Mrs. Bourdeau embraces WA

By Jenny Watts, Kai-Lou Yue, and John Devereaux
Staff Writers

Mary Bourdeau is a new member of the science department this year at Westford Academy. She is teaching freshman biology.

Q: What made you want to come to WA?

A: I live in Westford; my three sons came here and they all had really positive experiences. When I had the opportunity to move from 8th grade up to 9th grade, I thought it would be a wonderful change for me.

Q: How does this compare to other jobs you’ve had at WA?

A: Eighth grade and ninth grade are very different. Eighth grade we didn’t have the rotating schedule, so that has been kind of a challenge for me. It’s a little bit more relaxed in eighth grade. In eighth grade we do a lot more activities centered around getting to know each other and team building, where high school is more focused on teaching the subject. Although the academic expectations are the same in eighth grade and ninth grade, I think the expectations as far as personal responsibility are much different. Students are expected to be more self motivated, and more independent. We kind of help them along in eighth grade.

Q: What experience made you want to become a teacher? Why did you choose this subject? 

A: I actually went to school to be a doctor and later decided that wasn’t the direction I wanted to take. Computers were just starting to come out, and I really got involved in computers. I started a career as an engineer and started training people on how to use computers. I found that I liked working and training people, so that kind of led into teaching. I also have coaching experience with soccer, so I knew I like working with kids. I put the two together and that’s kind of how I dove into the teaching career.

Q: Did you know anybody at the school when you applied for the job? Did you have any history with WA?

A: Mr. Poynton moved up from eighth grade last year, so he was very helpful when I was trying to make my decision. He said what a great school Westford Academy was, how it’s nice to work with the kids two years in a row, really get to know them, and you can really look to their strengths and help them with their weaknesses. He played a huge part in helping me make my final decision.

Q: What sort of goals do you wish to achieve this year?

A: Right now I think I’m just trying to make sure I have a very successful year. Obviously all freshmen take biology MCAS so I want to make sure I feel that all of the students are as prepared as they can be. When they walk in, I want them to feel like they know what they’re doing and are going to be very successful. Outside of school I’m in the process of rebuilding a condo in Boston, and stripping it down to nothing.

Q: So far, what are your most favorite parts about the job?

A: I think that the best part for me is working with and talking about students, because I’ve heard what they’re doing, how they are getting acclimated to being here, and the kinds of problems that were both facing, like, “I got lost,  I couldn’t find this, I don’t know where this is.” I think the part that’s really been enjoyable is that lots of students who I’ve have had previous years have stopped by as seniors to say, “this is what I’m doing, this is where I’m thinking of going, I’ll make sure you know what school I get into.” Having them stop in and say hi just makes me feel welcome.

Q: Least favorite parts?

A: For me, the rotating schedule would probably be my least favorite part. I have some kids working at a lab, while I’m setting up a new lab. I’m just trying to figure out the logistics of how to keep everybody on track, and how to not forget what group is doing what. I’m hoping as time goes on it will get easier.

Q: Has this job facilitated a change in your lifestyle?

A: I don’t think I’ve changed my lifestyle, although it’s very different from when I was an engineer. When I was an engineer I worked very unusual hours based on when a computer was available. This made a huge impact on my life, because there would be days that I would sleep all day and work all night; then later in the week I would work during the day and sleep at night. It was very irregular, where this is regular patterned. It makes it easier for me to work at a consistent work rate. I haven’t seen any change to my lifestyle, other than I feel really connected to the community.

Q: What are some hobbies you have outside of school?

A: I ski almost every weekend in the winter with assorted family members, including my father. In the summer I like to golf and travel. This year we went to Australia to visit my son who lives there. We also really enjoy the rehabbing of the houses, and most of all I think I just really enjoy spending time with family.

Q: Do you plan on teaching for the rest of your life?

A: I plan on teaching until retirement, whenever that might be, and then after that I’d really like to do some traveling around the world. I’d like to see different places, experience different cultures, try different kinds of food. In Australia we tried kangaroo and crocodile. I’d also really like to go skiing in some of the major mountains such as the Alps.