a community engagement initiative of Momence CUSD #1
In an era where technology has improved and redefined itself, keeping pace can be challenging but also rewarding. Momence Business and Technology teacher, Mary McGrath, has learned that keeping up with new trends is a foundational aspect of her high school technology teaching role. She’s taught Business and Technology at Momence high school for fifteen years, constantly adding new skills.
By Barry Engelhardt
After Mary graduated college with an accounting degree, she earned her CPA and went to work in financial services. But when her youngest entered kindergarten, Mary transitioned, returning to school to obtain her master’s degree in teaching and her teaching certificate in business and technology. Eventually, she paused her career to stay home with her four children.
While business came naturally due to her experience, she quickly grew into the technical aspects of her job, sharing that, especially in a smaller school, one comes with the other. While the District recently hired a second business teacher, Mary has acted as a one-person department throughout much of her tenure.
Through grant money and a partnership with the Kankakee Career Center, Mary’s started offering training modules and certification tests for several software applications. She started with Microsoft Office products, such as PowerPoint, Word, and Excel, and recently added Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. Once a student passes, they have a credential they can display on their LinkedIn profile, resume, or college applications. It’s a tangible asset they can carry with them wherever they go.
Some computer applications, especially Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, came naturally after using them steadily during her career and school. Other programs and skills, such as web design using Illustrator and image editing using Photoshop, were self-taught out of necessity. Over the last fifteen years, Mary shares that “technology has progressed quite a bit. When I started teaching, my children sometimes taught me. I could go to them and ask questions and learn the lingo. Even today, I still learn from the kids.”
Mary adds, “I love this age. I love teaching high school. You can really have conversations with them. It’s fun. They’re a fun group of kids. I love that my area is always changing, constantly forcing my students and me to learn new things.”
Mary recently started teaching Introduction to Computer Science. She smiles as she asks, ‘who would have thought?’ She proudly admits to learning all kinds of things that she confesses to having had no idea about, but which she considers interesting. Her class is currently working on animation and gaming by creating games focused on animated characters. “It’s cool to see the kids who are really into it. It’s not for everyone, but it’s cool to introduce them to it,” says Mary. She adds, “it’s not just coding. There’s so much more that goes into it. So much more to learn.”
Mary credits Momence with providing a solid foundation for her department’s successes. “Everyone’s very supportive. The administration always supports anything I ask for,” she says. She also credits the small community and, therefore, smaller class size, as critical for her students’ development, especially in her more technical classes.
Momence provides Mary with the support she needs as she constantly reinvents herself, learns from her students, and pushes forward as she prepares her students for the future. Mary and her students are fleeting toward tomorrow using today’s knowledge and its applied technology.