The story to becoming the math teacher and man selling Mary Kay dates back to 1996.
It was then a football-size neuroblastoma tumor was found in the abdomen of Bill Stanley’s middle child, 8-year-old Josh, squishing his stomach, intestines and bladder and making him have accidents.
Shortly after, Stanley’s insurance dropped him.
“I think the insurance company thought that it was going to be a hefty bill and they could get rid of me,” the Powder Springs man said. “After he got sick, they got rid of me.”
Then, matters got worse. Working in Atlanta for a company that collected insurance payments directly from people’s houses, Stanley had accumulated about $4,000 the day before Josh’s surgery.
Stanley was prepared to turn it over, but calls throughout the day to his coworker about meeting up went unanswered. So he went to be with his son at the hospital, where he finally got the returned call.
“Everyone knows what’s going on, Bill. Just hold on to the money,” he said his coworker told him.
But Stanley believes this was a plot to get him out of the company. He was audited a couple days after the surgery, and because the money was turned in late, he was fired for violating his contract. “I probably could have fought or got a lawyer because it was obvious what they were doing.”
To support his family and sick son, he first picked up a job at Big Lots, then moved to be a manager at McDonald’s, where his wife was also employed. They were both working on March 2, 2000 when his wife left to pick up Josh’s medicine.
“As soon as she walked out the door, (my mom and dad) called and said you need to come home right now. … He was already dead when I got home.
Josh was in his sixth grade year at Tapp Middle when he died. He had went into remission a year before, but it soon came back. “The doctor said, ‘There really wasn’t a lot we can do,’” Stanley remembered. “’We’ll do some treatments, but basically, he’s going to die this time.’”
‘I Wonder if I Can Be a Teacher?’
The death was a turning point in Stanley’s life. Because of pickles on what should have been a pickle-less burger, or a cheeseburger without cheese, McDonald’s customers would hurl food and drinks at him.
“I just could not do that. I just could not put up with that because I had a different perspective on life.” So, he quit, without a job and without possibilities lined up.
Having some college but no degree, the job search was rough. In spite of years of experience, KFC even rejected him for a manager position because he didn’t have a degree.
Stanley took any odd jobs he could get—painting, mowing, whatever. He was even excited to be selected for $25-a-day jury duty. He said God directed him to another position that he actually felt a passion for—teaching.
“This is kind of cool,” he said of a job he landed substitute teaching for Cobb County schools. “I like this. I wonder if I can be a teacher?”
At 46 years old, Stanley borrowed every cent he could to climb toward his teaching degree from Kennesaw State, graduating and, after a difficult job search, landing a job at McClure Middle in Paulding County for when it opened in 2007. He started as a special education and is now a math teacher.
“I’ve been doing it a few years now, so I have students who’ll will come see me and tell me they enjoyed math with me (and say) thank you. That means an awful lot,” he said, explaining he’s landed his dream job.
Making Up for the Price of Education
But getting dream jobs sometimes come at a price. Also earning his online master’s degree, Stanley has racked up some hefty student loans. Furlough days and increasingly pricey health insurance haven't helped either.
“I said, ‘Mathematically more has got to come in. It’s not going to work,’” Stanley explained. “But as a teacher, I can’t depend on being able to deliver pizzas Thursday nights. I can’t go work at the grocery store every Saturday morning. My job has set hours, but it spills into the rest of my life.”
For extra cash without a regular schedule, he looked into selling Tupperware or candles or vitamins or papered chef products. But a female church friend suggested a different path.
“Do I do parties? No I don’t do parties,” Stanley, now 54, joked about his new business of selling makeup, lotions and more through Mary Kay. “But if a lady wants a party, I get someone to do a party for them.”
Of Mary Kay's sales force of 2.4 million, less than 1 percent are men, according to ABC's Austin, TX affiliate. Being the only Mary Kay man he knows, Stanley said he thought the “novelty might help me.”
“I get a lot of support,” he said. “No one has made fun of me. I’ve not been real successful yet, but I’m making enough money that I think I can pay those little bills.”
Reflecting on all that has brought him to this point helps Stanley put everything in perspective. He’s got a healthy wife, 22-year-old son, 26-year-old daughter, grandbaby, home in Powder Springs, jobs to pay back his student loans, and the memories of Josh.
“Some (of my McClure coworkers) who haven’t done what I’ve done and seen the real world, they’ll come in and complain about this in teaching and this in teaching,” he said, “and I just sit there and smile and think, ‘You have no idea how good we have it.’”