National Teacher of the Year

2000 National Teacher of the Year

NameMarilyn Whirry

School Information

School Address
Mira Costa High SchoolManhattan Beach, CA
Teaching AreaEnglish
Teaching Level12

California English Teacher named National Teacher of the Year

"It seems that everything we do in our lives as teachers is like a spinning spiral because we touch students, parents, colleagues and strangers, and we become more astute, more caring and better educators."

Whether the topics are reading, writing, academic standards, evaluating student learning or various other educational themes, Dr. Marilyn Jachetti Whirry has influenced the views of thousands of students and colleagues. Her influence has extended even further as a result of President Clinton recognizing her during a White House ceremony May 11 as the National Teacher of the Year 2000. State Teachers of the Year 2000 and all past National Teachers of the Year also were honored at this event.

Now celebrating its fiftieth anniversary, the National Teacher of the Year Program focuses public attention on teaching excellence and is the oldest and most prestigious awards program for teachers. The Program is sponsored by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and Scholastic Inc., the global children's publishing and media company. Whirry, who will be the fiftieth National Teacher of the Year, now begins a year as a full-time national and international educational spokesperson.

With 35 years of teaching experience, 34 of them in California, Whirry, a twelfth-grade English teacher at Mira Costa High School in Manhattan Beach, calls her life "a canvas with swirling brush strokes that depict the motifs of my experience." In addition to her devotion to teaching English and literature, these motifs include presenting over 350 workshops to teachers--28 on reading and writing strategies in the summer of 1999 alone; conducting sessions for administrators on developing academic standards and evaluating student progress in learning, and doing consultation work in several states and in Japan.

"It is interesting that through all of these professional experiences, I have become a better person," Whirry says. "The excitement of growth and the accumulation of knowledge have increased my ability as a classroom teacher. I share the excitement of work with other teachers and my students, and their enthusiasm and sense of possibility increases. And we will never truly know how many students' lives are changed by our sense of responsibility and the excitement that we have toward living."

Whirry's teaching philosophy centers around seeking, embracing and truly celebrating the act of learning. "To open the minds and spirits of our young people, we must help them feel love for the search for knowledge-a search to know the what and the why, to understand the hearts and minds of others, and to understand the meaning of the world and our place in it," she says.

"These ideas I feel with my entire essence and through the teaching of great literature, with the ideas it contains, I have been able to share these beliefs with my students." Whirry encourages students to think deeply when reading and writing. Teaching techniques she emphasizes include marking books, which teaches students to connect and remember important events or writing techniques in a literary work, and promoting dialogue over debate in group discussions. "Only in listening to the responses of others and responding to them, do people learn to listen and think - not talk off the top of their heads," she explains.

Such responsibility and enthusiasm have definitely affected her students. Mary-Anna Rae, a former student, said, "Dr. Whirry's intellectual engagement and her passion for life make her a powerful role model for students. In everything she does, she makes it clear that she is listening, attending to the students' deepest thinking."

Now a teacher herself, Rae adds that Whirry enriched and expanded her world. "I grew more confident in what I had to say, finding my writer's voice and discovering that I could give my life purpose," she says.

Gordon Ambach, Executive Director of CCSSO, is excited by Whirry's selection. "Marilyn's enthusiasm for both teaching her students about great writing and literature, and also being a role model for positive living, merits her recognition as the 2000 national representative of teaching."

Richard Robinson, Chairman, President and CEO of Scholastic Inc., says, "As a sponsor of the National Teacher of the Year, Scholastic is proud to lend our voice to honor this noble profession and the people in it, such as Dr. Marilyn Jachetti Whirry. Our hope is that every local community will seek out those who exemplify the best teaching practices in their classrooms, and join us in our campaign to raise the prestige of teachers everywhere."

Whirry was born in Trenton, New Jersey, on January 12, 1935. She attended parochial schools during her elementary years and graduated from a private college preparatory school, Villa Victoria Academy. In 1955, Whirry graduated from Immaculate Heart College in Los Angeles with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and history and in 1958 earned a Master of Arts degree in English and philosophy from the same institution. In 1982, she earned a doctorate in Contemporary Literature from International College in Los Angeles, and has credits from Harvard University and the University of Southern California.

Whirry began teaching in 1959 as an English literature instructor at Immaculate Heart, then as a high school educator in 1960, teaching English for one year at Newton High School in Newton, Massachusetts, where she and her family had moved. From 1961-67, Whirry took classes at Harvard while her then husband studied for a doctorate, had two children and worked for a publishing company at home. Moving back to California, she began teaching English at Mira Costa in 1967 and has been there since. Other teaching experiences are: graduate professor of Literature and Philosophy at International College, 1982-85; reading methods instructor at California State University-Dominguez Hills, 1990-91; and adjunct professor of education at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles since 1990.

Whirry is the mother of two sons, David Jachetti and Robert Whirry.

She is the eighth English teacher, and second from California, to be named National Teacher of the Year. Other recipients who have educated students in the language arts are: Dr. Lawana Trout, Oklahoma (1964); Barbara Goleman, Florida (1969); Beverly Bimes-Michalak, Missouri (1980); Dr. LeRoy Hay, Connecticut (1983); Guy Doud, Minnesota (1986); Janis Gabay, California (1990); and Sharon Draper, Ohio (1997).

Other National Teacher of the Year 2000 finalists are Margaret Holtschlag, Michigan Teacher of the Year 2000 and a fourth-grade teacher at Murphy Elementary School in Haslett, Michigan; P. Brett Smith, Minnesota Teacher of the Year 2000 and a third-fifth grade music teacher at O.H. Anderson Elementary School in Mahtomedi, Minnesota; and Mitsuye Conover, Oklahoma Teacher of the Year 2000 and an eleventh-grade advanced placement history teacher at Bartlesville High School in Bartlesville, Oklahoma.

View the complete candidate application for Mrs. Whirry.