Mustang North Middle School Teacher of the Year Marilyn Bilbrey keeps things that matter to her. Her own experience in seventh and eighth grade was difficult. She mentally catalogued the smiles and kind words from her teachers, but she has kept the papers with thoughtful comments in the margins all these years. As a teacher, she’s no different. She has antique trunks, storage spaces and filing cabinets brimming with kids’ notes and special school projects.
“I decided when I was in the seventh or eighth grade that I wanted to be a teacher because my teachers made such a difference to me,” she said. “I love English, I love grammar, literature and writing. Those things are my passion, but these kids have my heart.”
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After high school, Bilbrey went to OSU, stopping just short of getting a teaching certificate. She married after high school and stayed home to raise her own children for 16 years.
“And then the Lord said, ‘It’s time,’” she said. “It just clicked. I listened. With a lot of encouragement from my parents, my family and my friends, I knew I was where God wanted me to be. I went back and got my certificate, finished my degree at SNU and did my student teaching. I still love every day.”
She was hired to teach at Mustang North and stayed for six years before moving to Duncan, then teaching at Deer Creek. Six years ago she came back to Mustang North. Middle schoolers are her favorite.
“I can’t explain it,” she said. “I love them and I have a heart for them. I tell them on day one that we are all created equal and there is no one any better than you are.”
Bilbrey’s favorite part of English to teach is grammar.
“I love literature, but I also love grammar and grammar is so important,” she said. “No matter what profession or career you end up pursuing, the grammar, the communication, the writing, is so important. I know it’s not their favorite so we have to make it fun.”
Bilbrey has hands-on grammar projects like “Nouns in a Box.” When the time comes for prepositional phrases, they illustrate them.
For Bilbrey’s last assignment of the year, she has her students write a letter to her. They can say anything about the class. She uses the notes to gain a better understanding of what helped and what should be revamped.
“Every year I can’t wait to read them. They are very honest,” she said. “And the things they remember from the year always surprise me. When you’re standing up here with 30 students in a classroom, you don’t always see it. They might mention something we read, or some story I told about my own life.”
She keeps the letters, every one.
She said being named Teacher of the Year for Mustang North Middle School was an honor.
“It’s humbling because none of us do this job alone,” she said. “It takes every person in this building to help these students, guide them and prepare them for high school, for college and beyond. We are all in it together and we don’t stand alone.” Bilbrey is one of 14 site Teachers of the Year for Mustang Schools. A district Teacher of the Year will be