By Jo Mathis/AAPS District News Editor
Marie Embry was born and raised in Michigan. Her father, Myron, was often promoted at Michigan Bell, which meant the family moved frequently across the state. At one point, Embry attended three schools in three years, which means she fully understands being the “new kid” at school. Her mother, Ann, was a nurse and later a teacher at the college level. Embry has two brothers and one sister, Michele, who is often seen at Pattengill donating her time, talent, and treats when she isn’t at her own job.
Embry graduated from the University of Michigan and completed her master’s degree in reading at Eastern Michigan University. When she started at U-M, she was not sure of her career path, so she began volunteer work with children. It quickly became evident that this was the path she should follow. She has been teaching for 27 years.
Embry lives with her husband, Brent, who often lends his graphic design talents to create items for the classroom. They have two children—both of whom attend AAPS schools—and a five-year-old rescue dog that they hope will one day be trained not to bark at every vehicle that drives by their house.
What was always written on your report card in grade school? Well, my mother says it is “She always finishes her work. She says it was because I always wanted to finish so I could move on to the next thing.
What is your fondest memory of your own year in fifth grade? I was super studious when I was in fifth grade. I participated in Math-O-Rama (a competitive math team), played the clarinet, was one of only two girls on the Little League team and went to a school where I had sign language class every day. I was fluent in sign language and remember signing the pledge of allegiance and talking with my friends in sign language. It used to drive my dad crazy because my sister and I would sign things to each other at the dinner table and he had no idea what we were talking about!
What inspired you to become a teacher? I tried a number of different classes when I was in college but I wasn’t inspired until I took my first education class. I knew it was right for me the first time I stepped into a classroom—that first time to teach a music lesson as a student teacher.
What’s the best compliment anyone could give you? I feel really good when people express appreciation for the hard work that teachers put into educating kids.
In your 27 years in AAPS, what’s the most important thing you’ve learned about teaching? About learning? No two kids, no two days, no two years are ever the same. It’s important to be flexible because everyone comes to the classroom with “stuff” and you can’t just ignore it because you have a lesson to teach.
What advice would you give to a first-year teacher? You’re going to cry at some point when you first start(!) and that’s OK. Just don’t do it in front of the kids! It’s a hard job, but if it is right for you, it can be incredibly rewarding.
What’s the happiest part of your day? I love those moments when everyone is engaged and participating and they are all either understanding what I’m teaching, helping each other, or asking great questions. Those are the moments that I feel I’m completely in sync with the kids and my work.
What do you know about teaching now that you wish you’d known that first year? Probably that there are lots of ways to do things the “right” way and it is ok to make mistakes in front of kids. They’ll still respect you and in fact, they’ll learn something about how to handle mistakes if they see me modeling it.
How do you keep students engaged? The kids will stay engaged if I show I am interested in the material. I keep things relevant for them by making connections to the real world so they can see why it matters to them.
How do you show school spirit? There is a lot of energy at Pattengill and lots of opportunity to show school spirit. My favorite is pajama day when I get to wear my Puma paw print pajamas. And every year at homecoming time the fifth grade has a class spirit competition.
What is the most rewarding part of teaching? When I see the students as adults and they have positive feelings about being in my class. It lets me know that I made an impression and made a difference in their lives.
What do you wish everyone realized about the work of a teacher? I wish that everyone realized that we are working at night, working on the weekends and in the summer even if you aren’t teaching summer school. You rarely stop thinking about the job or the kids. We are not just standing in front of a room delivering curriculum. There are many hats we need to wear to help our students be successful.
How do you recharge? Spending time with my family, yoga, reading (one book for kids, one book for myself, one book for kids, one book for myself…)
How do you spend your summers? Sleeping in and catching up on movies. I also love to bake and often dream about starting a summer business. I even have a name for it: “Summer Cakes and Tasty Pastries.”
What’s most exciting about your professional life right now? Your personal life? We are re-envisioning the Bryant-Pattengill super pair right now. It’s an incredible opportunity to be part of the future planning and development of the schools and the relationship; one that will ensure that Bryant and Pattengill together continue to thrive.
My personal life is busy. Our son started high school this year and is an avid runner. Our daughter is tackling middle school, is taking on new academic challenges, and is busy with dancing. It’s busy, but everyone’s having a good time.