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Maryann Tyrer ’23MED: ‘When You’re Teaching Adults, You’re Empowering Them to Go On and Teach Others and Make a Difference in the World’

In 2012, Maryann Tyrer ’23MED resigned her position as a religion teacher at Cardinal Gibbons High School to pursue a doctoral degree at the NC State College of Education. Over 10 years later, Tyrer is graduating, not with her Ph.D., but with a master’s degree in adult and community college education. Despite not achieving her initial goal, Tyrer said she still views her graduation as a success.

“We all fail at some things. But every time we get back up again is a success,” Tyrer said. “And on top of that, if we learn from our failures, we succeed in becoming better and stronger persons on the other side.”

During her time at NC State, Tyrer’s successes included an opportunity to work as a graduate assistant, serving in the University Graduate Student Association, presenting her preliminary research at a national conference and being recognized for her involvement in the Wolfpack community with the Tradition Keeper Medal. But in 2015, Tyrer lost her mother to Alzheimer’s disease. Her partner died of cancer a few months later. 

“My world just came crashing in on me,” Tyrer said. “I’d completed my coursework, but I hadn’t really done any work on my dissertation yet. And so I hit the pause button and tried to figure out what I was going to do with my life.”

Eventually, a friend reached out about an open position in the field of parish ministry and Tyrer moved to New York City to take a job as a pastoral associate at the Roman Catholic Parish of St. Monica-St. Stephen of Hungary-St. Elizabeth of Hungary, a church created by the merger of three Catholic parishes on the Upper East Side. 

Initially, she hoped to continue working on her dissertation, but eventually she realized it was not doable. What was doable, however, was earning her master’s degree and using the skills she learned at NC State to support adult learners. 

“A lot of what I do in parish ministry involves working with adults, empowering adults, helping adults to realize that they too can be lifelong learners, and that that will enrich your life,” Tyrer said.

Tyrer said her time in the NC State College of Education provided her with the vocabulary and research background needed to make a meaningful impact on adult learners.

“It enriched my work; enriched my life,” Tyrer said.

In the NC State College of Education, Tyrer took advantage of opportunities to explore the field of informal education. She worked on exhibits at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences and helped docents at the North Carolina Museum of Art improve their tours. Those experiences have proved useful in her current role and she is looking forward to taking on the added responsibility of instructing catechists — religious educators — with the goal of helping them become more effective teachers. 

“When you’re teaching adults, you’re empowering them to go on and teach others and make a difference in the world,” Tyrer said.

The adults Tyrer works with also include the parish’s bereavement council, which was started during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s such a need, and now I’m training a couple of adults to basically take over the program and run it,” Tyrer said. “It’s not my job to be the pastoral minister to everyone in the parish. It’s my job to create programs and processes that will feed that need and empower others to run them. That way my background, expertise and abilities get multiplied.”

Tyrer’s educational path may not have gone according to plan, but it hasn’t stopped her from using what she’s learned to make a positive impact on her community.

“I have the master’s and I have the experience,” Tyrer said. “That’s a rich, rich thing.”