Ha’s past inspires her pursuance of her passions

Over the course of 37 years, Mary Ha has touched the lives of many students passing through our hallways, but does anybody know the real Mrs. Ha? I recently had the privilege to sit down and have an interview with her, and this is what I found.

Her desire to teach came to her in the fourth grade and was sparked by one of her own teachers. 

“I’ve wanted to be a teacher ever since I was in the fourth grade,” Ha said. “I had a teacher named Sister Mary and she inspired me.”

The passion to be a teacher at such a young age naturally led her to a rigorous college career. Her love of learning led her to take a variety of classes in various schools and subjects.

“I went to SEMO and I started majoring in Math and Spanish as a freshman. Then I decided in the second half of my sophomore year that I needed another subject, so I decided to also major in French… and I just added on a German class,” Ha said. “ I went to SLU for a summer course, I took an online summer course with WashU, I took three more summer courses with Professional Development, and I took one graduate course at SEMO in Spanish Conversation.”

Her pursuit of advanced degrees was not an easy one, though. She encountered obstacles and had to put her education on hold temporarily until she was able to devote the required time and attention to a master’s degree.

“I started my master’s degree in Secondary Education with an emphasis in Math and Spanish. I was in my twelfth year, and I had three children by that time, as well as being nine months pregnant.” Ha said “My father was having strokes and had to live with us. So I was taking care of my father, taking care of my children and I remember being in a Spanish novel course and there was this novel I was reading that had flashbacks, flash-forwards and flash-sideways and I just couldn’t handle it with all that other stuff so I just stopped. A few years later I decided to go back and finish that up. But by the time I went back to start it again, what I originally chose as my degree was no longer an option, so that’s the story of why my master’s degree is in Natural Sciences.”

Ha’s love of teaching transfers to her students as well.

“I consider my students to be my greatest achievements,” Ha said. “I’ve had so many wonderful students. Every year there’s someone amazing.”

Along with her students, she also absolutely adores her family.

“I love to talk with my grandchild over FaceTime,” Ha said. “The one child that has our only grandchild lives in Belgium.”

She wouldn’t have her grandchild unless she hadn’t met her husband, though.

“Back in 1975, the South Vietnam government fell to the communists, so refugees fled from Vietnam. My husband’s family was one of those families that fled,” Ha said “They happened to come to Cape Girardeau because they were sponsored by a church here in Cape. I was in my French class and the teacher from the English for Foreign Language came in and asked for a volunteer to help someone with their English. I raised my hand and my husband at that time spoke French like a Frenchman, and he spoke Vietnamese because it was his native language, but he did not speak English. So I raised my hand and the rest of it is history.”

Finally, when asked when she was going to retire, this was Ha’s response:

“I love teaching. I wake up in the morning and I am glad that this is where I go,” Ha said. “I don’t want to retire but it probably will get to the point someday when I can’t prove the theorems anymore, or I can’t remember the French or Spanish, so when I need to retire that’s when I’ll retire.”

By: Eve Jones ’23