Deborah Maher

coffee date #19 with deborah maher

high school Calc teacher, WAWA coffee-holic, avid traveler, calculus lover

me: colombian black coffee | ms. maher: iced tea
location: deborah maher’s deck, new jersey

Ms. Maher was my high school calculus teacher. Every morning we’d walk into class, and the whole room would smell like WAWA coffee. Doing math first thing in the morning was both amazing and torturous. Amazing because it woke us up. Torturous because it wakes us tf up – especially when we got stuck on one single problem for the longest time.

The bell would ring and the 5-minute announcements would begin. Once the announcements wrapped up, Ms. Maher would immediately start class. She wasted no time. As soon as the period began, we were working.

The way she taught math was quite different from the way others have taught me math in the past. In the moment, you feel like you aren’t learning anything because Calculus was rather frustrating to grasp. But come time for the exam, you realize that you truly know everything you need to know.

Some days Ms. Maher would lecture using the typical whiteboard or powerpoint method. Sometimes we’d crack open the book and do practice problems the whole period. Other days she’d implement the “flipped-classroom” model, where we’d learn the topic ourselves first and then she’d give us a quick review. She’d ALWAYS be available during the lunch period to review concepts or give us extra practice. It was all of these various methods combined together that helped us ace the AP exam.

Up until my high school graduation, I only knew Ms. Maher as my Calc teacher, which is why having this coffee date and just talking about life in general was exciting and refreshing 🙂


  • Life does not have to be limited to a single profession.

I told her my main life goal is to become a pediatric surgeon, but I also want to do many other things in my life that have absolutely no connection with medicine. Those “other things,” she said are worth trying and can simply be my hobbies.

“Try them all.” – Deborah Maher, 2021

Hobbies are worth having because there is no way that we can stick to one ultimate profession our entire life. Having hobbies remind us to keep going and keep loving life.

One of Ms. Maher’s hobbies is planning and going on trips. She loves mapping out when to go where and what to do where. In fact, she’s such an avid traveler that one time she supposedly didn’t even tell her mother that she’s going to England (she did tell a trusted adult though!).

Sometimes being spontaneous is the best way to experience the gift of life, and that’s exactly what Ms. Maher did.

“Why not seize the pleasure at once? – How often is happiness destroyed by preparation, foolish preparation!” – Jane Austen

  • Friendships change and evolve. And that’s okay.

My biggest fear moving into college in just 2 weeks is developing worthy and lifelong friendships.

According to Ms. Maher, the best thing I can do to meet new people is to throw myself out there – sign up for every club, sit next to new people, make small talk, etc. Social anxiety is a pain in the ass, but throwing ourselves out there is the best way to cope with it.

In addition, when asked about her lifelong friends and how to figure out who will be there for us through thick and thin, she replied with The Wedding Party.

“Who would be at my wedding party?” – Deborah Maher, 2021

She was once told that “every 10 years, your friends will change.” Once they pass that 10 year threshold, the people you still have in your life will most probably stay with you forever. Therefore, these people will always be at your wedding party. Others will enter the party during one phase of your life and exit during the next. That’s okay. Reminding ourselves of who will be at our current wedding party will help us figure out who we trust and love the most right now.

  • Follow your heart and gut – not other people.

Ms. Maher is one of the only people I know who actually pays zero attention to what others think of her. That is iconic. We all say and truly want to not care about what others think of us, but we still sometimes end up making decisions based on others’ opinions of us.

“I sincerely do not care about what people think of me.” – Deborah Maher, 2021

Back when she was getting her undergraduate degree, she said that nearly 90% of her class were business majors because that was the field “in high demand” at that time. Out of her entire class, approximately 8 students were in the education department – one of them being her. The business students graduated and got jobs that paid maybe $50,000, whereas, the teaching students got paid $17,000. However, years later, Ms. Maher said that many of those business students changed their jobs and ended up in a different field (with some entering the teaching field).

If we follow whatever society deems to be important during a specific time and do things that fit in with society’s guidelines, we’ll never be satisfied. We can make money doing absolutely anything, so following our heart and gut is the most powerful thing we can do for ourselves.

  • Religion can be practiced in any way you want to.

Both Ms. Maher and I have encountered people in our lives who are nasty and don’t have the best personalities. They’ll do or say something rude, and the next day go to their places of worship as if that’s enough to be a good person.

Saying “I go to church every day” or “I go to the temple every day” does not automatically make us spectacular humans. It’s our actions towards other people that can make us better.

Religion can be practiced in so many different ways. Someone who goes to their place of worship regularly cannot be deemed as being more religious as someone who goes once a year. Religion is a belief, and belief can be held anywhere and in any way.

Religion should also not be used as a tool to mask up all the mistakes that we make throughout life. It should help us realize and fix them.

I watched an incredible movie the other day and they ended it with this dialogue which shook my mind and is fitting for this topic.

“Life should be measured in deeds, not in years.” – Shershaah, 2021

  • The medical field is not perfect.

When we think of medical professionals, we immediately attribute them as being godly and life-saviors because that’s obviously what their role is. They can literally save a person’s life. This is why when we encounter some of those medical professionals who have the worst personalities and bedside manner, our hopes are immediately crushed.

For example, when I was 10 years old, I developed excruciating pain in my stomach, causing my mom to take me to my pediatrician for a check-up. The doctor examined me and concluded that everything is normal and I just need to rest. However, my mom had a gut feeling that this was not a normal stomach ache, so she requested that he place an order for an ultrasound. The doctor argued and said that it isn’t needed, but my mom – being the strong headed woman she is – insisted that I get an ultrasound. Lo and behold, the ultrasound showed that my appendix was enlarged and about to burst. I had surgery, and have been doing splendid since then. But because of that incident and multiple others, my parents have become slightly skeptical of people in the medical field who don’t always prioritize the patient’s wellbeing.

Everyone makes mistakes, but we all should have the basic knowledge to understand that we made a mistake and proceed to fix it instead of having an ego. This is especially true and a characteristic that medical professionals should possess, especially the ones directly involved in patient care.

For Ms. Maher, one of the most crucial things that every aspiring medical professional should learn is proper bedside manner. Patients are people, and people have feelings. The first step to healing someone is to ensure that they feel valued and important. Having a proper bedside manner will do exactly that.

  • Just try to be a nice person.

There were so many times where I’ve met people and have judged them for their actions, causing me to immediately label them as “good” or “bad” and decide if I like/dislike that person. But how can I believe that if I only know a snippet of their life?

“You don’t know people.” Deborah Maher, 2021

A trusted adult once told me that “everybody has suffering” in some form or the other. No matter how good we think someone has it, they have suffered in some sort of capacity. It’s impossible to ever know someone’s full story, so the best choice is to just be a nice person.

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