TWIN FALLS — After raising her children, Mary Fraley decided it was her turn to go to college.
She followed in her daughter’s footsteps.
The mother-daughter duo took college classes together and both graduated from Idaho State University‘s Twin Falls-based bachelor’s degree program in education: Fraley in 2005 and daughter Maureen Slatter Padilha in 2007.
“The love of teaching goes across both of us,” Fraley said.
The Twin Falls School District has a handful of other family member teaching duos. The district office provided rough estimates: 18 spouse couples who are both certified, nine spouse couples with one or both who are classified employees and eight siblings or parent-child family units.
As they talked after school Nov. 16 at South Hills Middle School, Padilha was frequently interrupted by students who needed help during the homework club she oversees.
When a group of boys got a little too loud, she got their attention by saying simply, in a raised voice: “Gentlemen.” The chatter died down. “Thank you,” she said.
There are many teachers in their extended family, including Fraley’s daughter-in-law and grandmother. “I always wanted to be a teacher,” she said, but life got in the way and she was focused on raising her children.
Previously, Fraley’s work experience was all over the board, from picking beans to working at a bowling alley snack bar — “all kinds of no-education jobs,” she said.
Fraley said her significant other encouraged her to go to college. Her initial response: I’m too old.
But she decided to enroll at age 55, with the goal of teaching high school economics. She said she thought it would fit well with her work experience at a collection agency.
After enrolling in college and getting up to ISU’s bachelor’s degree program, she opted for elementary education instead. It meant she could complete the program without leaving Twin Falls.
“It was so much fun being a student,” Fraley said.
Padilha was also a college student at the same time — also in ISU’s Twin Falls-based education program. The mother-daughter duo were even in some classes together.
Padilha was a first-generation college student in her family. “I was the first one to go to college because it was not an option,” she said, because her mother told her college was a necessity and to make it a priority.
Fraley college strategy was to find make friends with the smartest person on campus. The smartest student in her classes happened to be her daughter.
After graduating with a bachelor’s degree, Fraley taught for 12 years. She retired last school year, but that didn’t last long.
She volunteered in the afternoons as a foster grandparent in Padilha’s classroom.
You may expect a mother and daughter to clash in the same classroom, but it was just the opposite for Fraley and Padilha: They work well together and know how the other thinks.
How do their teaching styles differ? “She actually has a more absolute classroom management style,” Padilha said about her mother.
Padilha said she had a hard class last year and “needed help putting out the little fires,” and her mother was a great help.
Fraley received a phone call from the principal at I.B. Perrine Elementary asking her if she’d come back this school year to fill a fifth-grade teaching position. She said “yes.”
She didn’t have enough to do and missed teaching.
“Teaching is the most rewarding job you could ever have,” Fraley said. Padilha added: You need to have a passion for teaching — and forgiveness and patience with students.
The mother and daughter’s paths don’t often cross professionally. But they’re close personally and talk about teaching.
Fraley gets insights from her daughter on how to help students prepare for middle school. “I like to do a lot of independent learning with the fifth-graders,” she said, so they’re ready for their next step.
For Padilha, she focuses on teaching life skills to her students — not just the content.
And she and Fraley learn from each other. “She’s going to get me set up with Google Classroom,” Fraley said. “We really do a lot together.”