Longtime Yukon teacher Mary Sloan and rapper Eminem have something in common. They

both got their careers started in Detroit’s notorious 8-Mile district.

However, Sloan’s teaching environment from the beginning to the end could not have been more different.

Growing up in Michigan, Sloan was just 20 years old when she began her first teaching job in Detroit’s infamous inner city.

Working with kids with behavioral issues, it was there, early on in her career, where she found herself contemplating her career choice and wondering if she should – and could – continue.

“I would cry on my way to work,” recalls Sloan, of her early teaching days. “My supervisor told me ‘you stick with this program and you’ll get an A. And you make it through this program and you’ll never have a tougher teaching job.’ And she was right.”

Sloan stayed with the program and it turned out to be a decision that would eventually lead her to Whitehorse, where she would become an integral part of the successful Music Arts and Drama (MAD) program.

Joining the program in 1994, a year after its launch, Sloan went on to instruct hundreds of students about every facet of theatre and was an instrumental part of the program’s growth and success.

From set design and playwriting to singing, dancing and acting Sloan was always there front and centre and became synonymous with MAD.

“It’s the best career I could have had and I got to do what I wanted to every day,” said Sloan. “I got to do what I loved for 25 years.”

Reflecting on her career with the program, Sloan says it is knowing how the program impacted the students so positively that will be one of the biggest lasting memories for her.

“I have kids tell me that it was the first chance for them to really be who they wanted to be,” said Sloan. “That is so special.”

Last month just how big an impact Sloan has made through her time with MAD was apparent when dozens of students, both current and alumni, arranged a surprise retirement party for her.

With Sloan sitting in the front row, one after another the students went to the open mic where they performed or simply offered gratitude and praise.

As for easing into retirement, for Sloan that has not been the case.

From working more with hospice to acting with – not just one, but various – theatre organizations in town, Sloan has not slowed down and has no intention to do so.

“I love acting and I acted before, but now that’s what I get to do all the time and I plan to do as much of it as I can,” she says.

In fact, later this month Sloan will take to the stage with several former students to perform as part of the Canadian theatre festival Magnetic North.

As for the future of the MAD program, Sloan says she would like to see it continue in some capacity.

“It has been so important for me and has been so important for so many,” she says. “I really hope it does.”