Mary Phillips Wagner

This is a photo of Mary Phillips Wagner. I believe that I always wanted to be a teacher. There were certain moments during my time as a Fayetteville-Manlius student that reaffirmed that choice for me, like when I was able to help a friend pass algebra. 

I teach high school social studies at James Hubert Blake High School in Maryland. Although I have taught many courses in my career, recently I have been teaching AP U.S. Government & Politics and Comparative Religion. I adore my job – I feel like I was born to teach. I get to spend all day talking about fascinating subjects and helping teenagers to understand them. There is nothing more exciting and satisfying than the look on a student’s face when he or she understands a new concept. It’s like watching the world open up for that person.  

My Latin teacher, Mrs. Walker, never gave up on her students. She just didn’t believe that anyone should be allowed to fail. I remember being inspired by how hard she would work to help her students. I also remember being swept up in the joy of an intellectual discussion in Ms. Maroun’s and Dr. Marshall’s AP English classes. There was one discussion in particular where the teacher barely needed to say anything – the students just took the topic and ran with it. 

I strive for that kind of impassioned debate in my classroom today, and when I achieve it, I think back to my senior year English class and smile.  

I am so proud of the many lives that I have touched and continue to affect every day. I am good at what I do, and that makes me a particularly effective teacher, both on academic and life issues. I am one of those teachers that students feel comfortable talking to, and I have been able to make a big impact on the lives of many students through the years. I have former students who have become teachers, and many of them say that I influenced them to follow this career path.  

I am also the sponsor of my school’s gay-straight alliance, a group called Allies for Equality. We work very hard to raise awareness about issues of importance to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Community and have had great success in our school and surrounding community. We have been able to create a more open, accepting and free atmosphere for students at our school. As a result, students feel safer to express who they are, and that makes the whole building a more comfortable place for everyone.  

I think that being a teacher of teenagers made me a better parent. My husband, Fred, and I raised two stellar children – David is now a sophomore at Pomona College in California, and Sarah is a junior in high school. I’m proud of them for being intelligent, hard-working, open-minded people with strong opinions and values.  Fred and I have been married for almost 27 years, and we still have fun together – I consider that to be a triumph! 

My plan, when I am done with my high school teaching career, is to go back to school and get a PhD in history. I want to study the history of immigration in the U.S., and how U.S. policy has changed over the years. I hope to work with current immigrants while I am studying, to help them prepare for citizenship.  




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