Meet Mary Rizos!

Mary Rizos: Education, Documentary Photography and Ethnography

Mary Rizos joined our staff this August as our Education Outreach and Professional Development Coordinator. Her twelve years working as a professional educator and her academic background in Anthropology and Photojournalism made her an ideal person to take on training teachers and students to use ethnographic methods through our Discovering Community education program.

Recently we asked Mary to share a little bit about herself and her work:

I'm very happy to have joined the Vermont Folklife Center in a job (Education Outreach and Professional Development Coordinator) that brings together the things I care about: education, community, creativity and storytelling.

I came to photography and documentary work -  and eventually the Folklife Center - gradually, out of a long-standing interest in exploring everyday life and learning more about history and community. My study of world languages and Anthropology brought me to different places in the United States and abroad and, by observing a diversity of ways of living, I began to understand the experiences common to all of them, all of us.

For my thesis toward a Master's degree in Journalism I did a six-week project exploring daily life on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border fence. I heard from parents and children and husbands and wives who live on different sides of the fence, and students who cross the border to go to school every day. For some, the border doesn't even matter; people, culture, and language are the same on both sides. For others the border is a defining element in their lives, dictating where and how they live and work and how they see themselves.

Through time spent with people learning about their lives - on the border, and across the country in barbershops, bookstores, laundromats, and at jobs at newspapers and farms and schools - I have been constantly reminded that we all have a story to tell. We form connections wherever we are, whatever our differences, and that seeking and sharing our stories helps us understand and build stronger relationships.

I spent 12 years as a high school Spanish teacher, an experience that allowed me to learn a great deal from (and with) students, and to share my interest in language, culture, and community both locally and globally. I am excited to continue this work and collaboration with students through the Discovering Community program at the Folklife Center.

Enjoy a slide show of some of Mary's photos