About one-third of today’s teachers in the United States are “second career” teachers. Second-career teachers bring experience, perspective, and a strong passion for making a difference in others’ lives. Mara Gottlieb, an Individual Education Plan (IEP) specialist and the special education coordinator for elementary school students at the MAS Old Coors location, is one of these highly dedicated, passionate second-career teachers.
After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Fine Arts from the University of New Mexico, Mara kicked off her career by working as a trainer at Disney World. She then spent years excelling in the field of gemology, pursuing a gemologist appraiser certification to serve as a graduate gemologist and account manager in the jewelry industry for well-known area jewelers such as Shelton Jewelers and Máti. She also served as a technical consultant for jewelers and taught jewelry making to adults, even on virtual platforms.
With the economic downfall of 2008, Mara took the opportunity to pursue her passion for education, returning to school and serving as a Montessori preschool teacher. She is exceptionally passionate about helping special education students, not only because she has a son with autism, but she has also experienced a learning disability her entire life.
Mara says she loves helping special education students because they can become easily frustrated. “I like helping kids when they are frustrated with their brains. If they are trying to get from A to C and B is an issue, I can help them find a different way to approach a problem, she said. “We want them to get to control their learning and help them express their own needs.”
Mara also serves as the MAS drivers’ education instructor, providing high school students with various experiences such as vehicle mechanics (including checking fluids and changing tires) to give them a perspective on how passenger vehicles can drive safely around large trucks. Mara admits that her first year working with high school students was a little challenging, but the rewards were great when students returned to her to thank her for helping them on their learning journey. She also appreciates the connections she makes with the student’s parents.
Mara and her sister were born and raised in Albuquerque. Her father secured a job at Sandia National Laboratories, moving here in the 1960s from Brooklyn, New York. Her passion for learning was influenced by her father, who shared his strong interest in history with his family, and her mother, who served as a special education substitute teacher for 36 years. Mara has been able to share her passion for education as the recent president of the Pi Beta Phi sorority alumni club, where she helped young women be successful in their college journey.
Mara has three adult children, aged 19 to 27, pursuing their career paths here in Albuquerque. She fills her time outside the classroom by spending time with family and pursuing her other passions related to visuals – engaging in photography and being an ardent follower and viewer of all things Disney, Harry Potter, and Sci-Fi movies.
“When I was a gemologist, it was hard thinking I could actually change careers to do something totally different,” she said. “So many of the MAS students need some extra attention, and we can provide that. I feel like I am doing the right thing now, and I am doing something to help others.”
And MAS is glad to have Mara and other second-career teachers be part of our school’s success.