Economics teacher retires after 24 years at Westlake

It’s the end of an era for those who have had Mary Wolters as an economics teacher. At the end of this year, her 24th at Westlake, she will retire from teaching.

Wolters received her bachelor’s degree in economics and her master’s in urban planning before going back to school to get her teaching certification.

“I did [urban planning] first, and I would have never dreamed of being a teacher because I don’t think I had the patience in my body to do that in my 20s,” Wolters said. “So I did that for a while and I stayed home with kids for a while. Then I did some subbing and realized that I kind of liked it. I discovered that they taught economics in high school, because they didn’t when I was in high school, and I said ‘I think I can do that,’ so I kind of backed into it, but it’s been a good fit.”

After student teaching under Tom Conway, a former U.S. History teacher, Wolters got a job as an economics teacher at Westlake where she has been for her entire teaching career.

“Westlake is the only place I’ve ever known, and economics is all I’ve ever taught,” she said.

Because Wolters has been here for so long, she has seen Westlake change over the years. She said that the biggest change has been the size of the school and the number of students she teaches every year.

“When I started, I probably had two thirds of the seniors, and now I have a much smaller percentage,” Wolters said. “I don’t know as many. And I think that the teachers knew each other better when the school was smaller. I think that that’s something you give up when the school gets larger. I’d say that’s probably the biggest change though: the size of the school. The kids are the same.”

Wolters said that she receives letters and emails from former students thanking her for her instruction and wishes that she has left an impression on her students.

“I hope that I’ve taught them a little about economics and a way of thinking,” Wolters said. “I know that some of them go on to study this, and they tell me that they’re taking microeconomics now and it’s easy, so I think that’s good. I also know that some of them go screaming from the class hoping to never have to see a graph again.”

After her retirement, she will be busy this summer with her job as a College Board Consultant.

“I’ve started teaching AP institutes, basically teaching the teachers how to teach the course,” she said. “I’ve been doing that for the last few summers, and I’m doing seven of them this summer, so I won’t really feel retired until August.”

After that, Wolters just plans on relaxing, traveling and working around the house.

“Our house has become a little bit of a fixer-upper, so I have lots of little home and garden projects in mind,” Wolters said. “My husband and I also like to travel. That’s the one big disadvantage of teaching — you’re stuck with that school calendar. It will be really nice to travel in September or April when the tourists aren’t there as much, so we’ll look forward to that.”

Wolters said that she has loved teaching and will look back fondly on her time at Westlake, especially on her students.

“Every year I get good kids,” she said, “even when I’m warned that the next class coming up is really rowdy. By the time I get them, they’re seniors and I always get these great kids.”