Raleigh teacher educating students around the world while recovering from brain surgery

Wake County News

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — A Raleigh woman is teaching students around the world without having to actually leave the Triangle.

Mary Armstrong’s high energy and sweet demeanor make her a clear fit for elementary students.

Armstrong studied business marketing for undergrad but felt unfulfilled. She went back to get her master’s to teach.

“My mom was a teacher and I think at 18 [years old], I just didn’t want to do what my mom did,” said Mary Armstrong.

Turned out, it was in her blood after all.

In 2015, she became a kindergarten teacher at Abbotts Creek Elementary School.

“Just seeing what’s so important to them and them being excited to come into your class on Mondays, I loved read alouds and getting to choose what books to do,” said Armstrong.

Since Armstrong was a child, she suffered from migraines. Doctors could never pinpoint the cause.

In her second year of teaching, those headaches worsened. She’d also pass out.

“It was awful,” said Armstrong. “At one point they told me I had a tumor and they just couldn’t find it and I would go through scans and each day would get worse and worse, but I was still having to live my life and teach.”

Doctors diagnosed her with POTS (Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome), which is when too little blood returns to the heart when standing up.

They also diagnosed her with Chiari Malformation. That’s where your cerebellum and your head extends down into your spinal canal.

Armstrong needed brain surgery.

Her leave from the classroom quickly turned from months to years.

“It was heartbreaking. I didn’t understand why, I didn’t understand how I was going to get better, when I was going to get better.”

It took about a year and a half after surgery to think about teaching again.

She explored ESL options online, then found the online program ‘Outschool’ this May.

“The teacher gets to design pretty much everything.”

Her students are from around the world.

“It’s really cool and I’ve made connections with the regulars and their parents.”

She gets to use her same lesson plans and choose her schedule for teaching.

“With my body, I just keep them under 40 minutes.”

Armstrong says maybe one day she’ll make it back into a school classroom, but for now the one upstairs in her home is exceeding her expectations.

“I would love to grow my business and connect with more students around the world online.”

Outschool has classes for all ages. There are more than 10,000 of them, from math to cooking.

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