PHILADELPHIA, PA– No stranger to supplementing her classroom budget with her own money, Bullen Middle School teacher Mary-Katherine Olsenberg opened her wallet on behalf of her profession for the last time on Thursday to obtain the necessary packing materials to end her storied career.
In almost three decades as an educator, Ms. Olsenberg was lauded for her caring and progressive approach to teaching. “The awards and recognition were nice, but my only goal was to make a difference in these children’s lives.” Said Olsenberg, who went on to say, “If I had known how expensive moving boxes were, I would have turned down the awards.”
And make a difference, she did. “Ms. Olsenberg was always looking out for us,” reported a former student who didn’t wish to be identified. “A few of us came from very low income families, she always made sure we had lunch. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to learn on an empty stomach, but as far as I’m concerned, that woman is a saint.”
About her self funded charity work, Olsenberg commented, “Oh, my lunch program? Yes I always tried to make sure my students had every opportunity to reach their full potential. But I really tried to keep that quiet, I didn’t want to embarrass any of the students who needed help. Plus, once someone found my list and handwrote the names of some faculty members on it. It was weird.”
When asked about the decision to terminate the veteran teacher, Bullen Principal Frank Martindale said “These are tough economic times. Ms. Olsenberg was fantastic, she taught me in the eighth grade and is the reason I got into education. She was one of the most important influences in my life, and would always go above and beyond. She even kept a list of students who couldn’t afford to eat that she would help. I mean, that doesn’t necessarily seem fair to me– if you’re going to buy lunch for someone, shouldn’t you buy it for everyone? Who wouldn’t like a free lunch once in a while, you know?
I guess what goes around comes around, because she ended up on the list of cuts we needed to make to be able to fit the new staff room mini fridge into the budget. I mean, I have to keep my bagged lunch somewhere…”
Martindale did want to extend his deepest sympathies and wish his departing colleague the best. “The saddest part was the look on her face when I told her she was out. But the second saddest part was when she asked if she could use the refrigerator box to pack, and I had to tell her it was spoken for.”