This weekend, Ramona resident Mary McDonald will be competing for the title of state Educator of the Year at a California League of High Schools conference in Monterey.
McDonald, who is head counselor at San Diego’s Mira Mesa High School, already holds that title for Region 9, which includes San Diego and Imperial counties. She received that award on Dec. 15 in recognition of her accomplishments as a change agent and advocate for students at her school.
McDonald was nominated for the award by Mira Mesa Principal Scott Giusti, who praised her “consistent leadership and guidance.”
And her nomination was bolstered by many positive comments from students whose lives have been touched and improved by McDonald’s actions.
One such student is J.R. Tolver, a 1998 Mira Mesa High graduate who went on to be a football star at San Diego State University and played in the National Football League as a wide receiver for the Miami Dolphins and the Dallas Cowboys.
He returned to Mira Mesa recently to talk to student athletes preparing to go to college, and applauded the counselor for her role in his life.
“Mrs. McDonald’s knowledge of college eligibility policies and procedures was the catalyst to fulfilling my goals and aspirations as a student athlete,” Tolver said. “Her passion and interest in my future drove me to academic and athletic accomplishments above and beyond my own expectations.”
Jonathan Wheeler, a junior at Mira Mesa, thanked McDonald for going “the extra 10 miles” for her students.
“She is helping me personally for my admission into the Naval Academy and making sure I am doing well in school and sports,” Wheeler said.
San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders was so impressed by McDonald that he selected her to be honored at his annual State of the City address on Jan. 13 as “someone who best embodies a community spirit which all San Diegans can look up to as a civic icon and leader.”
Unfortunately, McDonald was unable to attend because she was busy at school running Financial Aid Night, where 600 seniors and their parents began filling out forms to obtain college scholarships. McDonald said that about 90 percent of Mira Mesa graduates go on to higher education—a much larger number than most schools.
Needless to say, McDonald has also received a lot of support from family. Her husband, Mike, is owner of an insurance and financial planning agency, McDonald and Associates, at 713 D. St.
Oldest daughter, Katie Treat of Chula Vista, is following in her mother’s footsteps as a counselor with the Sweetwater school district. Middle daughter Shauna Van Bemmel of Mission Beach teaches fifth grade at Norte Dame Academy in San Diego. And the youngest, Megan McDonald, is a morning TV news anchor in Chico, Calif.
At the league conference this weekend, McDonald and the other candidates will be introduced at the opening session on Friday morning and she will lead a workshop later that day on “creating a counseling calendar.”
The nominees will be presented again at a banquet Friday night and asked to give a short speech on “What Inspires You as an Educator.”
The state Educator of the Year will be announced Saturday morning.
Although the winner is in doubt, Mira Mesa senior Christina Weber is clearly pulling for McDonald.
“She has been so helpful to me over the past four years,” Weber said. “She has helped me not only with school problems and schedule problems but with personal issues. She is a wonderful person and she deserves this honor.”