This year marks the end of a decades-long journey for San Quentin (SQ) educator Dr. L. Marez.
Marez slipped out the door as quietly as she came in, not wanting any accolades for her enduring service as she retires.
“She is an underrated legend and she deserves a soldier’s goodbye,” said Alex Ross, who was one of her teacher’s aides (TA).
As a champion of education, Marez always encouraged young people, especially young students of color, to pursue careers in math and engineering.
Marez retired from the U.S. Air Force as a captain. She was once in charge of the engineering department for the National Consolidated Space Operations Center in Colorado. Marez has a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in Mathematics and holds a doctorate in Organization and Leadership from the University of San Francisco.
While working as an educator at Thornton Junior High school in Fremont, California, she received the “Most Promising New Mathematics Teacher of the Year” award from New United Motor Manufacturing, Inc. (NUMMI). She went on to teach high school.
After teaching high school, she went on to teach at Santa Clara University, Cal State East Bay, the UC Santa Cruz and National University. At the university level she taught courses in secondary math methods, social foundations of education, classroom administration and management and educational psychology.
Marez was inspired to teach in prison when she read a book about a woman who struggled to teach a class of 12 prisoners with one copy of a book. The woman’s dedication to her 12 students, and the students’ desire to learn, was so impressive to Marez that she thought she could find a deeper meaning by teaching in prison.
“I do this because it has to be done,” said Marez, in response to those that would question her educating prisoners. “I rather they learn 25 ways to solve a problem than 25 ways to make a shank.”
Marez shared the responsibility of teaching a split class for Adult Basic Education (ABE)/General Education Diploma (GED) with J. Kaufman. They had a team of four TAs — Darryl Farris, Jason Lile, Bill Hammond and Alex Ross, who helped with a daily influx of 108 students.
“I was honored to work for her as a teacher’s aide,” said Ross. “I remember when I first started working for her. I watched her study each student’s weaknesses and strengths and then devise a plan to help them become better learners.
“She chose a curriculum that met each student’s individual needs,” Ross added.
Other TAs who worked for Marez agreed. “Dr. Marez taught me many techniques of how to assist the students by meeting them where they are,” said Darryl Farris. “She made me a better TA.”
“I have appreciated her support, her input, her suggestions and her knowledge,” said Bill Hammond, who worked for Dr. Marez for three years.
“I noticed other students being inspired by her genuineness and up-front attitude as well as her positivity toward the learning process,” Hammond added.
According to Ross, Marez has a masterful approach in cutting through all the bravado of young people to get to a point where the students could learn.
“We’d often get a kick out of how the young, tough kids always straighten up and stop cursing and saying, ‘Yes Ma’am,’ around Ms. Marez,” Ross said.
“I just want to take this opportunity to say thank you, Dr. Marez, for your service,” he added.
He believes she should go down in history as a great woman of color and a spectacular educator.