(As published in West Annapolis Magazine, December 2022, written by Rolena King)
When Mary Ostrowski started her first day as a teacher, she was terrified. Mary was in another country, and unlike most teachers, she did not have an educational background or any teaching experience. “My first class had approximately 35 boys who were in the 9th grade at a Catholic high school in Belize founded by a mission parish,” she reminisced. “I had NO IDEA what I was doing and sweat through my shirt.”
Mary became more comfortable as a teacher and taught at the school for two years. Prior to moving to Belize, she was a mutual fund accountant and felt a calling when presented with this volunteer opportunity to teach algebra and literature. “This experience helped me to easily decide that I was more suited to teaching than accounting,” she explained.
After returning to the United States, Mary worked full-time while taking classes to
become certified as a teacher and earn her Master of Art degree in leadership and
teaching. Then, she worked as an elementary school teacher for many years and
earned her post-graduate certification in K-12 administration. In 2010, Mary moved to Panamá to work as a curriculum coordinator in a new school that taught grades PK3 through 6. The school added grades 7 through 12, and Mary worked her way up to Head of School. “The highlight was graduating our first 12th grade class!” she said.
Mary decided to transition to educational consulting in 2017. She founded The Drizzle Effect, LLC (MaryOstrowski.com) to help parents use creativity to build confidence and resilience in their children. During this time, Mary learned about Weems Creek Nursery School (WeemsCreekNurserySchool.com) in West Annapolis and fell in love with it. “I’ve been in various school settings over the last 20 years, and what I fell in love with at Weems is how developmentally appropriate the learning is,” said Mary who purchased the school in February 2018. “Weems Creek Nursery School is the ideal environment for me to practice my personal mission of using creativity and imagination to build kids’
confidence.” Mary returned to live in the United States later on that year.
Since the pandemic, Mary noticed a change in parent involvement. “Post-pandemic, we’re starting to see parents play a different role in their kids’ education, no matter the grade,” she explained. “More families are transitioning towards homeschooling and the flexibility it allows to nurture learning rooted in creativity at all grade levels. Helping parents make the transition from traditional schooling to home schooling is something I’ve found myself becoming passionate about doing, so I’ve recently shifted my consulting efforts to focus on building programs that support families who are considering home schooling.”
When Mary is not working, she enjoys spending time with her partner, Christopher Hartman, and his children and cat Count DooDoo. She also enjoys spending time with her family. While growing up with her parents and four brothers, Mary developed a love of travel because she and her family moved frequently while her father was a Navy captain. She has traveled to many countries and enjoys learning and experiencing the cultures and foods to get a better understanding of the people who live in those countries.
Mary also enjoys hiking, eating, reading and journaling, especially while traveling. She usually finds a local café to “people watch,” read, learn about the best places to eat and write about her travels in her journal. “One of the most meaningful trips of my life was hiking the Camino de Santiago in 2017,” she reminisced. “Over the course of 30 days, I hiked the Camino Francés route, a pilgrimage that totaled 555 miles from St. Jean Pied de Port, France, over the Pyrenes, across northern Spain to the cathedral in Santiago and on to Finisterre, Spain, (translated “The End of the Earth”) on the Atlantic Ocean. It was not only physically challenging but mentally challenging and spiritually profound. A highlight of my life thus far.”
Mary’s family moved to Annapolis when she was in the 8th grade, and her parents
decided to make Annapolis their permanent home when her father retired from the Navy a few years later. “While I lived in various places growing up, I consider Annapolis home,” Mary said fondly. “I love the tight community of West Annapolis and the walkability of the commercial area on Annapolis Street. We have several families from school who live nearby, and it’s fun to run into kids at Bean Rush or shopping for groceries at Graul’s.”
Being creative is also a big part of Mary’s life. If you ask Mary if she is artistic, she will probably reply, “No, but I like artsy things and visiting art and craft shops and galleries. I am creative as a writer and enjoyed my college writing classes more than my accounting classes, but I’m not artistic.”
Although Mary does not consider herself artistic, her artistic talents come through when she paints pictures through her writing. “I love to write!” she said with excitement. Mary usually keeps her journal nearby and writes in it frequently. In addition to writing about her travels, she writes her thoughts, poetry and ideas for children’s books. She has published two educational children’s books under The Drizzle Effect, LLC, Drip, Drop and Drizzle: A Journal to Grow Your Child’s Creativity and Drizzle and the Letter, which are both part of her Drip, Drop and Drizzle series. “Drip, Drop and Drizzle: A Journal to Grow Your Child’s Creativity is an interactive journal designed to encourage creative writing in 8-to-12-year-olds,” Mary described. “Drizzle and the Letter is a picture book geared towards helping 5-to-10-year-old children manage their own strong emotions.”
Mary also uses her creative and artistic talents as an after-school teacher. Since
September 2020, she has been creating and teaching weekly art classes behind
Eastport Church to children as a paid mentor for Creating Communities
(CreatingCommunities.net), a nonprofit organization that offers alternative educational arts programs to underserved children and adults in Anne Arundel County. “We do a variety of artistic activities,” she described. “We have made #PayItForward kindness postcards, painted pumpkins at Halloween time, created paper airplanes and had a flying contest. Between six and 20 children ages 4 to 12 attend each week, including a core group that have been attending since I first started the program. I love watching them grow and getting to know them.”
Mary Ostrowski also enjoys watching the rest of her students grow. When she walked into her first classroom as a volunteer teacher over 20 years ago, she did not know it would lead to a long career that she loves. Mary believes that changing careers and becoming an educator was one of the best decisions she has ever made. “Teaching was never on my radar as a child,” she said. “However, I am grateful to work with children daily.” Her work in education has given hundreds of children confidence to learn and grow while providing parents with the tools necessary to help their children succeed. West Annapolis Neighbors and its readers thank Mary Ostrowski for her dedication to educating and inspiring children.