Marilyn often says, “I became a teacher on 9/11.” Having worked as a New York City reporter for People, Time, New York Newsday, and The Journal-News, she felt called to leave journalism and follow her secret passion — teaching children — on the infamous day terrorists brought down the World Trade Center. She had flown over the Twin Towers exactly 24 hours before the attack, admiring the buildings as they glistened in the sun. She learned then that life was sacred and short.
Within six months, Marilyn had returned to her native Chicago, and enrolled in a graduate program for education, and began her journey as a public school teacher. In 2011, after nearly ten years of teaching 3rd through 8th grade, Marilyn started writing again. She authored the “Charting My Own Course” blog for Education Week, and she was named 2013 Commentator/Blogger of the Year by the Bammy Awards. She went on to pen more than 300 education op-eds and blogs published in The New York Times, Education Week, Huffington Post, Education Post, RealClearEducation, and Black Enterprise, among others.
In 2011, Marilyn also founded the nonprofit organization Teachers Who Pray (TWP), which equips and supports educators to ground their work in faith, prayer and spiritual practices so that they bring their best selves into the classrooms and maximize their service on students and families. TWP has more than 140 school-based chapters across the country and in Haiti and Africa. She is a leading voice in education policy, acknowledging the spiritual dimension of teaching and championing legal faith-based options to the menu of social and emotional learning supports that are offered to students and teachers in public schools.
In January 2020, Marilyn spoke in the Oval Office of the White House on the topic of constitutional prayer in public schools after successfully urging the U.S. Department of Education to update its guidelines on religious liberties in school. A nonpartisan bridge builder, Marilyn’s voice has been well received by two U.S. Secretaries of Education in both Democratic and Republican administrations. Marilyn has also delivered two TEDx talks, “Why Faith Will Fix Education” and “Having the Courage to Voice the Taboo.” An education consultant with clients in the philanthropy, government, and nonprofit sectors, Marilyn served on the design team of the Harvard University’s Leadership Institute of Faith and Education.
Marilyn’s book, The Master Teacher: 12 Spiritual Lessons That Can Transform Schools and Revolutionize Public Education, is part of the curriculum in a course on faith and education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. The book has received also been praised from Christianity Today, the Christian Educators Association International, the Association of Christian Schools International, and many other religious and secular educational institutions.
Marilyn holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Dominican University, a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, and a master’s degree in teaching from National Louis University. She is currently earning a Ph.D program in education policy at the University of Arkansas.
Some of her hobbies include singing in a band, training for marathons, and speaking broken Spanish. She is a loving mom to three amazing children.