Rob Oxford: School’s out for Deanna Mar

Monday, July 8, 2019

Former students drop in to say goodbye to Deanna Mar
Photo by Rob Oxford

By Rob Oxford

One could safely assume that for a teacher, the greatest compliment they could ever receive might come from a student who remembers them and their influence many, many years after graduation.

Obviously, a teacher may not necessarily remember each of her students, having taught thousands over the length of their career, but that in itself might make such an honor even more special.

Now I don’t mean that a teacher should consider it a compliment for being remembered for the same reasons I remember my 8th Grade Teacher and Football Coach. To me, he will always be remembered for the many times he sent me into the hallway for being a disruption in class.

No, I’m referring to those teachers who because of their passion, dedication, understanding and genuine love for their profession, forever hold special places in the hearts of the students they’ve taught.

A former student congratulations Deanna Mar
on her retirement
Photo by Rob Oxford

I’m talking about teachers who develop personal relationships with their students. Teachers who can identify specific students who require extra attention and then provide it without hesitation. Teachers who temper instruction with humor. Teachers whom, despite their meager salaries spend their own money on school supplies.

Teachers who spend their weekends grading papers who sometimes sacrifice spending time with their own children in order to spend time with ours.

One such teacher is Ms. Deanna Mar. Ms. Mar is retiring from Briarcrest Elementary School after 32 years and will be greatly missed I can assure you.

A graduate of the University of Washington with a Master’s in Education, Ms. Mar has been teaching for a total of 42 years. 10 of which were spent at the Fircrest School working with the severely disabled. It is there that she says she learned the most about herself by developing patience and understanding for those in desperate need of assistance.

At the end of her final week as a 5th Grade Teacher, for which she spent 9 years and the rest teaching 6th Grade, I sat down and had lunch with Ms. Mar and her good friend Phyllis Woodward.

Phyllis worked as a Paraeducator alongside Ms. Mar for many years and they have remained good friends. Phyllis shared some details about Deanna’s passion and the type of person she is that Ms. Mar may not have revealed on her own. Somewhat humble, getting her to share her accomplishments was more difficult than I had first imagined it would be.

When Phyllis was dealing with a medical issue that kept her sidelined for an entire summer, it was Deanna who spent her days offering assistance, while Phyllis’ children took over that duty at night. Described by her friend as a kind, caring and giving person, prior to her release from the hospital, Ms. Mar had air conditioning installed in Phyllis’ home in order to keep her cool during her recovery.

Born at Seattle General Hospital, which merged with Swedish back in the mid 70’s, Deanna’s grandparents immigrated from China and her aunt was Ruby Chow, the famous Seattle restaurateur and politician. Ruby Chow's restaurant on First Hill in Seattle was the first Chinese restaurant outside of Seattle's Chinatown and once employed a young man by the name of Bruce Lee.

Before becoming a world-renowned master of martial arts and the founder of Jeet Kune Do, Bruce taught a young Deanna Judo. Ms. Mar chuckles when remembering that because of her size, she was often chosen by her instructor to demonstrate the proper technique for throwing an opponent.

Deanna’s involvement with her students reaches far past her classroom. She was also co-producer of the many fabulous stage productions at Briarcrest and supervised the School Patrol whose responsibility it is to make sure children arrive safely each morning and get to their classes.

An avid reader, lover of all things Mickey Mouse and an expert at Needlepoint, Deanna was also a member of the Chinese Girls Drill Team. The same drill team you see marching each year in the Seafair Torchlight Parade. Her father managed the drill team’s equipment, while her mother was responsible for hand-stitching the extravagant costumes they wear.

Goodbye to Ms Mar
Photo by Rob Oxford

Because I have known her since my wife started working at Briarcrest, it would be difficult to describe Ms. Mar without some obvious bias. Dedicated, intelligent, funny and a bit sassy are all words that fit her description, but you may get a better sense of who she is from someone who was actually in one of her classes.

Make no mistake, with her deep voice Ms. Mar speaks with authority and commands respect. It’s been said that at the end of the year when teachers are assigned, lists are posted and students gather at classroom doors to search for their names, some are initially hesitant when they find they will be in Ms. Mar's class the following year. That is until they get to know her. From that moment on lifelong friendships are often made. I know she has several in our family.

Having taught at the same school for so long, I asked Deanna how often she gets a student whose last name she recognizes? Her answer was occasionally and in fact, some former students actually request their child be put her class.

I’m don't recall the exact words Ms. Mar used when I asked if she had considered returning to teach on a part time basis, but I can tell you that it’s not out of the question.

However, until that time, her immediate plans include sleeping in until 7 and finalizing arrangements for a much-anticipated Mediterranean cruise with friends.

On behalf of my son and all those students who have benefitted from your years of experience and love of teaching, Thank You Ms. Mar. Enjoy your retirement.


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