There’s Something About Mary

by Gary Smith

Horizon Reporter

Teaching runs deep in your blood, if you are Mary Haberman. Haberman has been teaching at Whatcom Community College for 15 years and hasn’t regretted a single day of it.

She grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, where she attended Creighton University for free, because her father was a professor of journalism there. Her mother was also a teacher. Haberman had several siblings who also attended Creighton and live in various parts of the Pacific Northwest.

 Haberman majored in political science and German. She also spent a year abroad studying in Munich, Germany. When she returned she earned her master’s degree in history, writing her thesis on the films of German expressionist Fritz Lang, in the 20s and 30s, and how they reflected German society.

 She then became a student teacher at Western and finally moved over to Whatcom to teach full time.

“It has lots of benefits,” she said.“It’s a job where I don’t feel like, oh God, I have to go to work.”

Aside from teaching history and political science, she also enjoys the outdoors. Haberman’s love for nature came at a young age,as her parents used to take her whole family on long vacations to national parks around the country.

 She spent several summers in the 80s working at a lodge in the mountains. Haberman also teaches a hiking class in the spring and fall, where she teaches her students safety tips and essentials about hiking, and introduces them to great places to hike in the Whatcom County area.

“The experience level varies quite a bit,” she said. Haberman has even had a student who has hiked the entire Pacific Crest Trail, which goes from Mexico to Canada.

Her hikes are not that strenuous, she said. “It’s just a fun way to earn one P.E. credit.”

She gets to know the different types of students through the hikes.

“I spoke German with a Swiss exchange student, coming down from Chain Lakes once,” she said, “My German is pretty rusty, but she was forgiving.”

Inside and outside of class, Haberman knows what her students respond to. She calls them by their names and treats them like equals. While the class seems like a big group discussion, when she starts to speak, the class goes silent. She commands the room.

She isn’t too serious, though. One of her recent test questions was,“Who is the chairman of the federal reserve?” One of the options was Benjamin Button.

“She can be quite humorous,” said Anna Schorr, a student in Haberman’s political science class. Another student describes her as, “really laid back.” That seemed to be a unanimous feeling from her political science class.

 Her classes are not just lecture and notes. “She does lots of Powerpoints and political videos,” said Schorr.

 Haberman also lets her students discuss the topics in depth. As she brings up the topic of Syria, the class starts to rumble with discussion and Haberman sees that the class wants to know more. Some students are getting out their cellphones to look up answers to what was going on in Syria. Everyone wants to know.

 And that is what Haberman is all about.

“She has you thinking and talking about the issues,” said Emilee Agosta.

Haberman likes learning and she wants her students to like it as well. But that can be difficult. She said one of the hardest parts about teaching is getting the students to participate.“It’s hard to get them to pay attention so early in the morning,” she said, referring to her 8 a.m. class.

While Haberman is very busy, teaching and leading hikes all around Whatcom County, she still has time to meditate. This is where she came up with the the idea to try and start the first meditation club at Whatcom.

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