The phrase “Reading, Writing and Arithmetic” first appeared in print as a space-filler in “The Lady’s Magazine” (1818). In other circles it was widely quoted in a toast given by Sir William Curtis MP (1825). Since that time, whenever we think of the “basics” of education, the Three R’s are often transformed to fit the topic.
The Three R’s of this story refers to Reading, Writing and Retirement. And, what could be a better topic for this familiar phrase than the legacy of Mrs. Mary Wilkinson, sixth grade teacher at Mays Elementary School. The progression from first year teacher to 29 plus years in the classroom unfolds in a way that is unique and foundational to her and her students.
Mary Wilkinson, the second oldest of 13 children, found she had a love of telling stories to her brothers and sisters.
“Often time books were not available in our home, so I would make up stories to tell them. It was great fun and a wonderful way to occupy our time. As a care giver and story teller to my younger siblings, I knew by age seven that I wanted to be a teacher. Some of my elementary teachers had been extremely strict. So I knew as a teacher I wanted to make school fun,” she recalled.
Mary graduated from Ball State University and fulfilled her childhood ambition of becoming a teacher. Her first foray into teaching found her at Knighstown in 1977 teaching a sixth grade class of 28 at risk students. After nine years, she took the next few years off from teaching while her children were young. She returned to teaching at Mays Elementary School in 1993 and spent the next nine years making learning fun for students. Then it was on to Arlington Elementary School where she taught for seven years. She is now finishing her career back at Mays.