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.

Happy 32nd Anniversary, Mom and Dad

Today my parents celebrate their 32nd wedding anniversary. Besides it being a very long time, I know the number 32 does not hold much of a significance in terms of milestones but because I have this blog and because I have two amazing parents, I wanted to make sure to write just a little something to commemorate this special day.

My parents, Mary and Tom, both grew up in the small town of Walla Walla, Washington. My mom claims she had a crush on my dad in middle school. However, the crush fizzled as my mom went to the private high school in town and my dad went to the public high school. They also went their separate ways for college too. After they graduated they reconnected back in Walla Walla at a bar. It was there that my dad got my mom’s number and later called her. They started dating and fell in love. On a sweltering August day in triple digit temperatures inside a small catholic church with no air conditioning, my parents got married. That was 32 years ago today.

My mom and dad in their earlier years.

My mom and dad in their earlier years.

You won’t find a better marriage than what my mom and dad have. They love each other and support each other. Many marriages are defined by struggles and hardships that take a toll on the relationship. My parents have never had such tribulations. They simply have always been loyal, kind, and patient with each other. As I have grown up and observed other marriages fall apart, my admiration for what my parents have put together has just increased more and more.

My parents and I clowning around during Halloween.

When I get married, I want to go about it the same way as my parents. I want to have a relationship with my wife that is based on love and trust. I want to be able to talk to her in the morning, while at work, and in the evening. I want to be the absolute best parents humanely possible to my kids. I want to treat the friends and significant others of my kids like gold in the exact same way my parents have always done. I want to build that marriage and that family in a way that everyone else looks at and respects.

My parents have a happy, blessed marriage. In 32 years they have produced so many fruits from their relationship that you would probably need 500 different trees to hold them all. They are the ultimate example of what a healthy and prosperous marriage is and I can’t express how proud and lucky I am to be their son. Happy 32nd anniversary mom and dad, I love you both. Don’t Blink.

Making Pizza At Home!

One thing that I am really appreciative about my girlfriend is that she is a great cook. She comes over and cooks me meals all the time which is a pretty sweet deal because otherwise I would be indulging in a Subway sandwich, soup, or Chef Boyardee for supper. I couldn’t cook myself out of a paper bag. Paige on the other hand is the exact polar opposite and does wonders in my kitchen. Spaghetti, macaroni and cheese, meatball sandwiches, sausage and potatoes, chicken, and yummy rice dishes are all things she has whipped out for me to enjoy. I am definitely a lucky guy! Tonight though, we will be eating something for dinner that both of us can help prepare!

When Paige is in my kitchen, she does amazing things!

When Paige is in my kitchen, she does amazing things!

Paige and I both thought this evening would be a great time to cook homemade pizza! We had talked about it for a while but it kept getting bumped off the menu for one reason or the other. However, tonight the meal will come to fruition. We will have the dough, sauce, cheese, and toppings….and then our hands. Yes, I might struggle with making the most elementary of dishes but I am capable of spreading sauce on dough, laying cheese over the sauce, dropping toppings down on the cheese, and then putting it into the oven. Tonight I will be co-chef with Paige and I am very excited!

Of course tonight’s pizza baking adventure takes me right back to my childhood days when it was a BIG DEAL when we made homemade pizza at our family home. Like Paige, my mom is an excellent cook. We would eat dinner as a family at our kitchen table every single night. Usually us three kids would not have much of a role in any of the cooking but when it came to homemade pizza night, things changed. Suddenly we got to use the sacred cooking utensils and create our own pizzas. This event probably occurred three times a year so it really was a special event and something that me and my sister and brother really enjoyed.

Now please take into consideration that my mom did not let “kids take over the kitchen night” turn into a complete goat rope. She made sure the potentially catastrophic event was well under control. If she had not already flattened the dough for us, she watched carefully as we stretched it over the pan we were using. She placed all of the sauce, cheese, and toppings in separate bowls for us to easily access and use. She called each of us up one-by-one to make our pizzas individually. With three kids all making pizzas at once there is always the potential for messes, distractions, and fights. After we were all finished making our pizzas my mom would put them in the oven and set a timer. She would make sure we were all upstairs when she took the pizzas out so we could proudly watch our creations come out of the oven and see for the first time how our smiley-faced pie looked cooked or whether the pound of cheese we had put on had entirely melted. It was kind of a magical time.

The peak of the excitement on homemade pizza night in the Reser household was definitely the preparation part and the coming out of the oven part because to be honest, the actual eating part was always a little anticlimactic. Now I am sure my mom already knows this, but I always preferred the taste of delivery pizza to that of homemade pizza (probably because my taste buds were not as sophisticated back then). But let that statement not take anything away from homemade pizza night because it really was all about the experience as opposed to the taste!

Before I wrap up this post I would like to make mention of something unique that my mom would always do on homemade pizza night that has a special place in my heart of memories. In addition to our regular sphere shaped or square shaped pizza pies we would make, my mom would also take out her cupcake pan and make PIZZA CUPCAKES! The process was super easy…she would just shape the dough inside each cupcake spot, have us add quite a bit of sauce, top it with quite a bit of cheese, and then add toppings. She would then throw it in the oven and out would come pizza cupcakes! Simple, yes, but also a great idea. Such a great idea in fact that my mom submitted the recipe to Taste of Home Magazine and they featured it in an issue.

Check my Instagram account for pictures of our homemade pizza tonight. The one I make for my dinner might look a little goofy but just give me points for trying. Unlike years ago, I think tonight I would rather trade the experience for the taste! Don’t Blink.