Rome Corners Intermediate School band teacher Mary Prior is hanging up the baton this month.
Prior has been teaching for 38 years, including the last 22 teaching band and orchestra in the Oregon School District. She said she’s taught nearly 4,000 students in that time and “loved every minute of it.”
“The Oregon School District has been a wonderful way to spend a career,” she wrote in an email to the Observer last week.
Here is a Q and A with Prior on her career:
How did you become interested in music education?
When I was in high school and considering college, I kept thinking about what brought me the most joy and what I could see myself doing that would make an impact. I enjoyed school band, orchestra, choir and taking piano lessons the most, so I decided that maybe that was what I should do, so other kids could have the same experience.
What brought you to the district?
After teaching some years in Ohio, then moving to Wisconsin and taking off some years to be at home with children, I saw a part time band teacher posting for the Oregon School District and applied. That led to full time after a short while and it was always a comfortable fit for me and for my family.
How has your job evolved over the years?
My job had a few twists and turns.
It started as a part time band job at Netherwood Knoll and Prairie View, back when fifth grade was still in the elementary buildings. Then to make it full time, I added in a para position teaching reading and a para position with special education students at the High School. Eventually, with the opening of Rome Corners, I went full time, with a one year blip where I took a position at the high school for a semester doing special ed and two long term sub jobs at RCI.
The next year I was full time from then on at RCI.
What were the most rewarding parts of your job?
The most rewarding parts of my job were always seeing kids get excited about music. It never got old!
I just loved seeing their excitement and taking them through that first year of playing. It has been really rewarding to see so many former students go on into some form of music as a profession and I try to keep in touch with them!
Do you have a favorite story or most memorable moment at OSD?
I have lots of funny moments to remember from years of teaching.
One story was when a student was confused about this gurgling sound in her trumpet and another student said “just empty that spit onto the carpet.” The girl looked at him like he was crazy, and he said “What? That’s what I do at home … don’t tell my mom!”
Another moment that was really fun was this year when the group “ReVoiced” came to perform at our school and I got called up to dance and participate in a song. I was so shocked at hearing my name get called … but it was really fun.
What are your plans after retirement ?
My plans for retirement are to travel more, which sadly, could be affected by this pandemic. One of my children lives in Europe and I want to be able to visit her when it’s not as expensive as it is on spring break or summer!
I also love dabbling with photography and particularly bird photography. I want to be able to have wonderfully long days of birding, hiking, kayaking, reading and taking lots of photos.
I will continue teaching private music lessons, but my families know that I will take off at odd times and they say they’re fine with that!