Wednesday, January 29, 2014


Perhaps the central reason why passion is an essential quality of great teachers is that it breeds commitment. The towering example of Marva Collins serves as proof that passion cannot be disconnected from commitment.  Marva Collins taught for 16 years in Chicago’s public school system.  She was disturbed by the substandard education students were subjected to in Chicago’s public schools. She grew annoyed by the dispassion-ate behavior of several teachers she worked with.  Collins felt that the school system was failing its students by not delivering on its promise to educate them.  Too many teachers had low-expectations of their students and were unprofessional and apathetic.  She was also displeased with the schooling her two younger children received at the prominent private schools they attended.  
In 1975, Marva Collins’s passionate dedication to the education of children motivated her to take her $5000 pension and invest it in the establishment of her own school, the Westside Preparatory Academy, in inner city Chicago.  Collins’s Westside Preparatory Academy was initially housed on the basement floor of Daniel Hale Williams University.  Collins and her husband remodeled the upper level of their home which later became the school’s new location. 
So she wouldn't have to abide by government regulations, Marva Collins refused to accept federal funding for her school.  Money was tight and Collins faced great difficulties as she tried to keep her school afloat financially.  She even resorted to going through the trash heap of discarded books at the board of education to retrieve books for her students. 
The forces of passion and commitment fueled the efforts of Marva Collins.  As a result, her students excelled within and without the walls of her schoolhouse.  During the Westside Preparatory Academy’s first year in existence, Collins accepted children between the ages of 4 and 14.  She took on children, who had been labeled troublesome, unteachable, disruptive, chemically impaired, behavior problems, and discipline problems.  She refused to accept the notion that the children were the problem.  Instead, Collins truly believed that the central factor in student achievement was a passionate, capable, committed classroom teacher.  She believed that the great teacher makes the “poor student good and the good student superior.” 

As a result of her fervent commitment to education, the students at Marva Collins’s Westside Prep tested five grade levels above their current grade levels within the school’s first year of existence.  One of the students included a girl who had been tagged “borderline retarded” by the experts of the public school system.  The girl’s mother was told that her daughter would never be able to read.  Not only did this same girl graduate from Westside Preparatory Academy, she also went on to graduate summa cum laude from a University in Virginia.