Editor’s Note: Since 1984, the National PTA has designated the first week in May as Teacher Appreciation Week. During this week, we celebrate the men and women who educate our children, and the invaluable contributions they make each day. Below we profile educator and Walden Doctor of Education (EdD) graduate Dr. Mary Leventhal ’12.
When the opportunity to return to the United States presented itself, Dr. Mary Leventhal had already been considering the move for some time. She had been living with her family and working in Asia for 25 years, and enjoyed a successful career. During her time there, she taught in international schools and coordinated teacher development for the Kettering Foundation. She then served on the Hong Kong International School Board of Managers while her children attended school there, before earning her Master of Business Administration (MBA) from The University of Hong Kong. She helped open the first Ronald McDonald House in Asia as McDonald’s Hong Kong communications director and director for Ronald McDonald Children’s Charities. Later, she served as the director of International Links for The Chinese University of Hong Kong, where she identified and developed academic exchange programs.
Although the native Pennsylvanian had built an entire life in Asia, the lure of home was too strong to resist. She also realized that she had never fulfilled her true passion—working with economically impoverished children from American inner cities—and decided she had to find a way back to the states. “I have always loved teaching,” says Dr. Leventhal. “Staff members from McDonald’s would tell me, ‘You know, you’re more like a teacher than a boss.
In 1997, with two grown children who had already moved back to the U.S., Dr. Leventhal learned of an open position at George Mason University—and got her chance to return home. She worked first as the managing director of Executive Education Programs in the School of Business for 2 years before returning to the classroom for good.
Dr. Leventhal enrolled in Walden’s EdD program with a specialization in Teacher Leadership to enhance her skills and learn to conduct and apply research to everyday teaching practices, in order to improve her personal teaching performance and her students’ capabilities.
Today, the five-time Teacher of the Year finalist teaches at a Title I school in eastern Maryland. She is passionate about using the knowledge she’s learned at Walden to truly reach and effectively teach the children in her classroom. Dr. Leventhal is a frequent presenter on intercultural competence and multicultural education at state, national, and international conferences. She also chairs the international committee for Kappa Delta Pi, International Honor Society in Education, and serves on the Instructional Professional Development Standing Committee of the Maryland State Education Association.
To educators who want to influence better student outcomes and grow professionally, she says that teachers need to be team players as well as teacher-leaders. “We need to look forward,” she says. “This is a critical time in our history with unprecedented multiculturalism and polarization. There’s no place I’d rather be than working with kids who will be our future leaders. I want to open windows to the world for them.
Dr. Leventhal says that her studies at Walden have shown her the value of collaboration with like-minded professionals in the field. “More importantly, my Walden experience motivated me to sustain my passion for public school teaching as a lifelong learner and educator.