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Preston Presses On

Posted 05/22/2008 by Julia Harrington

Mary Beth Preston retires after 33 years of teaching.
by Julia Harrington

Preston.jpg    The atmosphere of Mary Beth Preston’s classroom is a welcoming one, where students and faculty are invited to be themselves as she shares her knowledge, humor and stories. Clearly, when Preston retires this year she will be greatly missed.

     Preston has been teaching in the Thomas Jefferson English department for six years, and has been teaching in general for a total of 33 years. She has a Bachelor’s in Language Arts and Secondary Education from the University of Bloomsberg in Pennsylvania, and a Masters in Communication and Language Arts from Lesley College in Colorado Springs. “My interest in teaching came out of my love of literature,” said Preston. “My mother suggested that I get my teaching degree and this has been a perfect outlet for my passion.” Preston has also been a speech and debate teacher.
     After deciding to teach, Preston immediately knew that she wanted to teach high school students. TJ has become a perfect fit for her. “I’ll miss walking in the halls and seeing all the students. I’ll certainly miss my fellow teachers; I have a lot of friends here,” shared Preston. When asked about what is unique about TJ from other high schools, Preston had a lot of insight. “TJ is unique in its diversity.  It has socio-economic, religious, and cultural diversity. Everyone is at a different place and it’s amazing,” said Preston, who also gave credit to those who support the uniqueness Thomas Jefferson has. “I will miss the administration. They are easy to talk to and they always support us,” she said.
     A prominent focus in her career at TJ has been when graduation rolls around. “One of my fondest memories is knowing how well our graduations work out. I help out with them and it’s always nice to see our hard work come together and work out,” said Preston. The end of this year is a significant time for her as she helps plan her last TJ graduation, which is as she speaks fondly of her senior students. “ Even though the seniors get lazy that last week, they get sentimental and they reminisce about how much they are going to miss each other, and they even say that they will miss you.”
     “People ask me all the time why do you like teaching. Teaching is never ever boring; it can be very challenging because you are in the people business. That’s not always easy though because sometimes when you get close to people it can get messy,” said Preston, who added that she hopes the best for each one of her students and that she would like to share these words of wisdom to share with them, “I’m a firm believer in self reliance; students really have to learn to rely on yourself.”
    When looking back on her career, Preston remembers the people she has positively affected. “I will miss the smile she put on my face every day, the way she got excited when she wore earrings, and her passion for literature,” said Senior Erin Anderson.
    Preston admits that she uses humor in her teaching, sometimes not even meaning to.  This trait has been passed down to a certain previous student teacher. Funny man, history teacher, and former student teacher for Preston, Jon Poole had humorous words of his own to share. “Ms. Preston taught me everything I know.  When I got my own classroom I had to relearn everything the right way,” said Poole. “In all seriousness, she is one of the most caring and smartest people I know. I’m still pretty broken up that she picked Mr. Jackson for prom, but I have my own plan to get her back at her retirement party.”
    Retirement starts a new adventure for this lover of travel, but at least for the time being she will stick to somewhat familiar territory. “I’m going to go into substitute teaching. I’m going to sub at all different levels and areas of schools for probably about six schools,” said Preston who added that she will substitute at TJ but she isn’t able to start until October. With her free time she also plans to spend more time with her family. “I’m just looking forward to some time to myself where I’m not grading papers or writing tests, and just enjoying students when I sub,” said Preston.
     It is clear that teaching is not only Preston’s passion, but her calling. She has made an impact on this school that will not fade. The scene during the time I was in Preston’s classroom perfectly describes Preston’s character. Throughout the 50-minute interview, she calmly reacted with the utmost care to each situation that was going on in her room. She consoled a heart-broken student, took a picture with “reminiscing” seniors, lent her room to math tutoring, and dealt with my incessant questions. Preston is not just a teacher at TJ anymore, she is friend and mentor, and no one will be able to take her place.