Goodale says goodbye to MUMS

MIDDLEBURY — Ask veteran Middlebury Union Middle School social studies educator Mary Goodale what got her interested in teaching, and she will give you, without hesitation, a very offbeat answer.
“Swimming,” she said with a grin during an interview last week about her decision to retire this month after more than three decades as a teacher.
She explained she caught the teaching bug when, as a student at Keuka College in New York state, she was asked to take over a swimming class after the physical education teacher was promoted. Goodale, who had her water safety instructor certification, took on the challenge and was good at it.
Goodale ultimately decided that she should channel her teaching efforts toward academia rather than athletics.
“I’ve always loved history,” she said. “It seemed to be natural and always came easy to me. It always made a lot of sense.”
So Goodale majored in history and minored in education. She graduated from Keuka in 1972, the same year she married her husband, Walter, then an aspiring veterinarian. The couple moved to Columbia, Mo., where Walter would attend graduate school at the University of Missouri and Mary would land her first job — as a seamstress doing alterations at what she called a fancy women’s clothing store.
“I will never do that again for money, because it was awful,” she said of the job.
Her luck changed, however, when the tiny community of Cairo (Mo.) advertised in 1973 for a teacher for its Northeast R IV public school, which counted around 200 students in grades K-12.
“To say that Cairo was a little town would be an understatement,” Goodale said. “It had 264 residents.”
Goodale ended up becoming the entire history department for Northeast R IV. She taught American history, world history, sociology, American government, black history and psychology, primarily to students in grades 7 and 9-12.
“Because I was the whole history department, I can remember having one kid three times a day,” Goodale said.
Since Walter needed to spend countless hours for his graduate studies, Mary Goodale spent a lot of time at the school, serving as sponsor of its pep club and cheerleading team.
“One year I went to more (school) basketball games than either of the basketball coaches,” she recalled with a chuckle.
The family spent six years in Missouri, then moved to Canton, N.Y., where Walter spent a brief time with a dairy veterinary practice. It was while there that the couple welcomed their first child.
In 1979, the Goodales moved to Vermont — first to Fair Haven, and then to Weybridge, where they continue to reside. With a second child in tow, Mary switched to a new profession, full-time mom. She remained a stay-at-home mom for the next 10 years before re-entering the workforce in 1989, as a part-time “study skills” instructor at MUMS.
“It was to support any students that were having a hard time (with their studies),” Goodale explained.
She balanced the MUMS job with another part-time gig at the Middlebury College Library, specializing in foreign literature acquisitions. In 1991, Goodale was able to join MUMS full-time in the social studies teaching position she has held ever since.
The curriculum in those days required her to teach such subjects as ancient history and the U.S. Constitution. She has most recently been teaching 19th-century U.S. history to 7th-graders and 20th-century U.S. history to 8th-graders.
Goodale and her social studies colleagues Peter Brakeley and George Kulhowvick have been credited with using some innovative tools to make history come alive for MUMS students. She recalled 8th-grade classes occasionally convening at the Cornwall Congregational Church for role playing, in costume, for a mock debate among 18th century Torreys, Radicals or Moderates.
“The Moderates were the ones who voted,” Goodale said. “They would have a debate about whether we should stay loyal to England or break away and become a separate country. It wasn’t always a foregone conclusion that we were going to break away.”
On the day of the debate, students would dine on an old-school lunch including corn chowder and homemade bread and hand-churned butter.
“I’ve loved it,” Goodale said of teaching. “I’ve loved working with the kids, developing the curriculum and finding the resources.”
She gave major shout-outs to Brakeley and Kulhowvick for their collegial approach to teaching.
“I really like the team approach here. It’s been a great department to work with,” Goodale said. “We trade materials around all the time. Pete and George couldn’t have been any greater.”
She will miss her colleagues and students when she leaves MUMS and teaching later this month. But at age 65, she wants to be on the same page as her husband, who retired five years ago. Goodale would like more time to travel, garden and sew. Walter and Mary Goodale have three grown children and one grandchild, with another on the way.
“(Retiring) is much harder than I thought it would be,” Goodale said. “It’s tough to let go. This is who I have been for so many years.”
MUMS Principal Patrick Reen said Goodale will be missed.
“Over the course of the many years Mary has worked at MUMS she has always shown a deep level of care for the students in her social studies classes,” he said. “She has always worked collaboratively with other members of her interdisciplinary team to find fun ways to engage students deeply in the content being taught. She has been a big part of MUMS for a long time and will be missed.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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