As we head into the final weeks of the school year, it is time to say goodbye to another teacher; Special Education teacher Mary Yulo will be retiring this summer. We caught up with her to find out why she loves the BOCES Outdoor Education programs and what school subject is her favorite. We also heard about an especially hysterical incident she recalls.
Q: How long have you been a teacher at the school, what grade/subject and where did you teach before?
A: I have been teaching in Briarcliff schools for 35 years. Through the years, I have taught students in grades three through 12, so I have called all three buildings “home.” As a special educator, I have taught across content areas: English, science, social studies and math but marine biology is my passion. I started the course at the high school, and taught biology and English there. Prior to my time in Briarcliff, I taught at the American School of Paris and at the United Cerebral Palsy school in Purchase.
Q: What are some memorable moments from your career at the schools?
A: My most memorable moments have been watching students engage in hands-on learning experiences. Creating an outdoor classroom, weeding and planting in the garden, presenting projects, completing science labs, going on field trips, overnight camping at Madden, performing plays…the excitement is palpable, and the learning sticks! Watching students snorkeling on coral reefs and interacting with dolphins, in a total immersion marine biology program in the Florida Keys, was “next level.” Working with BOCES Outdoor Education programs enriched my teaching and enriched student learning.
Q: Can you share a funny incident that happened while teaching?
A: I had the pleasure of working on a unique video collaboration called “Seals on Camera” with the Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk. Cameras were placed on islands in the Long Island Sound to observe migrating seals and live-stream the footage. An article was published in a popular technology magazine, and the program was cited in “The 10 Top Innovative Technology Projects of the Year.” While I did participate with a group of students on a very chilly winter seal watch on the Sound, the article suggested that I was somehow at the forefront of technology in education. Anyone who knows my technology skill level will appreciate the irony. It was a rich moment when one of my most tech-savvy colleagues showed me the article, in abject disbelief. For the students and me, it was about learning in the field.
Q: Do you have any advice to offer to a teacher starting out?
A: Listen carefully to your students. Watch their body language. You’ll learn so much! Learn how to “recharge your batteries” and do it regularly. Teaching can be exhilarating and exhausting at the same time, so make sure your batteries are charged.
Q: What are your plans for retirement?
A: Spending time with family is high on my list. I also plan to expand my garden and continue beekeeping. I will be spending more time kayaking and paddle boarding, hiking, beach-walking and practicing botanical illustration. At some point, I am hoping to start a creative, online business.
Q: If you can pass any wisdom to your students what would it be?
A: Know that your teachers believe in you. Learn to believe in yourself.
Q: What is your favorite quote?
“Of all the paths you take in life, make sure some of them are dirt.” - John Muir, Naturalist.