Ruby Cortner, Middle School history teacher, reflects upon her colleague Mary Perkins, who retired from Ensworth in 2021.
Mary Surratt started at Ensworth in 1995. Like so many of us, Mary started as a sub, but in science, drama, and computer.
I don’t know if you’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing Mary in action. I wasn’t at Ensworth yet, but I can only imagine her commanding three ships: science, drama, and computer. For Mary is a force to be reckoned with.
When it was apparent that she could do all three of those disciplines and well, science snatched her up. That was 26 years ago.
Before I went into teaching, when someone said “school,” I thought of a building. Kind of like in early Christianity, the word “church” didn’t refer to a building, it referenced the people who belonged to that particular Christian community, translated from the Greek, “ekklesia” or “people assembled.”
A school is also more than a building. It’s the people assembled in it. Teachers, parents, administrators, maintenance staff, kitchen staff, grounds crew, cleaning crew—the list goes on—make it ready for the students. We spend years in college getting degrees or going to technical schools so we can create meaningful curricula and stay current on best practices to make this place safe for our students.
When I think of our school and the people assembled in it day in day out, and the people who have helped build it, who are they? Well, Mary is definitely one of the cornerstones of this middle school.
What kind of cornerstone? Modern cornerstones—the ones we see prominently displayed on buildings with a date and some sort of decoration for all to see are there for appearance’s sake, and this is not Mary. If we look at the origins of the architecture behind using “cornerstone” as a metaphor, the reason we call them cornerstones is because they offer meaningful and lasting support. They are the stones that lie at the corner of two walls and unite them. That’s Mary. If anyone can unite and bring people together, it’s Mary.
Her care and support of this place, and most importantly, the people assembled in it, was clear to me from the moment I arrived here years ago.
When I first met Mary, it was 19 years ago when I came to Ensworth from Los Angeles. Mary quickly welcomed me by going out of her way to invite me to dinner.
I also saw how dedicated Mary was to her students, especially her advisees, speaking to students who needed a pep talk, hug, or a firm talking-to. Mary is, in my opinion, the best advisor we have in this division. She relates so well to the members of our community because she is not afraid to have hard conversations with the students, parents, teachers, and administrators. I can’t think of anyone who cares about Ensworth and the people in it more than you, Mary.
Mary STILL cares, even though she is retiring. We went to lunch a few days back, and she is still thinking about ways to improve the advisory program, science curriculum, and she’s still worried about some of her students. THIS is why Mary is a cornerstone of the Ensworth Middle School.
Mary, you are leaving mighty big shoes to fill, Sister, and we wish you the best in your next adventure.