Name: Mary Joyce
Location: Long Island, New York
Occupation: Special Education Teacher
Mary Joyce is at the head of the class, not just as a special education teacher, but also as a yoga instructor in her home of Long Island, New York. Growing up, Mary surmounted injuries as well as stereotypes, practicing karate when she was 16, and hitting her yoga mat even after shoulder injuries,. She also refuse to quit on her snowboard even when her tailbone and her pride told her to stay away from the slopes and stay in the chalet.
She credits the endless love and support of her mom and dad for keeping her going, even when the stress of work, graduate school, and a grueling roster of physical activities, threatens to exhaust her. She also is quick to point out that her students are – and have always been – incredibly influential and inspiring.
“All the children I work with, and that I’ve worked with in the past, have each been more of a teacher to me than I could ever explain,” she says.
All the children I work with, and that I’ve worked with in the past, have each been more of a teacher to me than I could ever explain.
Between the deadlines and workload of school, both being at the chalkboard and buried in books as a student herself, Mary has to find a way to blow off some steam. While yoga is great for mellowing her mood, she cites snowboarding with being the biggest stress-reliever. Her arctic air affair began four years ago, when her friends managed to get her on a mountain. Unfortunately, she didn’t start carving turns with grace and ease. “My first experience wasn’t a positive one,” she says. “By the the second time I went I managed to break my tailbone which put me out for the season. I felt very discouraged because I didn’t pick up the sport as easily as others. For years after that my close friend harassed me on a weekly basis, but my fear and aggravation of learning something new and difficult held me back.”
This year Mary decided to abandon her previous bad experience, once and for all. “I made a promise to myself that I was going to learn this sport. I realized that meant letting go of the fear, believing in myself, and most of all being patient. In order for me to learn I had to make mistakes and then celebrate my achievements” Because of this newfound positive perspective, and as a result of some private lessons, she chalks snowboarding up as one of the most rewarding activities among a long list that she’s tried. Including karate.
At sixteen she started taking summer classes, thinking it would only be for six weeks. “Apparently I inherited my dad’s boxing gene,” she jokes. She excelled in those karate classes, and began practicing daily, eventually taking two or three classes per day, six days a week. It wasn’t long until she was competing, both in form tournaments and sparring. By college, she was a blackbelt.
“I think I excelled because I was forced to spar both men and women. It was very hard when a guy would make assumptions, or question my ability or not look as highly upon me because I was a girl. When this was the case I tried very hard not to let it get to me and to let my skills speak for themselves….That usually did the trick,” she smiles.
These days, work, school, and trying to squeeze in some time for herself is more of a battle than anything between belts. How does she manage to handle all of it, and what would she say to another girl going through the stress of a physical challenge, or even just the stress of everyday life?
“Make your goal, and work towards that goal, no matter how long it takes,” she says. “Be proud of
how far you’ve come, and make sure you are having fun, because if you are not having fun then what’s the point of doing it?”
Great advice, Mary! For her work with children, and her example kicking butt with high-kicks, snowboard tricks, and bending her limits in yoga, we think Mary Joyce is one very Cool Girl!