“Mama” Marci Boland has been a member of the staff at Clayton High School for 29 years.
“When I was at Clayton High, I would always go into her office and be able to talk to her for hours before school,” 2014 CHS graduate Katherine Ren said. “I felt comfortable talking to her about everything and she was always there to offer advice or give a pep talk when needed. She honestly treated all of her students like we were her children.”
Boland’s first love was business.
“My dad owned his own home-building business called Taylor Morley Homes,” Boland said. “He had an incredible passion for the community that I developed as well.”
After discovering her interest in business, Boland decided to study and, ultimately major in, marketing education with a minor in business at Mizzou. She then received her masters in counseling at UMSL.
Boland first began teaching in Pattonville High School’s Positive School; an out-of-school program provided for children and teenagers in need of additional educational assistance.
“I loved working with those kids. I felt like I really connected with them. But I knew that’s not where I wanted to be long term,” Boland said.
After teaching in the Positive School for two years, Boland received a call from Mike Musick, who created the original business program at CHS in the early 1980s.
“He just called me and said he had a position open,” Boland said. “He told me to put a resume together and to meet him at Denny’s the next morning. I spent the entire night on my typewriter typing my resume and the next morning we met up. He described the program and I said what I wanted to do. It was just a good fit.”
Boland’s career at Clayton began in 1988, but teaching was not her always first choice.
“In college I thought I wanted to major in economics. I wanted to work at the Federal Reserve. I’m a nerd about that stuff,” Boland said. “Then one of my friends switched their major to marketing education and I thought, why not?”
Boland was uninspired by the typical lecture-style classroom environment.
“I always loved business, but the thought of sitting behind a desk was awful to me. I think that if I sat behind a desk all day long, I would go crazy,” Boland said.
Boland reflects on her own teaching style as engaging and energizing, the type of lessons she craved as a young adult.
“I like to get up and move around. When I was in high school, my business teacher, Sam Fine, taught a class that wasn’t just lecturing and busy work,” Boland said. “I don’t care when I see a student that needs to get up during class and walk around, go fill their water bottle, or something, because I was like that too.”
Boland’s teaching is a unique, interactive experience that leaves a lasting impact on students.
“She was someone I could approach and talk to no matter what the situation was, whether it was good or bad. She made coming to school everyday fun for me,” CHS graduate (‘13) Varun Chakravarthy said.
Boland’s vivid storytelling and extensive explanations benefit any child who has the privilege to listen to her.
“Her teaching has impacted so many students because she meets each individual where they are,” Tanya Hamilton, a Clayton alumna of the class of 2000, said. “Her teaching techniques are so personalized, which make students more engaged with what she is saying. I have always appreciated that she is always willing to step outside of the box to ensure her students learn in an innovative, exciting new way each year.”
Current students agree.
“Boland’s teaching has had such an impact on me personally,” CHS junior Isabel Alter said. “She’s a teacher who really listens and likes to talk and get to know each of her students and I think that’s something that really sticks with all of us.”
Boland has taught a variety of business and finance classes throughout her time at CHS and has also served as activities director and as the sponsor of DECA.
“For six years I was the activities director here and I loved that because it was all about starting programs,” Boland said. “A lot of great programs have come out of that over the years like powder puff, pie-a-teacher and even a Mr. CHS pageant.”
The business courses currently offered at CHS were not always in existence.
“I’ve grown the business program at Clayton. We started off with two classes,” Boland said. “It began with my outside of school search for ways to expand our program. I’ve always been really involved in the State department, I sat on curriculum boards throughout the state and found the trends and saw what could be implemented at Clayton and I just had to be careful and find a good balance.”
Boland encourages students to become involved not only in the CHS community, but also through DECA, a business club that gives high school students an opportunity to learn how to enter the workforce.
“DECA is always great because it’s cool to sit down with students at the beginning of the year and ask what they want to do,” Boland said. “I ask them what they’re passionate about, what they love to do. You have to ask them a lot of open ended questions to get them to the point of creating and coming up with their own ideas.”
Boland has always felt a special bond with her DECA students.
“I love the DECA kids. They’re my favorite. I love traveling with my kids. I love competition days. I love every class – except accounting, some people love it and you know, more power to you. I feel like teaching a concept that students really enjoy [is] truly rewarding.” Boland said.
Boland feels as though she may have used her counseling degree more than her teaching degree during her time at Clayton High.
“Everyone called me ‘Mama’, because I felt like if I could input my wisdom on someone, I was doing good,” Boland said. “I felt like my counseling degree came in more handy than my teaching degree. There used to be kids in my room all the time, like counseling sessions. We would be at a DECA competition and a boy would cheat on a girl and I’d be up all night talking to her.”
These counseling sessions in Boland’s office quickly became habitual.
“She was my school mom,” Ren said. “She didn’t only care about how well you were doing in her class, she cared about all aspects of her students’ lives. Mrs. Boland’s teaching didn’t stop when the class period ended and her mentorship doesn’t stop once her students graduate.”
2012 CHS graduate Martha Burke agrees. “Probably one of my favorite memories of Mrs. Boland was my senior year when I used her office pretty much as my locker,” Burke said. “Every morning I would come and talk to her before classes. It was a great way to start my mornings.”
Boland gives advice and counseling to those who need it.
“She’s like my second mom,” CHS junior Danielle Bonczewski said. “She becomes so personal with all of her students and never holds back from what she’s thinking.”
As she strives to be a teacher and friend that her students can trust, Boland also works to help each student see the important role of business in his or her individual life.
“I think it’s very difficult as a teacher meeting all the different needs and preferences of every student in class,” Boland said. “I try and teach a concept at least four different ways [and] say, ‘Did you get this?’”
After years of teaching, Boland has learned valuable lessons from her students in return.
“I think my kids have taught me so much,” Boland said. “Teaching has really opened my eyes to be accepting of everybody and find the good in everyone. It’s a lot easier for some and man, I’m still looking at some kids like, ‘you know there’s gotta be good in this kid somewhere, I don’t know where, but I’ll keep looking!’”
Students are inspired by the valuable lessons Boland has shared over the past 29 years at CHS, whether it be in the classroom, or in the morning meetings with some of her students.
“I really feel like there are all these turns that take us somewhere in life. Don’t be upset when one thing doesn’t work out the way it’s supposed to,” Boland said. “Something else will come along that’s better. I feel like that’s the way things ended up here.”
In her last year teaching, Boland reflects on the community as an environment very different than those at other schools.
“Clayton is different in a good way,” Boland said. “Status isn’t as important here as it is in other schools. I love that, it’s very empowering to everyone here. I tell students all the time – don’t try to be a part of the popular groups, because they won’t matter in college. Nobody cares if you’re the head of the cheerleading squad.”
Boland already has plans for retirement.
“First of all, I will never get up before six in the morning. I look forward to spending more time with my kids as well as taking trips with my friends. I still plan on having a part time job, I’ve got two kids in college, I have to. But I’ve decided I’m not going to work on Friday, possibly not on Mondays either,” she said. “It just was the right time in my life to retire. I’ve taught 31 years, I have 33 in the retirement system and I was just ready. I still love what I do and the relationships I have with my students. I’m just ready.”
The relationship Boland has with her students is one that will not disappear as Boland packs her things for a new life.
“We still text each other and have coffee every time I’m home even though it’s been three years since I’ve graduated,” Ren said.
Ren is only one of the many students still in contact with Boland after graduation. Boland has been involved in various experiences in her past students lives.
“Over the years I have kept in contact with her. She has attended my wedding and other major milestones in my life after high school,” Hamilton said. “She was a major part in launching my non for profit in St. Louis and helping making what is is today. I will be forever grateful for not only being my high-school teacher, but also a lifelong friend.”
For Boland, the secret to her success as a teacher, mentor and as a “mother” ultimately lies in her ability to connect with her students and her love for teaching.
“The most profound experience as a teacher is when kids get it, you know when you see that light bulb go off,” Boland said. “Or when they come back and they say, ‘I’ve decided to major in business, or I had your class and I loved it so much I decided to switch my major.’ I’ve had that a lot and so that makes me really happy