Mary Reser: A Mead High School Legend

When I entered my freshman year at Mead High School, my sister was a senior. It was nice to know that I had a sibling with top dog status keeping an eye out for me. After that initial 2001-02 school year, I looked forward to when I became a senior and could return the favor by watching over my brother who would be a freshman during the 2004-05 school year.

Of course this meant I would have to navigate the halls of Mead as the sole Reser for two years…or so I thought. Instead, in what I am convinced was one of the best hires in the storied history of the school, another person of Reser blood joined the Mead ranks for the 2002-03 school year.

Mary Reser was hired by Mead High School in the summer of 2002 to serve as a paraeducator in its Developmental Learning Center (DLC). My mom had made herself known to the Mead School District by subbing in various classes in different schools over the course of a couple years. Craving consistent, full time work, she applied for the high school position and was thrilled to land it.

When my mom applied for her job almost 22 years ago, I don’t know if she imagined that it would lead to such a long and fruitful career. This photo of my mom and dad was taken today (June 16, 2023).

So, on that first day of school more than 21 years ago, it wasn’t just my brother and I standing at the bottom of the stairs gazing into the video camera with our predictions for the upcoming year. My mom also took her turn in front of the camera. In words that are now legendary in our family, she said the following:

“After 15 years, I am going back to school.”

My mom’s yearbook photo from her first school year at Mead High School (2002-03).


My mom worked in the DLC program her entire 21 years at Mead. The students she served were teens and young adults with disabilities such as down syndrome, severe autism, and other documented handicaps. Others were non-verbal and many were confined to wheelchairs. Whatever tough hand these students had been dealt, my mom was going to be there for them. From that first day in 2002 to when she walked out the door for the final time just hours ago, Mary Reser offered unceasing compassion and patience to every student she worked with.

My mom retired on June 16, 2023. Her co-workers recently threw her a party.

Where did these saintly attributes come from? To be honest, I think to a degree they were just innate. My grandmother birthed a person who entered this world with a kind heart. But I think my mom’s educational background and early professional experience as a substance abuse counselor for veterans proved to serve her well down the road. I don’t think it is a stretch to assume that if you are compassionate and patient enough to make strides with people battling addiction, chances are you can also reach a younger population dealing with a different type of mental struggle.

But back to Mead High School and back to those students she cared for so much. I think a lot of us might say we champion students with disabilities. We treat them kindly to their faces and maybe even volunteer a couple hours per week in an adaptive classroom or center. However, many of us have neither the desire nor skill to work with them on a daily basis. My mom willingly reported to that same classroom every day for over 20 years to put in long hours to make the lives of these deserving and inspiring students better. That takes a heart of gold.

My mom was a great asset for Mead High School and was always happy to proudly represent the Panthers.

As I mentioned at the beginning, my mom was a paraeducator, which can be essentially described as a teacher’s aide. But who am I kidding? It can also be described as the person who is 100% hands on with the students, does every dirty job possible, doesn’t get paid nearly enough, and exerts more physical/mental energy than you can imagine. The people who stay at the job—like my mom—do it because they know their work matters and are driven to do good.

My mom’s t-shirt says it all: superhero.

When I look back on my mom’s selfless career, some images come to mind. I see my mom accompanying students classroom to classroom as they picked up cans and bottles for their recycling program. I see her behind the wheel of a large Mead School District van as she transported the students on different community outings. I see her at a table teaching small groups. I see her compassionately helping students use the restroom. I see her calming down those individuals experiencing panic attacks or other anxiety-induced bouts. I see her celebrating the successes of her students and giving them the recognition they deserve.

Signs for my mom lined the walls in her classroom today.

I also call to mind examples of my mom going above and beyond her job description. These instances come in the form of her hosting an annual end-of-the-year BBQ at her house for all the students. Or her attending the funerals of her current and past pupils who passed away too soon. Or her giving support and an open ear to parents dealing with the stresses of raising a child with special needs.

With all that said, I think a big reason why my mom stood out in her position was just because of her humble nature. She showed up every day for work, stayed by the side of her students, didn’t complain, and did her job to the best of her ability. To put it simply, she was there solely for the kids.

My mom hung up her credential on June 16, 2023.


This afternoon, my dad, sister, brother, and I showed up to walk my mom out of Mead High School on her last day. We wanted to give her a hero’s exit because that is simply what you become when you devote over two decades to helping some of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged people in society.

We were able to surprise my mom before she walked out the doors for the last time. They called her out of the classroom, we snuck in, and when she returned she saw us (and proceeded to scold us 😂).

As we strolled out those doors, I thought about legacies. My sister, brother, and I all graduated from Mead High School where we each had some academic and athletic success. Perhaps you could say we each made a small mark at the school. But even if you took our so-called “accomplishments” and added them all together, multiplied that value by a large number, and added a couple zeros, our combined efforts would still fall dramatically short of what my mom achieved. There is no question about the Reser who did the most good as a Panther.

My mom with several of her current co-workers. Special shout out to my mom’s “work bestie,” Norma Stroeher (7th from the left with blue Mead Panthers shirt on) for being such a good friend and for doing so much to make sure my mom was recognized.

As my mom joins my dad in retirement, I hope she realizes the profound impact she made. Her service to Mead High School and to hundreds of DLC students is truly the stuff of legend. Don’t Blink.

3 thoughts on “Mary Reser: A Mead High School Legend

  1. Thank you so much for touching the lives of all the many students you worked with. Trust me, you made a difference to many.
    You understood where understanding was impossible. You gently directed when others would have been angry. You loved when many would have turned away. You believed in their success and they succeeded.
    The work you did for so many years was not unnoticed. You see, the hearts of those you believed in, noticed YOU. They may not have said anything out loud, but their hearts will never forget.
    I say this with my heart. I just know. While you did not work with my son, you worked with many like him.
    This I believe… It matters not where you go in life, it’s who you have beside you that counts.
    Thank you for walking beside so many. Blessings to you in your retirement!
    An incredibly grateful mom.

    • Hi Jayme – What an incredibly kind and heartfelt comment. I will make sure my mom sees what you wrote. God bless you! – Brent

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