Marva Collins was born on August 31, 1936, in Monroeville, Alabama. In that time if you went to college in Alabama you were a celebrity. The minister would have you stand in front of the church and people would give you a quarter, fifty cents, or whatever they could. You didn’t get into trouble because in your mind’s eye you could see all of those caring people depending on you.
“I can never teach your children everything they need to know. But I can teach them to be curious and discontent. Every child in the school has the greatest respect in the world. I never have to raise my voice and scream because I am what I want them to be. I don’t want to be wealthy. I don’t need that kind of power. Power is when I walk into the school and these little kids’ eyes hold up wonder like a cup.” -Marva Collins (from an interview with Brian Lanker)
Marva Collins was completely aware of her purpose. She acknowledged that alone she could not change the world, and in doing so she learned that she did not have to conform either. Teachers from all over the world visited the Westside school to learn their methodology. Most of the teachers questioned how these black kids were able to know all the things that they know and more importantly how were they achieving the way that they were achieving? They looked at it like it was some kind of miracle and some even proceeded to call it a miracle. And Marva‘s response was “ I think what everybody calls a miracle is just common sense, really.”
Marva Collins founded Westside Preparatory School in Chicago in 1975 to educate the young children of Chicago’s main streets. Using pension funds from 14 years of teaching in public schools, she built a school room in her home. That school, which now occupies two buildings, has grown from 18 students to 250 students. From harsh criticism and skepticism to success.