Marva Collins

  • Born: August 31, 1936
  • Died: June 24, 2015
  • Location: Chicago, Illinois

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Marva Collins, the Chicago education pioneer who won praise for her innovative teaching approach at the West Side school she launched in 1975, died June 24, 2015, of natural causes. She was 78.

Innovative Chicago educator has died at 78

Marva Collins, the Chicago education pioneer who won praise for her innovative teaching approach at the West Side school she launched in 1975, died Wednesday of natural causes. She was 78.

Her son Patrick Collins announced the death. He said she had been a patient in hospice care in Beaufort County, South Carolina.

Marva Collins started up the Westside Preparatory School in Chicago's impoverished Garfield Park neighborhood. She used the Socratic method of instruction, asking questions and encouraging the students to discuss them at length in a lively but disciplined manner. The school succeeded educationally and commercially. She received the National Humanities Medial in 2004.

Collins also wrote manuals and books detailing her teaching methods.

Cicely Tyson portrayed Collins' life in a 1981 television biopic titled, "The Marva Collins Story," which also starred Morgan Freeman.

The former Chicago Public Schools teacher was born in Monroeville, Alabama, and graduated from Clark College in Atlanta, Georgia. The college has since been named Clark Atlanta University.

Collins is also survived by another son, Eric; a sister, Cynthia Sutton; and her mother, Bessie Mae Johnson.

Her husband of 26 years, Clarence, preceded her in death in 1995. She also was preceded in death by her daughter, Cynthia Collins.


Condolence & Memory Journal

Marva Collins was an amazing teacher, I just recently read about her Rest in Peace <3>

Posted by Shameka Isme - Naples, FL - Acquaintance   May 16, 2017

I had to search for the Marva Collins movie. It was worth it! I have shown it to students to help them to understand how important an education is and especially to one teacher that would not give up. Kudos always to your mother and the legacy she has left for everyone! If the world were blessed by more like her, oh what a wonderful world this would be!

Posted by Rita McSwain - McKenzie(Huntingdon), TN - Teacher   May 20, 2016

Marva you were the first lady that I admired and wanted all my children to know and attend your school you spoke the truth and wanted all children of color to receive and education to show them that college was in their eye sight I will always think of you but I know you are and will help the children

Posted by Darlene Roberts - Fridley, MN   April 21, 2016

What an Outstanding. Educator and. Visionary. She influenced my decision to be an educator ! She. Will be missed . God bless her family.

Posted by T. George - Newark, DE   March 03, 2016

You were such an inspiration to me as an educator. Thank you!

Posted by Chelsea F - Glenside, PA - educator   January 21, 2016

Miss you so much

Posted by maurice - decatur, GA - friend from chicago   August 15, 2015

There are educators like Marva Collins, that allowed a quiet and timid little girl. Who thirst for knowledge, so my mind could be nourished and expand beyond my poor community. You have indeed earned your crown in GLORY!

Posted by Liz Taylor - Jacksonville, FL   July 06, 2015

A life of superior accomplishment; God bless. RIP

Posted by Brenda Scott - New York, NY   July 02, 2015


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Marva Collins, the Chicago education pioneer who won praise for her innovative teaching approach at the West Side school she launched in 1975, died June 24, 2015, of natural causes. She was 78.