Mary Hemeon Becomes Rookie Coach Nearly Four Decades Into Teaching Career

By: Brad Joyal

Topics: School Sports , Education , Track/Field

Mary Hemeon took over the Monomoy Regional High School girls track and field program this spring. She has been a math teacher in Harwich for 37 years. BRAD JOYAL PHOTO

HARWICH – Ask Amy Hinesley and Josie Ganshaw if their calculus teacher Mary Hemeon acts any differently when she’s interacting with them outside of the classroom as the girls track and field coach, and the two recent Monomoy Regional High School graduates will tell you she is pretty similar in both roles.

Hemeon struggles to see it that way.

That’s because she has 37 years of experience teaching mathematics and she’s only a rookie coach for Monomoy’s girls track and field program.

“I love the aspect of working with the kids outside of the classroom,” Hemeon said before a recent practice. “I know they say I’m the same, and I probably am, but for me it feels a lot different. My personality is my personality, but for me it’s a lot different than the expectations in the classroom.”

It’s Hemeon’s personality that Hinesley and Ganshaw admire. The duo share captain duties with another senior, Nikki Awalt, though they are the only two athletes on Monomoy’s team of eight girls who have had Hemeon as a teacher.

“It’s not really different,” said Ganshaw, a Harwich resident who will study at High Point University in the fall. “She’s always just there where you need her.”

Hinesley agreed that Hemeon is similar in both capacities before summing up her feelings on her teacher-turned-coach by saying “she’s amazing.”

“She’s always very supportive in the classroom,” said Hinesley, a Chatham resident who plans to attend Cornell University in the fall. “She’ll take the time to explain any math problem to you, no matter how many times you ask. And she’ll lay down with you on the track when you are contemplating life in the middle of practice.”

Hemeon gravitated to math at an early age. It seemed like the natural thing to do once she realized how good she was at it.

“It came easy to me and I think that fostered a love for it because it was like, ‘Oh, I’m good at this,’” said Hemeon, a Vermont native. “And then I was always that kid in high school that was helping friends with their math, and so I always knew. Yeah, I always knew.”

Hemeon began applying for teaching jobs when she was a senior and close to finishing her mathematics degree at Keuka College in New York. Harwich High School invited her for an interview, enticing her to make her first visit to Cape Cod.

“They called me about a week later and offered me the job, and I said, ‘Sure,’” Hemeon said, reflecting on her 1984 job interview. “And I’ve been here ever since.”

There have been plenty of changes over the years — the most notable of which was the merger of the Harwich and Chatham High Schools to become Monomoy Regional in 2014. Even that wasn’t really that big of a deal, according to Hemeon, because the teachers from the two math departments had been working together to develop curriculum in the years leading up to the merger.

“We’ve got a good group in the math department,” said Hemeon, who heads the department. “I always say we have the best department in the school, without a doubt. And I bet if you asked others in the school, they’d tell you the same thing. I’m very fortunate that way.”

When Hemeon first began teaching in Harwich she coached junior high field hockey, a throwback to her own athletic background. She played field hockey and was on the cross-country skiing team in high school before playing club tennis in college.

Eventually Hemeon and her husband, Chris, a Harwich native and the owner of Hemeon’s Garage in town, had three children, Michelle, Amy and Matthew, and Hemeon stepped away from coaching to raise them.

“I’ve done the National Honor Society and student council,” Hemeon said, “and I’ve been the math team advisor, so I’ve always tried to stay involved. But I never got back into coaching. You always think somebody is in that role, so when they post the positions, you almost don’t want to step on toes. The athletic director had sent out this S.O.S. email about how we needed somebody for girls track and I thought I’d like to get back to coaching.”

Hemeon has done her own research to get acclimated on her new sport. She also soaks up any information Monomoy’s longtime boys track and field coach Don Bates shares with her like a sponge.

“I have been doing videos and reading, and of course Don Bates is a wealth of information himself,” she said. “So that’s been a complete learning experience for me, but I’ve been enjoying it a lot.”

Coaching isn’t the only new activity Hemeon has discovered a passion for in recent years, however. She has been doing CrossFit for a little less than a decade after falling in love with the workouts.

“I developed a love for weight lifting and crazy stuff like that,” she said with a laugh.

In the classroom, on the track or in the weight room, Hemeon is always eager to push her boundaries while discovering new passions.

Email Brad Joyal at brad@capecodchronicle.com