top of page

Maryanne Boren

One Caring Adult

By Steve Dallape

"Resilience is a word
that can feel overused,
sometimes to the point of
becoming untethered from
its real meaning."

But maybe the reason why resilience is talked and written about so often these days is because today’s youth experience trauma at an alarmingly high rate. Whether it is financial hardship, homelessness, abuse, neglect, gun violence, bullying or any of a myriad of other potential horrors, young people in our society must be resilient - not just to thrive, but to simply survive.

Meridian Junior High and High School Principal Maryanne Boren knows what can make the difference between a child who can process their trauma and come out on the other side a whole person again, and one who doesn’t know how to deal with it and lives in its constant shadow. “What makes someone resilient, I believe, is one caring adult,” she states. “You are one caring adult away from being resilient.” Maryanne strives to be that one caring adult to as many young people who are hurting as she can, every day.

Maryanne speaks from experience, as the mother of a son who experienced deep trauma, and not only lived through it, but came to thrive – all because of a few caring adults. Several years ago, Maryanne’s husband tragically took his own life. Her then 17-year-old son, Levi, was the one who first came upon the scene, and the experience understandably shook him to his core. His academics began to suffer, and he went from being at the top of his class to barely hanging on to an average performance. His personality changed, and his attitude as well. One incident culminated in Levi walking out of school. When Maryanne and Levi discussed it later, he said something that has guided her in student interactions ever since: “What are they going to do to me that’s any worse than what I’ve gone through?”

“I think about these kids… punishments don’t work, you have to have understanding, you have to have compassion. Which is why I’m so passionate about trauma-informed care; because I live it, every day. It’s my history, it’s my life,” she says. Trauma-informed care is an approach that advocates careful consideration of each person’s experiences, how trauma may have affected them, what their symptoms are, and what can be done to avoid re-traumatizing them in the future – medical-speak for treating those who may be experiencing trauma with empathy. “If it had not been for the school secretary and some of the teachers there, my kid could have been a statistic, and now he’s in law school,” Maryanne explains.

“Some of our kids go through horrible things, or they’re adults outside of school, and then they have a hard time transitioning to being kids in school. So, you have to keep that at the forefront when you’re here, every single day,” she explains. “Personally, my belief is that everything you go through prepares you for the next step, and I truly believe that this is my purpose, that these kids are my purpose. So, the silver lining for me is that I think I’m where I’m supposed to be.”

If you know Maryanne, even a little bit, you know the joy she derives from being at school and interacting with her students. So, it might come as something of a surprise to learn that she didn’t discover where she was supposed to be right away. “I didn’t come to education until later in life,” she says.

She grew up in Wolf Lake, and after graduating high school, headed off to Southern Illinois University in Carbondale to earn a degree in Public Relations. She had no intention to return to the Wolf Lake area after getting her degree at SIU. “And then, you know, life happens,” she says with a laugh. “I met my husband on a blind date, and decided Wolf Lake was a great place to raise kids.”

And so, that’s exactly what they did – they settled down in Wolf Lake and had a baby. Maryanne recalls that she was fortunate to not have to work after the birth of her oldest son, but a chance encounter would soon change that. While at the post office one day, she ran into the superintendent of the Shawnee district, who mentioned that he had heard she was not working and asked if she would be interested in helping out as a teacher’s aide. “So, I went into Shawnee as a teacher’s aide and ended up in a special ed room, and thought, ‘This is it, this is what I want to do,’” she recalls. She returned to school, now with two children at home, and got her Special Education degree, quickly followed by principal and superintendent endorsements.

Maryanne’s background in special education, coupled with a natural curiosity about what makes people tick, has left her well-prepared for the diverse and sometimes chaotic learning environment that is Meridian. “I specialized in behaviors, and I love to figure out the ‘why’ of things,” she says. “I want to know why people act the way they act sometimes – what is motivating them, why do they believe this versus that?” This drive to know the ‘why’ is what motivates her, and also what makes her so adept at building relationships. “That’s why I come to school every day, because I just love education, I love learning new things,” she gushes. Maryanne often employs humor as a means of breaking the ice and getting a student to warm up to her, because, she says “that’s how I cope with things. You’ve got to find a hook with these kids, and then talk to them, hang out with them.” In fact, her favorite part of the day is hanging out on the patio with students at lunch time. “It’s the best thing ever. I learn more during that thirty minute lunch than I do the rest of the day,” she relates.

“I think I have an insight into what some of our kids go through,” she says, in what might possibly be the greatest understatement ever. The truth is, Maryanne’s hard-won life experience, plus her need to know the ‘why’ of people’s behavior, make her uniquely-suited to be that one caring adult that so many troubled students desperately need, and she would not have it any other way.

bottom of page