Southampton teacher retires after 41 years

Published 9:15 am Wednesday, June 20, 2012

COURTLAND—A great-grandmother who commuted 122 miles roundtrip daily for 41 years is about to slow down.

Mary Mills, a biology, earth science and ecology teacher at Southampton High School since 1971, is retiring.

“She’s such a wonderful lady,” said Principal Allene Atkinson. “She has been with us for 41 years, teaching science the entire time and done a spectacular job.”

A Norfolk resident, Mills never considered getting a job closer to home, even while raising her four children.

“It’s because she loved Southampton kids,” Atkinson said.

A native of Eastern Shore, Md., Mills received her bachelor’s degree in biology and science from Norfolk State University. After graduating, she was hired by Southampton County Public Schools.

“I was looking for a teaching position, and it just came across the board,” Mills said.

She remained because of the school district’s “family atmosphere and the attitude of the children.”

Mills held off retiring because she enjoyed her job and colleagues, but has decided it’s time.

“I’ve been here a long time, and I want to give someone an opportunity to experience what I have experienced,” she said. “I have enjoyed every minute. It’s been good being around young people, seeing them learn and seeing the expression on their face when they get the concept.”

Budget woes will mean that Mills’ position will not be filled. She understands her duties will likely be split among other teachers.

Although Mills won’t commute daily, she will continue to travel for about six months. Mills is headed to Florida and will take a cruise to the Bahamas. From there, she will head to Delaware and home to Eastern Shore for a high school class reunion.

Her husband, James, is a retired federal worker, who served as a projection specialist for the Norfolk Naval Shipyard.

The couple’s children live in Norfolk. They are Gwendolyn Brooks, 45, a nurse; Kevin Mills, 38, a barber in Norfolk; Jamilah Mills-Jefferson, 34, the owner of a daycare center in Norfolk; and Christopher Mills, 32, a construction worker.

They have eight grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.