Farewell to three beloved teachers, traveling into the next chapter of their lives


Elliot Smith

Mary Buchanan assists student with their Chemistry work.

As summer approaches, three AWHS teachers are spending their last few months in their classrooms. Mary Buchanan, Valerie Wynn, and Susan Fox have all made the decision to retire at the end of the 2021-2022 school year.

Chemistry teacher Mary Buchanan will retire after teaching at AWHS since 1997. Her enthusiasm for chemistry is lifelong.


— Mary Buchanan

“I’ve loved chemistry ever since I was a high school student, I loved the labs and trying to figure out what was going on,” Buchanan said.

Buchanan’s desire as a teacher was to help students fall in love with chemistry like she did. Hence, she has developed a wide range of methods to effectively teach the subject, such as co-founding the “Da Vinci” Small Learning Community (SLC) and participating in SEA-DISC, the upperclassman environmental justice academy at AWHS.

 “Creating [DaVinci]… was probably one of the best things I’ve done throughout my whole career,” Buchanan said. “I also got to teach in SEA-DISC for five years, I really enjoyed getting to apply chemistry to environmental problems.”

Buchanan and her husband are going back to live on her childhood farm in Iowa. While she will greatly miss the AWHS community, Buchanan is thrilled to use her native prairie plants to absorb excess carbon caused by fossil fuels emissions and global warming.

“Once we live there, we plan to raise chickens, grow things for farmers markets, and maybe do farm to table stuff… We’re super excited for our plans and we just want to get going on it,” Buchanan said.

Susan Fox teaches her Chemistry class a lesson on acidity. (Elliot)

Fellow chemistry teacher and founder of SEA-DISC, Susan Fox, is setting sail on the South Pacific with her husband. After her two-year sailing adventure, she plans to return to California to explore further endeavors in education. Fox began teaching at AWHS 28 years ago.

“I was the only biology teacher here when I started, [AWHS] was a very small school back then. I have seen a lot of real positive changes, like… our concern with emotional health, social well-being, and curricular learning; we no longer do it like a lecture where we just open the head and pour in information,” Fox said. “I think it’s really important that everyone continues to challenge students and support their growth.”

Social Issues/World Cultures and Street Law teacher Valerie Wynn is finishing her sixth and final year at AWHS. Also a member of the former “Da Vinci” SLC, Wynn was a lawyer prior to becoming a certified teacher.

Valerie Wynn helps student understand lesson during World Cultures and Geography. (Elliot Smith)

“Part of me wishes that I started teaching ten years earlier than I did, and that I’d had more time [teaching],” Wynn said. “At this point, there’s other things I want to do while I still have the energy.”

Eventually, Wynn may return to legal work or alternative forms of teaching. Her bucket lists include renovating her backyard, as well as traveling to countries she hasn’t yet visited.

“My dad was born in Albania and I’ve never been there, I really want to go… it would mean a lot to me,” Wynn said.

Buchanan, Fox, and Wynn fondly remember the relationships they’ve formed in this community, and anticipate achievements from their students in the future.