Mary Anne Jules hugs a graduating student at the Bridgehampton School graduation Sunday, June 29. Photo by Stephen J. Kotz.
By Tessa Raebeck
For 32 years, Mary Anne Jules has paced the sidelines at Bridgehampton School’s athletic contests, no small feat considering that Bridgehampton students often compete on East Hampton and Sag Harbor teams. After three decades of serving the small, tight-knit district as a physical education teacher and 23 years as its athletic director, Ms. Jules’s retirement was announced at the graduation of the class of 2014 Sunday, June 29.
The school gave Ms. Jules an honorary diploma at graduation and on Tuesday, July 1, she took time from watching the United States play Belgium in the World Cup to confirm her decision.
“I love my career at Bridgehampton,” Ms. Jules said Tuesday. “Believe me, it hasn’t been an easy decision… I’ve loved it there, it’s a great place to work. I’m very fortunate that I had my career there.”
“The district and I are very, very sad for her to go,” said Ronnie White, president of the Bridgehampton School Board. “She put in her time and she was just an extremely integral person, a mentor to our school.”
Ms. Jules’s athletic career extends past her time in Bridgehampton; She played sports her whole life and was a four-sport varsity athlete at Baldwin High School up-island, playing field hockey, volleyball, basketball and softball.
Mary Anne Jules, second from left, smiles as she watches her students graduate from Bridgehampton School Sunday, June 29. Photo by Stephen J. Kotz.
“Back then in my day, you could play four varsity sports, that’s changed since then,” said Ms. Jules, adding, “I’ve been pretty active my whole life.”
After shining at Baldwin, a large district in Nassau County, she was invited to play basketball at SUNY-Cortland in upstate New York—and quickly made the lacrosse team, too.
“I didn’t play lacrosse ’til college,” Ms. Jules said. “I just got lucky, I tried out for college lacrosse and I ended up making the team, so I was pretty fortunate.”
Some would argue that, in addition to luck, her athleticism had something to do with it.
After graduating from Cortland, Ms. Jules was a substitute teacher in Syracuse for a year and then took the position as Bridgehampton’s physical education teacher in 1982. While teaching, she got her master’s degree at Southampton College and her administration degree at Dowling College.
“If you’ve been involved in athletics, you know what a difference athletics makes in a kid’s life…I call it the laboratory for life,” she said. “I went to a great phys. ed. program and that’s why I wanted to become a phys. ed. teacher.”
While still acting as the school’s physical education teacher in 1991 Ms. Jules also became athletic director for the district. She also served as president of Section XI, the governing body of Suffolk County high school sports, from 2010 to 2012.
After years of wearing many hats and watching many games, Ms. Jules intends to spend her duly earned free time doing none other than watching games, but under the sole hat of doting aunt.
Three of her nephews play college-level lacrosse and she has several nieces and nephews involved in high school sports, so she will be catching up on watching them play, in addition to continuing to follow the careers of her Bridgehampton students.
“In all the years I’ve been there, they’re good kids,” Ms. Jules said of Bridgehampton. “In a small environment you get so much support, it’s a huge family…I’m just very appreciative and grateful for the career I’ve had and I will miss Bridgehampton School a lot, I really will.”
“It’s such a unique job in that you can teach from 4-year-olds to seniors. As a physical educator, I can teach all those kids. I can watch them grow. After that I go to graduation parties, I go to weddings, you really get to know the kids so well,” she said.
Mr. White said Ms. Jules, who lives in Water Mill, has promised to come back and visit from time to time.
“She will be missed, she is loved,” he said.
“That’s what’s so special about [Bridgehampton],” said Ms. Jules, “kids don’t fall through the cracks there. They get a lot of support and you can really become very close to the students. And you can make a difference, every day you can make a difference in the school.”