Second-generation Wildcat spent 27 years at her alma mater as teacher and administrator

On Wednesday, Principal Marilyn Brown will graduate from Taft High for the second time. This time for good. She is retiring from Taft Union High School, her alma mater and the school where she spent the vast majority of her career.

“Taft High,” she said, “is almost part of my DNA. My mom is a graduate. I was born in Taft at Westside Hospital. I attended Taft city schools and Taft Union High School kindergarten through twelfth grade. Then I worked here 27 years. It will always be a part of my good memories.”

Before the school year started, Brown decided that this would be her retirement year.

She worked her way up the ranks from English teacher to English department chair to coordinator of curriculum to principal for three years, then moved to the district director of curriculum, instruction and assessment (CIA) for five years, and then her final year as principal. She went wherever she was needed.

Chelle Koerner, who assumed many of Brown’s CIA director responsibilities as the director of special services, had high praise for her mentor. “When I came to Taft High in 1994, she was the English department chairman. She became the go-to person for whatever the administration needed done. When they needed someone to head up (the documentation for) WASC (Western Association of Schools and Colleges), they went to Marilyn. I came to really admire and appreciate her work ethic and love for this place. She has been a force behind the scenes for as long as I remember. … I so admire her tenacity and her faithfulness.”

That loyalty extended beyond Taft High to her alma mater, California State University, Bakersfield, where she earned her masters in school administration and was the coordinator of staff development for the Kern Eastern Sierra Reading Project for 11 years.

Brown said she most appreciated her time in the classroom. “Teaching is energizing. The students exude an energy and an enthusiasm that is contagious. Working with staff members, especially teachers, is also very rewarding and getting the job done for students is also very important. The students and staff members who I’ve worked with over the years are very dear to me and many of those students are now colleagues, including my secretary, Sarah (Criss).”

Criss said she will miss her teacher-turned-boss. “I've known Marilyn for many years now, as a student and now a coworker. As a supervisor and teacher, Marilyn has always pushed me to learn and progress. Marilyn does not see learning as an achieved status but rather an ongoing undertaking. … Her knowledge and passion will be greatly missed.’’

In retirement, Brown said she looks forward to spending more time with her husband of 15 years, Steven, and volunteering at her grand niece’s school, Stockdale Christian.