Margo McAuliffe ‘98: From Teacher to Humanitarian

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Margo McAuliffe started teaching at M-A in 1983. Retiring in 1998, she also served as the head of the math department for four years. After retiring, McAuliffe expanded her passion for teaching by volunteering and raising over $1.6 million dollars to support female education in Kenya.

McAuliffe knew she wanted to become a math teacher from a young age. She said, “I just really loved being in the classroom with kids. I also loved math from a young age, especially Geometry. Choosing a career path was a no-brainer for me: math teacher.” McAuliffe ended up teaching Algebra I, Algebra II, Geometry, and Pre-Calculus during her 18 years at M-A with her favorite course being Pre-Calculus. 

McAuliffe taught Kristen Bryan, a current M-A teacher and alum. When describing Bryan, McAuliffe said, “Kristen was a very bright and very good student, though sassy. She was a quick learner when it came to teaching.” McAuliffe took Bryan under her wing when Bryan first began to teach. “Every day, I’d go into her classroom for 20 minutes or so. I would say, ‘This is what we’re doing today, and this is what you need to emphasize during your lesson.’”

McAuliffe had always wanted to immerse herself in other cultures and ways of living, and she did so after retiring. During her teaching career, she had always wanted to explore the world. “I had an interest in the Peace Corps and had looked into it briefly, but I continued to teach instead.”

However, her husband’s sudden death in 2005 left McAuliffe distraught and in search of meaning. “I retired in ‘98 thinking I would have20 years with my husband. But what I had was about six months before he passed away. I was devastated and at loose ends, so I did some traveling. I went to Israel, Palestine, Cuba, Guatemala, Peru, and China. I wanted to get a better idea of the breadth of world cultures”. 

After watching a documentary on how hard it was for girls in Kenya to attend high school, McAuliffe reached out to Father Kiriti, a Kenyan Priest who headed Archbishop Ndingi School in Naivasha, Kenya. “I told him who I was and that I wanted to be a volunteer. He said, ‘Fine,’ and I hopped on a plane by myself and went to Kenya. I ended up teaching girls math at the co-ed school. However, I noticed fewer and fewer girls in the primary and secondary classes.” 

After learning that the girls were being phased out of the school due to unwanted pregnancies, McAuliffe was determined to raise the money needed to fund an entire new school. 

McAuliffe spent a few weeks at Father Kiriti’s Archbishop Ndingi School. “I said to Father Kiriti that when I got home, I was going to see if I could raise some money to help him build the Girl’s School.”

McAuliffe ended up raising $1.6 million under to fully fund and build St. Francis Secondary School for Girls. In doing so, she successfully established Kenya Help, a non-profit foundation focused on raising funds to support Kenyan students. “For some kids have to buy uniforms. Even if the fees are paid and the school is government-funded, education is not free. Students need uniforms, special shoes, pencils, and gym clothes.”

Every year, Kenya Help raises between $100,000-$150,000, one year even raising $300,000. McAuliffe has since returned to Kenya numerous times, given TED Talks, and enjoys spending time with her once student and now friend, Kristen Bryan. 

McAuliffe’s advice to current M-A students: “Follow your dream. Think about what makes you happy. What thrills you? Whatever lights your heart,figure out how you can monetize that. Be a volunteer if it’s something that you can’t sell, and then, find a way to work into a job. But don’t settle for a job just to make money.”

McAuliffe’s advice to future teachers: “Make sure you love kids! Teenagers can become pains, but teaching them is the most rewarding thing somebody can do.”

Kate is a senior at M-A. She enjoys talking to people and hopes to write stories in which she can represent multiple groups and perspectives around campus. In her free time, she likes to read, play volleyball, run track, and spend time with friends.

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