Cass Tech teacher retiring after 40 years leaves lasting legacy

She's a proud alumna of Detroit's Cass Tech High School and after earning her degrees, she's dedicated her life to sharing her knowledge.

In the eyes of her students, she's an icon who you don't hear about every day. This Black History Month, we honor a Detroit teacher who has done so much.

Marilyn McCormick moved to Detroit in 1969 as a teenager with her family. Marilyn attended Cass Tech from her sophomore year until graduation.

She went to Bowling Green University and after college; Marilyn started working as a substitute teacher at her former high school in Detroit.

Her original plan was to only work in the D for a few years, and then make the move to New York City to live the big dream as a dancer.

"I fell in love with teaching," she said. "I really, really liked it."

Marilyn has been a teacher at Cass Tech for the past 40 years.

"You don't see that a lot," said student Coda Boyce. "You see teachers leave after the first year saying they can't handle these kids and, there are 2,000 kids in Cass Tech and she sees a good 50 percent of those students.

"So she's influenced so many people and to have her here is truly a blessing."

For many of her former students, Marilyn has also been an inspiration, including those who now teach at Cass Tech.

"Here I am now, the debate teacher, the debate coach, being able to give back to students what I learned from her," said Kimberly Love.

Knowing what kind of influence she's had on her former and current students, Marilyn says her passion to her share her knowledge.

"To say this is what I do, this is what I love, this is probably what is making me who I am," she said. "And you can have it too."

She teaches her young up-and-comers that they can achieve anything if they have the passion and master the craft.

"There's a distinct difference, isn't there," Marilyn says to her class. "Between acting and being."

This is a bittersweet story because Marilyn will retire at the end of the school year.

"We are the last ones, we are the end of the line," said student Chelsea Sutherland. "We have to keep up the legacy. We have to continue to be great because we are her."

Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. Du Bois, Langston Hughes, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr.  are just a few of the black leaders who we normally read about during Black History Month. But rarely do we read the teachers who have had an impact on future generations.

"They don't allow us to know the black leaders that made great leaders," said student Christopher Horne. "She is my back bone."

This local icon is leaving DPS at a time when the future is uncertain, student walkouts, teacher sickouts, the fight for better conditions in Detroit Public Schools continue, not to mention a budget deficit that will have to be addressed by lawmakers.

Marilyn has done her part as an educator, and now it's time for her to watch from the sidelines, but one more lesson and some encouragement before she walks away.

"To know that all things are possible," she said. "No matter how daunting  the road is in front of you, anything is possible. Just keep your shoulder to the plow."
 

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