Mother, daughter take fortuitous journey to LHISD

Well-credentialed and highly respected in their native Colorado, Mary Lou Lively (right) and her daughter Emily Lively (left)  joined Liberty Hill’s teaching finest this year, but only by a fortuitous turn of events. (Dana Delgado Photo)

Well-credentialed and highly respected in their native Colorado, Mary Lou Lively (right) and her daughter Emily Lively (left) joined Liberty Hill’s teaching finest this year, but only by a fortuitous turn of events. (Dana Delgado Photo)

By Dana Delgado

Well-credentialed and highly respected in their native Colorado, Mary Lou Lively and her daughter Emily Lively joined Liberty Hill’s teaching finest this school year, but only by a very fortuitous turn of events.

Emily Lively accepted a fourth grade position teaching reading, writing and social studies at Bill Burden Elementary School while her mother, Mary Lou Lively, is a kindergarten teacher at Liberty Hill Elementary School.

Their journey from Colorado to Texas, however, has been anything but unremarkable and the chips as they may, all fell in the right place at the right time for them to be teaching with the Liberty Hill Independent School District.

The two had applied to every school district in the region and participated in job fairs this past spring where most districts were represented. Their preferred Liberty Hill, however, it was not among those recruiting and hiring so they hand-carried their applications to the main office.

Still nothing.

Despite not being offered a teaching contract, the mother and daughter duo made their move to Texas anyway. They sold most of their personal belongings to be able to accommodate their collection of thousands of books, essential tools of their trade, and their beloved mattresses for a good night’s sleep. They wouldn’t think of leaving their books behind; even though, they gave away many books and teaching materials to their colleagues in Lakewood, Colorado, which is a suburb of Denver where the pair had been teaching.

For Mary Lou Lively, the lure of being near her grandchildren, Holland and Emory Miller who live in Liberty Hill, was too great to pass up.

“They grow up so fast,” she said. “I wanted to be there with them. Skype, Face Time, pictures and care packages are wonderful when you are a grandparent who is separated by distance. Moving to Liberty Hill allows me to be an active part of their lives. Now, I can be the one to give my daughter, Abbey, and her husband ‘date night’ because Nana has the kids!”

Emily Lively wasn’t about to get left behind in Colorado by her mother who has been her teaching mentor and role model in all aspects of her life. After spending 10 years in the business world and finally admitting it wasn’t her destiny, she had followed in the teaching footsteps of her mother. With her mother’s guidance, the younger Lively refined her craft and found her calling in the classroom.

​“My first class absolutely affirmed my career choice,” Ms. Emily Lively said. “I remember the interactions I had with them like it was yesterday. As many of them struggled with melding a bright mind with the social pressures of puberty, I was there to assure them that they would be okay so long as they stayed true to themselves. It was a fun and challenging time in my life, but ultimately, very gratifying both professionally and personally.”

Her mother, who taught with her daughter at the same school for several years, could see Emily’s natural teaching talent in the classroom.

“Watching Emily teach children whether in a volunteer setting in the classroom or in sports, you see her gift,” said her mother. “Each person’s journey into adulthood is very unique.  It had to be in Emily’s timeframe to pursue her passion for education.  It is a delight each time I am fortunate enough to get to see her in action as a teacher. She is one of those exceptional teachers that children remember from childhood.”

But despite their education and notable professional experience, the pair settled into the home they would share in Liberty Hill without a teaching contact as the opening of school fast approached. Even the highly credentialed elder Lively struggled to get so much as an interview with any school district. To her credit, she earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Education from Lubbock Christian University and a Master’s Degree in Integration of Technology into the Classroom from Lesley College in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In her 30 plus teaching years, Mary Lou Lively has been recognized as a Who’s Who of American Teachers, was a nominee for Disney Teacher of the Year and several times had been Teacher of the Year at past schools in Colorado. She had also participated in the distinguished Teachers as Leaders Program in her county. In addition, she was an adjunct professor for five summers at Metropolitan State University in Denver in the Childhood Education Center.

But still no phone calls came in from area school districts.

Several years ago, Mary Lou had been tempted by the business world and had a brief one-year hiatus from education before returning to her passion and fully embracing her one love – teaching. She had been inspired to work with children from an early age.

“I was inspired by my own mother and my grandmother who was a pioneer teacher in a one-room school house, and my elementary school teachers when I was a child,” said kindergarten teacher Mary Lou Lively. “It is an honor to be a part of a child’s journey to ‘unlocking the code’ to becoming a reader and a writer.  How could you not want to come to the classroom each day when you hear comments like ‘What are we going to learn today?’ as they bounce in the door. I can’t imagine doing anything else.”

This school year, however, chances of working with kids looked dim for the Livelys. Dim that is, until an acquaintance became aware of their plight while visiting with them and said he knew the principal at Burden Elementary School. A phone call to the Principal by the acquaintance triggered an interview for Emily, which she attended with her mother in tow. So impressed, the principal not only offered Emily Lively a position, but quickly referred veteran teacher Mary Lou Lively to the principal at Liberty Hill Elementary School. That interview garnered Mary Lou Lively a position as a kindergarten teacher with only days until the first day of school. Almost immediately after accepting their teaching positions, the mother and daughter teaching duo received calls from the Leander and Georgetown school districts.

What happened next surprised both Emily and her mother Mary Lou and spoke volumes of their new school colleagues at LHISD. It was the incredible outpouring of support.

“They (other teachers, staff, and their spouses) went above and beyond what was necessary,” said Emily Lively.  “The support they showed us, particularly my mother, was awe-inspiring.  Their volunteer hearts brightly shone through as they painted bookshelves, moved boxes of books from our house up to the school, and put together bulletin boards, all while having their own classrooms to set up and get ready for parents and kiddos.  The support has been phenomenal and we are both truly grateful to be a part of such a family-like team!”

“I’ve been in education quite a while and I’ve never experienced a school like this,” said Mary Lou Lively. “The leadership, staff, and especially the kindergarten team are outstanding. It’s a great beginning to the school year because of such support.”

Emily Lively has gotten off to an equally good start at Burden Elementary School.

“It’s been a wonderful time getting to know my kiddos and colleagues,” she said.  “So much happens in the first few weeks, and the days fly by, but the excitement is contagious and it’s one of my favorite times of the year.”