ORONO, Maine — 'Tis the graduation season, and while most parents carry cameras to snap photos of their graduates, one Maine parent joined her daughter to graduate side-by-side. On May 10, Anna and Julie Sanborn graduated with their Masters in educational leadership after three years of taking every class together, even electives.
Anna is Julie’s only daughter and the mother-daughter duo have always been close. They love spending time with each other kayaking, going to the beach, playing with Julie’s golden retriever and even vacationing together.
“We’ve done most of our vacations together. Just her and me. My dad isn’t very fun to take on vacation,” they tell me between laughs.
Julie has been teaching music for 30 years and is currently teaching 7th and 8th graders at Medomak Middle School. Anna followed in her mother's teaching footsteps and instructs 8th-grade math and science at Center Drive in Orrington. She has been teaching for four years.
But the mother-daughter teaching duo had no idea how much their relationship would change when they decided to go back to school together.
“I received a phone call one day from my daughter. She said, 'Mom, have you thought about getting your Masters?' I’m like, 'What! Let’s do it. Let’s go for it,' and we did,” recalled Julie of the start of their education journey in 2016.
“It has really helped to change our relationship from more of a mother-daughter experience to more of a friendship,” Anna explains.
Learning from each other has been a two-way street with Anna editing her mother’s papers and helping her whittle down her often long-winded reports.
“They would want four pages and I would write 12,” Julie says with a smile.
The mother and daughter say they talked more than they ever have, spending almost every night on the phone poring over each other's papers and assignments.
“I have always known that my mom is a strong independent woman, “ Anna says, but that knowledge would be cemented when Julie was diagnosed in 2017 with stage 3 b-cell follicular lymphoma.
“It pretty much rocked my world,” Julie remembers.
Julie went to class through her treatment until she physically couldn't. Anna would then take an iPad and bring her mom to class electronically. Julie says her husband, three sons, and Anna helped her through her cancer. She is now in remission.
On graduation day the mom and daughter sat beside each other, and when they walked onto the UMaine stage Julie put her arm around her daughter and said, "We did it, honey."
Anna says she has not only gained a great understanding of what a wonderful teacher her mother is but what a strong woman she is. Julie says watching her daughter grow as a teacher and spending time as peers has been an amazing experience.
The experience was so amazing that Julie says she fears feeling a little lost now that the program is over.
“I called [Anna] up one day and I said...they have another three-year program; are you interested?” Anna says not yet.