Dr. Mary Bigler began her professional career at Eastern Michigan University as a lecturer in teacher education, eventually completing a doctorate and being hired in a tenure track position. She taught both undergraduate and graduate courses in the Reading Program for over 40 years, dedicating her life's work to the teaching of reading. During that time, she introduced her students to many notable children's authors and wonderful children's literature. It is no surprise that Dr. Bigler is and was greatly loved by her students. If all that she ever did was to teach it would have been enough; however, Mary is a nationally and internationally known speaker on what it means to be a teacher, the importance of teaching children to read, and children's literature.
In the last chapter of her book, Mary Bigler's Life Lessons: Teaching and Speaking, she writes, "We're here to teach the facts and develop the skills that will be measured on the tests, but we're also here to teach what can't be measured on tests. We're here to impart what will only be evident in how our students live their lives. We're here to model and foster flexibility, resourcefulness, consideration, commitment, self-discipline, responsibility, honesty, courage, self-confidence, determination, respect, tolerance, grace, compassion, support, good humor, passion, and joy. We're here to remind others that all children don't learn at the same pace or in the same way. We're here to celebrate the unique heritage of each of our students as well as the diverse teaching styles of our colleagues. We're here to do whatever is necessary to make learning an exciting adventure in our classrooms. We're here to prepare our pupils to hurdle the barriers of life. We're here to be dream makers, not dream takers. We're here to praise success and to encourage and honor the attempts to achieve it. We're here to find ability and goodness and to expect greatness and to enable our students to find those qualities within themselves. We're here to fight for the best interests of our students. We're here to impact our students, their parents and our colleagues so that the world is a better place for us having been in it" (p. 238).
Dr. Bigler influenced the lives of thousands of teachers throughout her career at EMU. To her colleagues, she was a mentor and their biggest cheerleader. Her impact on teacher preparation in Michigan and the teachers she taught and supported as they studied for their profession will be felt for many generations to come. She often commented that she wished we had a scholarship for our graduate students in the Reading M.A. It is our hope to fulfill Mary's wish and to further her legacy in providing financial assistance to teachers as they pursue an advanced degree and a Reading Specialist endorsement as we establish The Mary Bigler Reading Scholarship for Graduate Students in the Reading M.A.
Bigler, M. A. (2005). Mary Bigler's Life Lessons: Teaching and Speaking. Ann Arbor, MI: Reading Success Center.