“I never had a break,”said health teacher Mary Carlson as she reflected on her early days at Minnehaha Academy. Her first nine years of teaching and coaching usually involved ten or more hours a day at school. The Title IX Amendment sent Carlson and Minnehaha head first into girls’ sports.
In 1972, a federal law was enacted called the Title IX amendment, part of the Civil Rights Act, requiring equal opportunities for males and females in schools. Title IX applied to educational programs, activities and athletics. As far as athletics go, the amendment required equal athletic opportunity, finance and coaching.
Once the amendment was passed, the number of girls participating in sports shot up.
“Sports, to me was more about the drill of the game, and of course I wanted to win but you would just enjoy the game,” she said. Now she sees sports becoming a more serious part of students’ lives, beyond an extra curricular.
She feels that she had an especially strong connection with girls that she coached, but had a connection of her students on a personal level. After graduating from Wheaton College, Carlson student taught at a public school in Chicago with about 40 students in a classroom, so Minnehaha was like a breath of fresh air. Carlson was able to make friends with faculty and help students individually as well as have a place to share and expand in her faith. In fact, the teachers and students are what have kept her at Minnehaha since 1972.
In addition to coaching, Carlson changed the way health class was taught, particularly by creating the Current Health Issues class.
Originally it was meant to be a social studies class, but seeing as almost all the topics were health related, such as grief, drugs and mental disorders, Carlson took on the class. It was crafted in a way to make students draw from personal experience and look at real life situations and how to deal with them.
“As long as I can feel like I’m still enjoying teaching, I’m still able to interact with students and they’re being respectful of me and all that kind of stuff,” said Carlson,“then I don’t necessarily feel like I have to retire.”
While the respect and interactions with those around her remained strong, Carlson and English teacher Janet Johnson agreed it was time for a change of pace.
Next fall, Carlson plans to fly to Alaska with her husband to visit her brother, which she has never had time to do.
In addition, she assists with student teaching at Bethel University in Arden Hills as well as being involved in her church. Sitting at home all day will not be on her agenda.
The final walk down the aisle at graduation will be bittersweet for Carlson. She will not be reminiscing about driving to work, grading piles of essays or sitting in meetings but about those around her who have impacted her life at Minnehaha Academy.