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Morning Sun
  • PATRICK'S PEOPLE: Mary Butler is retiring for the second time from PAEC

  • Mary Butler has retired from the Pittsburg Adult Education Center for the second time.

    Her first retirement came around 1995. Later on, after the death of her husband, Dave, she was lured back by center staff.

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  • Mary Butler has retired from the Pittsburg Adult Education Center for the second time.
    Her first retirement came around 1995. Later on, after the death of her husband, Dave, she was lured back by center staff.
    “I said I’d try it for a year,” Butler said. “That was around 13 years or so ago.”
    Originally from Wisconsin, she came to Pittsburg in 1965.
    “Dave had taught at Boys Town for a couple of years, and that was an interesting experience,” Butler said. “I stayed home with my little ones. We had two and adopted our third.”
    When her children were older, she began teaching physical education at Lincoln and George Nettels Elementary Schools.
    “I tended to teach toward the students who were less athletically inclined,” Butler said. “I came up with Super Kids Day, and I think most of the schools have still kept it.”
    Another of her programs was the “Run to Kansas City” activity, in which students kept track of how many miles they ran.
    “I’d have them run a little before classes and at recess,” Butler said. “When they had run as many miles as the distance to Fort Scott, they got a button. When they’d run as far as Pleasanton, they got a button. When they’d run the entire distance to Kansas City, they got a T-shirt.”
    She came on staff with the Pittsburg Adult Education Center following the death of Marilyn Allai.
    “Katie Blunk and I were together there a year, then she retired and I became director,” Butler said. “When I started, we took whoever came in the door and worked with them individually.”
    Now, she noted, there are classes and students must attend a specified number of hours.
    “Since 1972, more than 9,000 students have attended the center and there have been more than 2,000 GED completions,” Butler said. “That averages out to about 50 a year. Some years we might have as many as 80, and other years it might be 35.  They come with a lot of reasons why they quit school. I just feel that we’ve given a lot of students a second chance.”
    She has taught math, which she loves, and a special highlight of her career has been working one-on-one with students on literacy. Some came in with limited reading skills, others were unable to read at all.
    “I do admire these people,” Butler said. “I’m amazed at the ability of people who don’t read to manage in life.”
    She told of a wife who had always done all the book work and reading for her husband, who could not read.
    “This woman, who knew she was dying, brought her husband to the center to learn how to read,” Butler said. “That showed a lot of foresight on her part. We always tried to gear our one-on-one literacy sessions to what the person needed in life, and one of the things I worked on with the husband was menus. He said that he could just order a hamburger when he ate out, and I said, well, what if you go in a place that doesn’t have hamburgers?”
    Page 2 of 2 - She said that adult education got into her blood and became a passion.
    “I’ll miss my co-workers and my students,” Butler said.
    But she has other passions,  including volunteering at Wesley House.
    “I started with them  when Wesley House started,” she said. “I also like tennis and I like my flowers.”
    Butler did a lot of traveling years ago with her sister, after both of their husbands had died, including trips to Greece, Italy and Sicily. She’ll do some traveling now, mainly in the United States.
    “My kids are here, there and everywhere, and I’ll visit them,” Butler said.

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