Remembering an Illinois teacher

The Madison County Record Aug. 13, 2015, 12:01pm


To the Editor:

Families with children are gearing up for another school year. Not every child is excited about going back into the classroom, but this is where a teacher can “make or break” it.

Earlier this summer, one of Illinois’ most recognized teachers died at age 78. Her name was Marva Collins.

In the late 1970s, Collins became well known throughout the country. She ignored what others said about poor, black students and their ability to learn.

Frustrated with the Chicago Public School system, Collins cashed in her $5,000 pension savings and opened her own school — Westside Preparatory School. Collins knew children were being failed by a system of people who cared more about earning a paycheck than dealing with students’ problems.

She taught the basics and phonics, along with poetry and classic literature, such as Shakespeare and Homer.

No one thought it was possible, but the children thrived.

She believed children, especially the disadvantaged, needed support and love.

“They need to be told each and every day ‘yes they can,’” she said.

In 1977, Collins gained national attention following a newspaper article. She later appeared on “60 Minutes” and a television movie “The Marva Collins Story,” starring Cicely Tyson, was made about her life (available on YouTube.)

Collins said, “kids don’t fail.”

“Teachers fail, school systems fail,” she said. “The people who teach children that they are failures — they are the problem.”

As we enter a new school year please remember Collins and her belief that inspiration and encouragement brings out the best in children.

Kurt Prenzler

Madison County Treasurer

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