Interviewed by Cynthia Nieves
Mrs. Mary Koch is a social studies instructor who teaches at Uniondale High. This year will be her last at the high school as she moves on into another phase of her life, a phase she describes as one in which there is a
need for change, a different type of growth. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to interview her. I never was able to know her personally, but in the passage of a mere half hour I found her to be an incredibly refreshing individual--one with courage, enthusiasm, and an unquenchable desire constantly to expand her intellectual horizons.
Q. How many years have you taught and how many of those years were spent at Uniondale High?
A. I have taught eleven years and all have been spent at Uniondale High.
Q. What do you feel is the most rewarding experience you have gained during your teaching career?
A. I would have to say my association with the students. I decided to teach at the high school level because I felt the students, being older and more mature, would have more to say and offer on an intellectual level than at an elementary school.
Q. Why did you decided to become a history teacher and did not choose English or math, etc?
A. I've always enjoyed history. I majored in history and acquired my masters in it as well. I had originally planned to be a journalist, but changes in my life--marriage and other things--led me to teaching, and being interested in politics as well, I decided to teach a course I myself enjoy.
Q. Do you feel the students of today are much different from the students of yesterday?
A. When I first came, there was much more turbulence because of the times. I find that students are less involved in public affairs now. At that time, when I began to teach, there was more interest in government and the welfare of the world than there is now. Apathy is the big problem. I have seen positive changes in the young women especially. Girls are much more involved in sports and positions of leadership today.
Q. What do you plan to do after you retire?
A. I don't think of myself as "retiring." I feel this is an important phase in my life, and I want to change, to do something different. I plan to work for this organization called Bread for the World--a lobby-like group that hopes to influence Congress into aiding the hungry, starved,
underdeveloped nations in the world. Having a deep interest in politics, I believe this is a movement that I will help grow--so in reality, I'm not leaving education.
Q. If you had it all to do over again, would you teach?
A. Probably not. In terms of today's world and the new roles women have taken--the whole array of opportunities available--I would definitely go into law if I had it all to do over again. It's not that I regret teaching. It's just that it was the sensible thing to do in that period of my life. It ws good for me.
Q. How would you sum up your years at Uniondale?
A. Happy years overall. Of course there were times of discontent and discouragement when I couldn't seem to get pupils excited and interested in learning, but for that phase of my life it was good for me. Now it's ti me to move on. I'm excited about doing something new.
Q. Is there anything you'd care to say, before we close, to the students.
A. Yes. Be involved . Be committed. Students just sort of drift now. Live! One needs to care about people, the world. I only hope that I can educate the public about the people who need compassion, an outstretched hand. One always needs to keep trying.