The Student News Site of Henry M. Gunn High School

Dr. Heather Mellows and Maria Powell

Biology and anatomy teacher Maria Powell met chemistry teacher Dr. Heather Mellows while they were teaching chemistry together at Gunn. Mellows came a year earlier than Powell, and, as teachers in the same department, Mellows became a mentor figure for Powell. “She (was) very patient and generous with me as a new teacher,” Powell said. “She has a skill that just carries through all the aspects of her life, where she can break things down into very simple chunks and explain them. (She was) willing to explain it three or five times if I needed to without being judgmental.”

Powell believes one of many benefits of working with Mellows in the same school is that they can encourage each other to take on new experiences. “Dr. Mellows is responsible for getting me to be on stage to do anything,” she said. “I think there’s no way in hell I would have ever been on stage in the staff musical (without her encouragement). She (tells me), ‘I’ll do it. I’ve done it. You do it. Let’s do it.’”

Working in the same department has also allowed for the two teachers to share common ground. “We can commiserate with work situations,” Mellows said. “We (also) have a lot of understanding of what challenges there are and what joys there are in work.” The teachers have also grown closer outside of school. Powell, for example, has helped Mellows with pet-sitting in the summer. “(Mellows) had a habit of traveling the world in the summer,” Powell said. “So in the summertime, our family was a cat camp for her orange cat. When Dr. Mellows (had finished) teaching in Turkey for two years, I flew to Turkey to pick up her cat because she was going to spend the summer visiting her family in England and going on a safari.”

The two teachers also strengthened their friendship through shared passions such as softball. “I knew that (Powell) played softball, so I invited her to play on the softball team I was playing on,” Mellows said. “So I got to know her outside of work as well.” Powell and Mellows play together on a team called JERKS, and this love for softball has created unforgettable memories between the two teachers. They have also chaperoned Model United Nations conference trips together. “We have some good stories from various adventures across the country with the students,” Mellows said. Powell and Mellows have come to cherish different aspects of their friendship. Powell values Mellows’ unconditional acceptance and their varied strengths. “The things we bring to a conversation aren’t the same,” she said. “(Mellow is) always asking me biology questions, and I’m always asking her physics and chemistry questions. We have some rich conversations because we have different strengths.” On the other hand, Mellows values their support for each other. “She gets my sense of humor, which I appreciate,” she said. “She has my back and knows my history because (our friendship has) been so long.”

In the future, Powell sees herself continuing to work together with Mellows, both in and outside of school. “We have a nonprofit company called Bad-Ass Grannies, BAG for short,” she said. “(We make) greeting cards that are for anniversaries and birthdays, counted by the periodic table. Dr. Mellows writes fortunes, and I write poems about the birthday or anniversary, mostly in iambic pentameter. When we no longer work here, we could open (up) that store and have our little kiosk of greeting cards.” Mellows also agrees that their friendship will continue into retirement. “There’ll be more adventures to come,” she said. “(I’m) counting on our baking (passion) and greeting-card business for an income and the connection after we retire.”

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