About Terry Lee Marzell

Terry Lee Marzell holds a bachelor's degree in English from Cal State Fullerton and a master's degree in Interdisciplinary Studies from Cal State San Bernardino. She also holds a certificate for Interior Design Level 1 from Mt. San Antonio College. She has been an educator in the Corona Norco Unified School District for more than 30 years.

Teacher Pernella Mae Anderson: Collector of African American Slave Narratives and Folklore

Many talented classroom teachers become known for accomplishments outside of the classroom. One such teacher is Pernella Mae Anderson, an elementary teacher who worked in Arkansas and Michigan who was also an important collector of African American folklore.

Pernella Mae Center Anderson was born April 12, 1903 in Camden, Ouachita County, Arkansas. She was the youngest of ten children born to Willis and Sallie (Washington) Center. Her father was a carpenter and her mother was a housewife. When Pernella was only two years old, her mother died, and two years later her father remarried.

When Pernella grew up, she married Theodore Haynie, Jr., (circa 1920) and the union produced three children. Between 1922-1924, the young mother attended Arkansas Baptist College, where she earned a liberal arts degree. Evidently, Pernella divorced Theodore and, on April 21, 1931, she married her second husband, William W. Anderson.

In 1935, the Pernella accepted a teaching position in Lockesburg in Sevier County, Arkansas. The following year, she went to work for the Federal Writers’ Project (FWP), an organization associated with the New Deal-era Works Progress Administration (WPA). Pernella’s work included collecting oral histories, some of which were published in the seventeen-volume Slave Narratives: A Folk History of Slavery in the United States from Interviews with Former Slaves (1941). Additionally, she collected the folk stories of Black residents ranging in age from 19 to 92. Pernella was one of only two African Americans hired to do this work.

A lifelong learner, Pernella went back to school in 1944 to earn her teaching certificate, and then she completed the requirements for her Bachelor’s in Education from Grambling State University in Grambling, Louisiana. From 1953-1955, Pernella taught school at Carver Elementary School in El Dorado in Arkansas’ Union County. In 1955, Pernella moved to Detroit, Michigan, and taught in Detroit public schools until the conclusion of her career.

This talented teacher and folklorist passed away on March 5, 1980, in Detroit. She is interred in Westlawn Cemetery in the town of Wayne, Wayne County, Michigan.

You can read more about this remarkable educator at this link: Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture. To learn more about the Federal Writers’ Project, click on this link: FWP at the Library of Congress.

Meet Memphis Teacher Michael Scruggs: “You have everything it takes to be #1”

Meet high school social studies teacher Michael Scruggs from Memphis, Tennessee. He is such an inspiration to his students! Every day he begins his classes with a motivational mantra such as, “You have everything it takes to be #1.”

This passionate chalkboard champion was featured last June in an episode of the Ellen DeGeneres Show. View the video below to see him in action, and to meet one of his former students.



Kentucky’s Lyman T. Johnson: Educator and Civil Rights Activist

I am always eager to share stories about passionate teachers who have dedicated their talent and influence to compelling social causes. One of these is Lyman Tefft Johnson, a high school teacher who worked towards racial justice during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s.

Lyman was born on June 12, 1906, in Columbia, Tennessee, the eighth of nine children born to Robert and Mary (Dew) Johnson. He was the grandson of former slaves.

In 1926, at the age of 20, Lyman earned  his high diploma from the preparatory division of Knoxville College, a historically black institution in Knoxville, Tennessee. In 1930, Lyman earned his bachelor’s degree in Greek from Virginia Union University in Richmond, Virginia, and the following year he completed the requirements for his master’s degree in history from the University of Michigan in Detroit, Michigan.

Once he completed his education, Lyman accepted a position as a teacher of history, economy, and mathematics at Central High School in Louisville, Kentucky. Lyman had already been teaching for 16 years when he won a legal case to integrate the University of Kentucky in 1949, a full five years before the US Supreme Court made its famous 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education ruling that outlawed segregation in public schools.

Lyman taught at Central High until 1966, then spent seven years working in the Jefferson County Public Schools as an assistant principal. During these years, he continued his civil rights work, leading efforts to integrate local neighborhoods, swimming pools, schools, and restaurants. He was also a major force behind a fight for equal pay for his both black and white teachers in his district. In addition, Lyman headed the Louisville Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) for six years.

In all, Lyman devoted 34 years of his life as an educator. For his work as a teacher and civil rights activist, he was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Kentucky (1979), the Governor’s Distinguished Service Medallion for Volunteerism (1995), and the City of Louisville’s first Freedom Award (1988). Also, a Louisville school was renamed in his honor. In 1980, Parkland Junior High School was designated Lyman T. Johnson Middle School. This amazing chalkboard champion passed away on October 3, 1997. He was 91 years old.

To learn more about this amazing teacher and civil rights activist, click on Lyman T. Johnson Obituary. You might also want to read a biography of him written by Professor Emeritus Wade Hall of Bellarmine University entitled The Rest of the Dream: The Black Odyssey of Lyman T. Johnson.

New Jersey’s Zack Valentine: Coach, Phys Ed Teacher, and Former Pro Football Player

I love to share stories about former professional athletes who have enriched the lives of young people as teachers and coaches. One example of this is Zack Valentine, a former pro football player who became a leading high school football coach and physical education teacher in New Jersey.

Zack was born May 29, 1957, in Edenton, North Carolina. As a youngster, he attended home town John A. Holmes High School in the Edenton-Chowan School District. After his high school graduation, Zack attended nearby East Carolina University.

After college, Zack played pro football for the Pittsburgh Steelers (1979-1981), and the Philadelphia Eagles in the 1982 season. With the Steelers, the 6’2″, 220-pound linebacker garnered a coveted Super Bowl ring in 1979.

After Zack concluded his pro football career, he accepted a position as a physical education teacher at Woodbury High School in Gloucester, New Jersey. He also served as the head football coach for the Thundering Herd for 11 seasons. During his tenure, he led his team to a 10-2 record (2012) and three trips to the South Jersey Group 1 Final, including one championship in 2009. That year, the Gloucester Times named the victorious coach their Football Coach of the Year. Overall, Zack’s record was 82 wins and 37 losses. Only one other coach in Woodbury High history has logged more wins.

As a coach, Zack is known for his focus on more than what his players accomplish on the field; he is immeasurably concerned about what they also accomplish in their academics and in their personal lives. “He’s been a great coach to these kids,” says Woodbury’s Athletic Director Grant Shivers, “and sometimes I don’t think our kids always understand how lucky they are to have a coach like him.”

Read more about this amazing physical education teacher and coach at Zack Valentine and this article, 2009 Football Coach of the Year, in the Gloucester Times.


Marva Collins: From One-Room School House to Innovative Educator

Many talented educators come from humble backgrounds, yet manage to make the most of their modest beginnings. Such is the case with Marva Collins, a Chicago educator who earned national recognition for her innovative teaching methods.

Marva Delores Knight was born August 31, 1936, in Monroeville, Alabama, the first of two daughters born to businessman Henry and Bessie (Nettles) Knight. Raised in the heart of the segregated South, Marva attended a one-room school house and learned first-hand about the substandard educational opportunities offered to African American students. Nevertheless, her father expected her to study hard and succeed.

As a young woman, Marva attended Clark College in Atlanta, Georgia. After college, she taught school for two years. In 1959, the young woman moved to Chicago, Illinois, where she met and married draftsman Clarence Collins. The couple had three children. For the next 14 years, while raising her family, Marva worked as a substitute teacher in the Chicago School District.

Marva became concerned with youngsters she believed were not being served well by the school system, so in 1975 she withdrew $5,000 from her retirement account and founded a private school on the second floor of her home in the Chicago neighborhood of Garfield Park. Thus was born the Westside Preparatory School. Only a few students enrolled, but the dedicated educator resolved that her school would be open to any student who was not succeeding in the larger school systems, particularly low-income children, and those who’d been diagnosed with irremediable learning disabilities. At the end of the first year of the school’s operation, every student enrolled in Westside Prep earned test scores significantly higher than they had scored in previous years.

Marva’s methods became known as the Collins Method. Her program centered on phonics, math, reading, Language Arts, and the classics. She was also a big believer in the Socratic Method, which emphasizes learning through asking questions and engaging in dialogue with peers. “The essence of teaching is to make learning contagious, to have one idea spark another,” Marva once said.

The talented educator and her innovative school quickly became a national story, featured in stories in the magazines Time and Newsweek and in television news programs 60 Minutes and Good Morning America. In 1982, the story of Marva’s life and school were the subjects of a television movie starring powerhouse actors Cicely Tyson and Morgan Freeman.

For her pioneering teaching methods, Marva was honored with the Watson Washburn Award from the Reading Reform Foundation (1978), the Jefferson Award for Public Service (1981) and the Humanitarian Award for Excellence. Marva also received the first Lifetime Achievement Award from the Monroe County Heritage Association during Black History Month (1994). In addition, she was awarded honorary doctorates from Amherst, Dartmouth, and Notre Dame. President George W. Bush honored the chalkboard champion with the National Humanities Medal (2004). To read more about this amazing teacher, click on the link for www.biography.com or the link For the Kids’ Sake.

Marva Collins died of natural causes on June 24, 2015, in Beaufort County, South Carolina. She was 78 years old.