The Gift of Education

Old Main, University of SD

Every semester, I tell my students how important school is, yet sometimes my words fall on deaf ears. I state it as strongly as possible: college can change your life. But for students who’ve always known college was in their future, it’s hard for them to understand. For me, it was much easier.

I graduated from high school early, at semester time. I was glad to escape the classroom and be out on my own, making money. At the time, a computer manufacturer had just moved into town, and I could make a nice wage working the night shift. I was eighteen, life was good, and college wasn’t part of my plans.

After a few years of technical support, however, life was no longer good. I was unhappy with my job, and the only other option was management, which didn’t appeal to me. Manage a bunch of people who disliked their jobs as much as I did? That didn’t seem like the path to freedom either, but at this point, anything was better than taking tech support calls. I entertained the idea.

I was writing in the morning and in the evenings, but I certainly didn’t have a plan for my work. I wrote as a hobby; it was a creative outlet, like reading. Publishing a book was something other people did, people I couldn’t even guess about. Even after completing a romance novel, I didn’t realize writing was something I should pursue.

Then my husband found a job that moved us to Vermillion, SD. I turned down the management job to go to school full time at the University of South Dakota, and the direction of my life turned, too.

I went to college to learn to write, but what I actually learned was that my life had possibility. All those things I thought I couldn’t do? I could. It wasn’t a quick transformation. It was slow, like a minuet: a high score on a history test, a compliment from a teacher, a scholarship. Even after graduation and writing a literary novel for my master’s thesis, I didn’t sit down and think, Ah! I can publish those books now. But I did start teaching.

Teaching was a second education. I belonged to a community I didn’t know existed, a community I’m still proud to be part of. The longer I taught classes, the more I thought about writing until, eventually, I picked it up again with a new idea: someone might want to read my stuff. It was then I began writing with a goal in mind.

It’s hard to teach possibility. You can feel it, you can dream it, but it’s not in a book. I can’t have students turn to page ten to learn about their potential, nor can I make them feel my past poverty. Sometimes I wish they knew what I knew: education is a beautiful gift. Whether or not they choose to open that gift, however, is entirely up to them.




  1. Janet fox on August 21, 2018 at 2:58 pm

    Your blogs are always such an enjoyable read, your truthfulness so refreshing.

    I am patiently waiting for the release of A Very Merry Murder! I hope the Professor Prather Mystery series continues. I feel like I know these characters and look forward to finding out what’s going to happen next in Copper Bluff, South Dakota!!

    • Mary Angela on August 21, 2018 at 3:19 pm

      Thanks, Janet. I’m patiently waiting, too! Don’t forget to sign up for my Facebook party, celebrating the release. You can find the link under the Events page. There will be lots of fun holiday-themed prizes and, of course, free books!

  2. Tara Brown on September 30, 2018 at 7:40 pm

    What a wonderful post! I cannot tell you how many times I’ve also said, “I wish my students knew what I knew.” I want to just magically transfer some of what I have into my high school students. I wonder if my teachers felt that about me when I was younger…probably! In good time they will. We all have to learn, experience, and absorb it on our own for it to be meaningful to our own lives. Too bad, though, because in some areas of my life, it really took a long time for me to “get it!” 🙂 Oh well, they say it’s the journey that’s the most important, right? Either way, while every journey I’ve taken has been beneficial, I’m definitely happy to have already arrived at a few of my destinations. Again, thank you for sharing! I really like your blog, and I’m looking forward to reading A Very Merry Murder very soon! 🙂

    • Mary Angela on September 30, 2018 at 8:22 pm

      Thanks for your thoughts, Tara. I love chatting with fellow teachers, and I agree: it’s all about the journey. Some stops take longer than others, right? I’m sure some of my high school teachers would be stunned to learn my journey led me to college!
      I’m thrilled for the release of A Very Merry Murder tomorrow. I hope you enjoy it!

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