Words by Anna Lee Vaughn | Images by Justin Hunter
For the past 20 years, 86-year-old Marilyn Humphries has brought her kind spirit and cheerful demeanor into the classrooms at Curry Elementary School as a substitute teacher. She enjoys the opportunity to get out of the house, interact with the children, and earn what she calls her ‘blowing money.’
Various hardships and joys over Marilyn’s 86 years have culminated in a beautiful life she has enjoyed and learned from, although it was through many challenges that she made her way to where she is today.
Marilyn grew up in the Thatch community with three brothers and two sisters and graduated from Walker High School right before getting married. She recalls, “I did something kind of unusual – I graduated high school one night and got married the next!” She and her husband had three daughters and seven grandchildren and great-grandchildren throughout their 63-year marriage.
Each December, Marilyn mourns the loss of both her husband and eldest daughter. Due to her daughter’s death, Marilyn began raising her grandson. She decided to look for a job, which she found selling World Book Encyclopedias. She has had many opportunities to travel the world while selling books to schools, her favorite trip being to Hawaii.
She worked for World Book Encyclopedia for 24 years and, because of her connections with many different schools, began substituting locally at Curry Elementary School. Marilyn shares a special experience that sums up what her students have meant to her over the last 20 years.
“Every spring, when the seniors get ready to graduate, they put on their caps and gowns and walk down the halls of the elementary school. I was substituting in fourth grade that year, and I had my students lined up in the hall so we could see the seniors.” Marilyn continues, “This big ole’ boy just stopped, looked at me, and came over and hugged me, saying ‘Oh, Ms. Humphries!’ I had been his sub when he was in elementary school.”
Marilyn says the school’s faculty, staff, and students never fail to make her feel special, with many students dubbing her their “very favorite substitute teacher!” She even recalls the school’s faculty and staff throwing her a surprise birthday party with cake and gifts for her 85th birthday.
Curry Elementary Principal Haley Moore says of Marilyn, “She’s very dedicated to this school and our children. From kids to adults, everyone loves and respects her. There are not enough good things I could say about her. There are not many people who are going to come up here at 86 years old and still have it going on. She can still handle a classroom to this day.”
In her free time, Marilyn enjoys spending time with her siblings, who referred to her affectionately as “little one” when they were children. She is also looking forward to welcoming two great-great-grandchildren soon!
“I never had a lot of money or lived in a mansion, but that’s not the most important thing in life,” Marilyn says. “I have had a wonderful life, and all I can say is that I have been blessed.” WL