Beaton is that she’s always known she wanted to be a teacher. I think it’s really cool to witness someone who found their passion from an early age. She went through a full career and realized that it truly was the passion she was meant to do.” She continued, “she is super smart: a really really intelligent woman. She is passionate about teaching Spanish, kids learning and making language come alive.”
Students have always been able to see Beaton’s love for her job. Aislinn Doherty (‘22) took both Spanish II and IV with her and said, “she’s definitely very passionate about her job and all of her students.” Doherty continued, “even if you didn’t have [Beaton] as a teacher but she knew who you were roughly, she would smile at you in the hallway, wave at you, or ask you how your day was going. I think she was a really important part of the language department and the school as a whole. A lot of people are going to miss her.”
Many people identify Beaton by her big smile and positivity. She walked into school everyday excited because of the students. “What I value most is my relationships with the students […] that is why I do what I do.” She continued, “it brings me joy to introduce students to something new: new language, new culture. That’s pretty much what keeps me going,” she said.
Kelly Zhang (‘23), a student of Beaton’s Spanish IV class last year, said, “The thing that stands out the most to me is her energy and her enthusiasm for teaching and Spanish. It’s really contagious because it makes us all excited to learn.”
For most people, the thing that drew them to Beaton was the energy and enthusiasm she had. What drew Beaton to teaching high schoolers was exactly the same. “I just like the energy. I love teenagers. I love being around them. They’re curious, they’re energetic: just fun to be with. That is what I will miss and being able to share what I know with them.”
Being able to share knowledge and experiences was very important to her. One of her most fond memories was from the trips to Spanish-speaking countries with students. “I used to take students to Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, and Spain over the years. That is a life changing experience for many of them and that is just a ton of fun.”
Wendy Gibson, Beaton’s colleague and a Spanish teacher at ORHS, shared how much she’s enjoyed taking trips with Beaton. Gibson has been working with Beaton since 2007 and over the 15 years, “we’ve collaborated a lot and so I think she’s definitely affected my teaching and different projects.” Gibson continued, “over the years she’s developed different projects that I think will continue when she’s gone.”
Beaton shared how her retirement will be bittersweet. “I will miss the kids, for sure [and] I will miss my colleagues. There’s a really nice group of people here to work with.” However, she is looking forward to the opportunity to travel since that’s something else she is passionate about. “I’d like to go to more Spanish-speaking countries that I haven’t visited yet. I’d like to become involved with some kind of nonprofit or service-oriented group because one of the reasons I went into education was to give back to the community and I would like to be able to continue to do that.”
Although Beaton’s time as a teacher is ending, she shared, “I’m very lucky because not many people really get to do what they love. I am very proud of what I do and very happy that I got to do it. I am going to miss it.”