Ms. or Mrs.: How To Address Teachers Appropriately

Ava Chen, Editor-in-Chief

The letter “R” can have a big impact on whether a student is addressing their female teachers correctly. At Minnetonka High School, many teachers go by Mrs. and others go by Ms. While some might think that Mrs. and Ms. can be used interchangeably, they often cannot. What does the “R” mean and how does someone know if they are addressing their teacher correctly?

Mrs. is typically reserved for married or widowed women. Not all women that go by Mrs. changed their last name to their partner’s last name after getting married. For example, someone that goes by Mrs. Smith could be married to a Mr. Anderson. Nowadays, Mrs. is actually used less frequently, especially in a professional setting.

Ms. is a little bit more complicated. Someone that goes by Ms. could be married or unmarried. Ms. is essentially the female equivalent of Mr., because neither indicates marital status. Generally, someone could respectfully address a woman by Ms. even if she is married (unless she is quite young; in that case, Miss might be more appropriate).

So, why do some married women choose to go by Ms. instead of Mrs.?

Some married women choose to go by Ms. because they don’t think it important to share their marital status through their salutation. Others simply go by Ms. because they see Mrs. as old-fashioned. Regardless of the reason, it is important to recognize a person’s preference for Ms. or Mrs.

Beth Gibbs, an English teacher at the high school, prefers to be addressed by Ms. and expresses this preference at the start of a new semester. 

She said, “When I’m introducing myself to my classes, I always make the distinction: ‘I’m Ms. Gibbs – not Mrs. Gibbs’ because I want to model for students that I’d like to hear their preferences in the same way.  We all want people to know our names and to use our preferences, so I hope that students feel those preferences will be remembered and used in my classes.”

It is not just teachers who see the importance of these preferences.

When asked about why using Ms. vs Mrs. or vice versa is important, Grace Kaung, ‘22, said that “[It shows] respect to people’s personal preference, identity and how they view themselves.” 

Kaung believes that students should pay more attention to how female teachers choose to be addressed.

“Students should pay attention to when teachers sometimes put their name on a whiteboard or when they sign off on emails or messages because oftentimes they will specify how they wish to be addressed,” Kaung said.

Kaung also mentioned that teachers could also make it more clear how they wish to be addressed to help students as well. 

She said, “I think that teachers should make it clear on the first day [when] they introduce their names. They should also clarify which one they prefer or if they even have a preference.”

As Kaung said, the “R” in a person’s chosen salutation can be an important part of their identity. As the school year progresses, Breezes urges students to pay attention to the way teachers address themselves to make sure they are addressing them correctly.