Marva Collins Dead at 78

Chicago education activist Marva Collins has died.

She was 78.

According to the school founder’s son, Collins died Wednesday night in South Carolina.

Collins started West Side Preparatory School in Chicago Garfield Park neighborhood in 1975. She also founded the “Collins Method,” a style of education that focused on phonics, math, reading, English and the Classics.

Unfortunately, West Side Prep closed its doors in 2008 due to a lack of funds.

Collins’ work at Westside Preparatory was turned into a movie in the 1980s. She was sought out for her expertise in the field of education by parents, fellow educators and even President Ronald Reagan — who courted her for secretary of education.

The school, which focused on high-risk children, garnered national attention for its soaring achievements.

Our condolences go out to Ms. Collins loved ones at this difficult time.

  • Davetta Daniels

    Thanks for the diligence, passion and wisdom Mrs. Collins brought to the educational field especially to benefit undeserved school communities. I bask in your vision and emulate your work. Davetta Daniels, Ed.D

  • Ann

    A great educator. She showed us the importance of high expectations, for teachers as well as students.

  • Sonya

    Mrs. Collins was the educators' master teacher. She inspired so many of us to enter the field and to empower students to become master learners. Mrs. Collins saved so many lives through her efforts to make mass education a successful outcome for the students left aside by systematic racism and social injustice. You left an army of education warriors who will continue to work towards your vision. Rest in peace, our precious angel.
    Sonya J. Rice, M.S. Ed.

  • John C. Kunich

    It was a true honor for me to be a friend and supporter of Mrs. Collins for many years. She inspired me to write "Marva!", an entire Broadway-style musical play (script, music, and lyrics) about her founding of Westside Preparatory School in Chicago. She was the greatest teacher and mentor I have ever known.

  • Richard Baumgartner

    Remembering Marva Collins

    “Education is cumulative, and it affects the breed.” Plato said it over two thousand years ago and Marva Collins proved it, perhaps more than anyone else in modern times. Chicago and, indeed, the world, must long remember Marva Collins, the renowned educator who passed away days ago at age 78. I certainly will never forget her. How could I?
    I cannot forget because Mrs. Collins gave me an opportunity of a lifetime to come to her famed Westside Preparatory School as a young teacher many years ago. She has been with me ever since. Hardly a day goes by when I do not think of Marva Collins or her example does not in some way inform me in the course of my life’s work.
    Was Mrs. Collins’ approach to teaching Socratic, as she claimed, or more dogmatic? Maybe it was both. But it really doesn’t matter. What matters is that Marva Collins’ Way worked. Her students, starting at a very early age, did read far above grade level. They did learn to write well, and they really did read Shakespeare and understand a good deal of it. I know. I was there. I saw it; I even practiced it, in my own very imperfect way, as a teacher under Mrs. Collins for several years. And although the charter school which I founded is not a “Marva Collins School,” my school, Rise Academy, is successful in large measure because of what I learned from Mrs. Collins and because of the standard she set. It is a standard that I am still striving to reach to this day.
    No doubt about it. Marva Collins was difficult to work for. She had the patience of Job with children, but not nearly as much with adults. Yet there were times when she stuck with me as a teacher when, looking back on it from where I am today, I would probably have fired myself. Apparently Mrs. Collins saw something in me that I could not at that time see in myself. She was like that, of course, and more so, with her students. She often used the analogy of Michelangelo – how when others saw just a formless block of stone, he saw a beautiful sculpture waiting to be revealed. And so it was with Marva Collins. She was a sculptor of young minds and hearts, especially of those whom society would never have predicted to shine and stand out. Her impact was undeniable.
    Ultimately, Mrs. Collins and I had a falling out – an event that I know looms much larger in my life than it did in hers. But who was right and who was wrong — that doesn’t matter now. What does matter, despite the separation, is that Marva Collins had a profound and indelible effect on me, and I am a better person for it. So, too, be it directly or indirectly, are countless others.

    Richard Baumgartner is the founder & director of Rise Academy charter school in Lubbock, Texas. He taught at Westside Prep under Marva Collins during the late 80s and into the 90s.

    • sybil512000

      What truly truthful and lovely words about this fabulous woman… Black Woman.

    • Paige Jones

      Hello, Mr. Baumgatner. You taught my daughter, Judi for a while when she was at WSP. It's good to know you're still teaching. Thanks for the lessons you taught her. As my mom would say, "Have a rainbow day.".

  • 1BlackWoman

    Ms. Collins' passing deserves more than this 3rd-grade level piece. My goodness!!

  • Erinn

    Mrs. Collins understood the trials of growing up in the inner city..She understood that our black children are not throw aways..She was a trailblazer for education.Thank you Mrs.Collins and RIP:)!

  • Michelle

    RIP Mrs. Collins

  • Teresa

    She was an awesome educator. As a kindergarten teacher i learned so much from her at a very young age myself, just starting out. I was able to see my reward now in seeing those children that are now very successful adults. I am retired now, and I run into former students all the time that still tell me thank you. I say thank you Marva Collins, your work did not go in vain. RIP

  • Dianne Kirksey

    Rest in peace, Marva. You will be missed. Your contributions will not be forgotten. A strong, Alabama raised woman, with integrity and courage. I am so proud to be apart of sharing your story.
    Your television sister, Dianne Kirksey

  • Hilary Brown Smith

    Wonderful example of brilliance, excellence and high standards . Ms Collins was such a visionary ; thank God she has influenced so many to carry the torch for excellence in education. Children are such a mop that willing absorb what's taught to them … Praying for her family, friends and former students at this time .

  • Grace Carlson

    Rest in peace, Ms. Collins. You set an example for us all.

  • Darlene M. Smith

    A Legacy of Excellence

    "We are what we repeatedly do, Excellence, therefore, is a habit, not an act." Aristotle, one of Plato's more adept students, said that. Marva Collins, renowned master teacher, taught me that.

    I echo the sentiments of Mr. Richard Baumgartner almost word for word. I was his successor at Westside Preparatory School, and despite Mrs. Collins' impatience with adults, or perhaps because of her impatience, I, too, must give Mrs. Collins major credit for my success as well. I am founder and Chief Administrative Officer of Premier Arts and Science Charter School in Harrisburg, PA. Last school year I served as Principal as well. Without a doubt, Mrs. Collins is the inspiration behind Premier and a constant reminder of the standard of excellence I am striving to achieve. There is so much about her that I have incorporated into my life and personality that some days I don't know where Mrs. Collins ends and I begin. My youngest son Brandyn attended WSP while I was a teacher there. His teacher was Mrs. Collins' beloved daughter, Ms. Cynthia Collins. Brandyn just graduated this year with an MBA in Sports Management.
    Over the years, however, I have discovered that the purpose of my once in a lifetime opportunity with Mrs. Collins, brief though it may have been, was less about Marva Collins the human being, and more about Marva Collins the vessel through which the divine Grace of God flowed through. This Grace was poured out upon all who had the privilege of being one of her students. It didn't matter whether you were an adult student or a child. It didn't matter whether she liked it, or not.
    I, too, think of her daily. Her methodology continues to drive the instruction at Premier. No, it is not the Marva Collins Methodology. It is the Premier Way, deeply inspired by the Marva Collins Way.
    By the way, I would be honored if any former Westside Preparatory School students who are certified teachers would consider joining the Premier staff team as we continue this great legacy of excellence in education. It would be a wonderful way to honor the memory of Mrs. Marva N. Collins.

  • Loraine Carter

    About a decade ago, Mrs. Collins left a voicemail message on my answering service. That was when you pushed a button and listened to the caller. My son was about 10 when he first heard her voice. As he listened to her message along with me, I told him that Mrs. Collins was the Martin Luther King of education. We played that message several times. I was so excited.

    She visited our community in Lower Merion, near Philadelphia, to help parents and community members understand what it takes to educate a child–to really educate a child. I just wrote a letter to her a few weeks ago, not having any idea that she was ill.

    I just learned a few minutes ago of her passing. I am confident that she is with the Lord, no doubt. I grieve her loss and for her family, but heaven just received one of earth's best gifts.

  • I want to say THANK YOU Jet Magazine for your commitment to the Black Community and for keeping this news available! I was born and raised in Chicago and know well about the legacy of the late Marva Collins and would love to see her school re-open. Her ministry to all of the young people who have matriculated through the school and the community will never forget!

    Sarah Sulton, M.Ed.

    • lcross

      Thank you for your continued support! We, at JET, appreciate you.

  • I want to say THANK YOU Jet Magazine for your commitment to the Black Community and for keeping this news available! I was born and raised in Chicago and know well about the legacy of the late Marva Collins and would love to see her school re-open. Her ministry to all of the young people who have matriculated through the school and the community will never be forgotten!

    Sarah Sulton, M.Ed.

  • Ken Hendon

    My hero is dead. Marva was the best teacher ever. She, by the power of her will and character, took young fragile children and demanded that they reach into their spirit and develop the greatness that God created.
    I pray that we, as Americans, would follow her example in demanding greatness from all children. That we follow her example of character development.
    The results of her life, of her thinking, of her character are obvious. Our teachers and our children should be taught to say: "What would Marva think and do?"

  • Pamela L. Ward, M.A.

    I am sadden by the death of Iconic Extraordinaire Marva Collins. I am very thankful for all her help and generosity given during my exit research paper for my undergrad program. Her knowledge and advise are "Priceless"and I don't take that for granted. Because of the expertise of Educators like Collins…I am now working on my Dissertation for my PhD program. I thank God that He allowed her to be a "Gatekeeper" for my destiny.

  • Kevin Thorbourne

    Her work is done! And her legacy will live on!

  • Diane keys

    I was looking up something about my favorite teacher, Marva Collins, and was so sad to learn that she had passed away. I entered teaching later in life (50 years old) and will be retiring this year at the age of 67. I leave education disheartened because the model that Marva gave to the world is the antithesis of the drivel called Common Core. She was such an inspiration. My condolences to her family and to children of the world who still need her wisdom and guidance.

  • Seidah Ashshaheed

    As a former WSP student, I was deeply saddened to learn of Mrs. Collins' death. My grandmother who also passed last year, decided to pull me out of public school because there were two girls in my 6th grade classroom pregnant. I came home questioning how could these girls be pregnant at such a young age….Growing up on the Westside was tough. I excelled in school, but my grandmother KNEW I needed more! Entering WSP my 7th grade year it was agreed that I should be in 8th grade! Mrs. Wells-Collins and Ms. McCoy served as my 8th grade teachers. I learned so much and would travel on behalf of WSP reciting poetry. My favorite two were Paul L. Dunbar's "When Malindy Sings", and Henry Wadsworth-Longfellow's "A Psalm of Life".
    I am an educator, owner of STEM Tot Academy preschool, author of ABC's STEM & Me, former middle school principal for 9 years, served 18 years in public education, I am an educational consultant and coach for such agencies as Performance Management Services and Discovery Education, public speaker, presenter, curriculum writer, and I am a Virginia Tech Doctoral Candidate!
    I was able to thank her at a conference in 2004 in Maryland!
    I must thank my grandmother for making the commitment to my education.
    Thank you MARVA COLLINS for your VISION and for that Poster in every classroom "There is no T in CAN!" #onepersoncanmakeadifference #GreatEducators #JetMagazine @STEMTOT #MarvaCollins

  • SDWright

    A true inspiration for education. Where are our current and future Marva Collins out there? Our children still need us.
    RIP Marva Collins

  • Lesley Meredith

    It is Labor Day 2016 and I just finished watching the Marva Collins movie with Cisely Tyson on Centric. I absolutely love this movie and was happy to see it again. I was introduced to Mrs. Collins through the movie when I was a teenager in the eighties. Always so inspired by her greatness and patience with children, she was definitely someone that I was encouraged by. I introduced my daughter to Mrs. Collins, through the movie in the nineties and just as a little girl watching, my daughter would say, "she is good", speaking of Mrs. Collins and her outstanding work with children. Today after watching the movie, I decided to google Mrs. Collins to see what she has been doing and learned of her death. I would like to express my condolences to her family, friends and former students; I know that you will carry on her legacy. As a Fan, I will try to do the same, especially in my work as a Clinical Social Worker SERVING impoverished black children in Baltimore City. I love you Mrs. Collins! Rest In Peace.

  • rjchiarito

    For those who were students or colleagues of Ms. Collins, I'd love to talk to you. I am a reporter who will be working on a story about Ms. Collins over the next few days. I'd love to chat with you about your experience with her. Please contact me at 847/878-3724 or via email at Thank you, Bob Chiarito