Nine hundred and fifty students.
Kalmiopsis Elementary School first-grade teacher Marilyn Reallon has taught 950 students in 38 years and, after impacting countless lives, she has decided to retire.
She began teaching in 1974. Each day has been in Brookings.
“I haven’t taught anywhere else but here,” she said.
Her first four years, she taught special education at Kalmiopsis and Azalea Middle School.
Then she began teaching first grade, which she has taught ever since.
“I like watching them go from being very beginning readers to be able to read lots and lots of stuff,” Reallon said.
She also likes that first-graders are young enough to tease, in need of a bit of mothering and have no attitude.
Reallon moved to Brookings when she was 22 after attending Oregon College of Education (now Western Oregon University). She earned a degree in Elementary Education and minors in Science and Special Education.
She has always liked children – in junior high and high school she babysat and interacted with them.
“I enjoy their sense of humor, and I think they’re cute,” Reallon said. “I really like seeing their joy when they accomplish something, and how proud they are when they master something we’re working hard on.”
She also values education.
“I think education is really important,” she said. “I think if kids can’t read and do math they’re at such a disadvantage of ever being able to make enough money to support themselves.”
Inpact on children
Reallon is respected and loved by administrators, teachers and students alike.
All say she will be missed.
“Every decision she’s made has always been about the kids,” Superintendent Brian Hodge said. “To the very end, she has been very passionate, a very solid teacher.
‘The kids love her. Parents love her. Staff love her. I could always count on Marilyn. She’s just a darn nice person.”
Hodge said Reallon has made a difference in students’ lives by teaching them to read.
Even with higher expectations and more pressure being put on first-grade teachers, Reallon has been able to adapt to the changes and flourish, Hodge said.
He also said she’s caring but knows what students are capable of doing.
“She has all of the tricks and knows what’s necessary,” Hodge said.
When she is gone, Hodge will miss her smile, her laugh and her funny stories.
However he was quick to say he has a feeling she will be back.
Helena Chirinian became acquainted with Reallon in 2004 when she became principal at Kalmiopsis.
“She’s a wonderful teacher,” Chirinian said. “She loves the kids, and she does a fabulous job.
“With the longevity she has, she’s (taught) generations of families. She’s been their teacher. She’s an intricate part of so many people’s lives. She’s had the parent and the child.”
When dealing with students, Reallon is very calm and considerate, and the students really respond to her, Chirinian said.
“What makes her a good teacher is, she’s calm and consistent. She has high expectations,” Chirinian said. “What somebody is like as a person is more important than anything. ... Marilyn most certainly has the talent to teach other kids what she knows.”
What’s she’s like
“Marilyn is a wealth of knowledge. She’s always happy. She’s really calm. Laid back. Not a whole lot fazes her,” friend and Kalmiopsis first-grade teacher Jennifer Rushton said. “I like everything about her. She’s really social and friendly. She loves being a part of people.”
Her students think she’s really funny, and she does fun activities for her students, Rushton said.
For example, she has a class joke of Ducks versus Beavers.
Reallon will bring in Ducks candy, and the beavers won’t eat it.
At Christmas, she has a stocking Santa that comes in and leaves gifts each day.
When reading the novel “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” she gives each student a piece of chocolate.
“She’s about the kids and the other people. It’s not about herself,” Rushton said.
Her knowledge and patience, and her ability to make everything a learning experience for her students are what make her a good teacher, Rushton said.
Rushton described Reallon as social, with a memory like an elephant – she remembers stories from 30 years ago.
She will miss not having Reallon around to ask questions or bounce ideas off of.
“She’s so knowledgeable,” Rushton said.
Rushton, who has been teaching for seven years, still feels like there’s so much she doesn’t know, so she always asks Reallon.
“She always has an answer,” Rushton said.
“I’m going to miss her smile and her stories,” Rushton said. “But like I said, I don’t think we’re going to miss her for long. I think she’ll be back. It’s in her DNA to be with first-graders.”
Kalmiopsis fifth-grade teacher Nikki Darger, who has taught in the Brookings-Harbor School District for 17 years, describes Reallon as patient, kind and caring.
“She’s just always been a positive member of our staff,” Darger said. “She’s a great role model for new and experienced teachers. She has advice and a wealth of experience.”
And Reallon’s excitement is still present today all these years later, Darger said.
“I remember her always being sweet and nice,” Darger said.
Darger had Reallon for a teacher in first grade.
“It’s been fun working with Marilyn all of these years in the district,” she said. “It’s been fun seeing her in the capacities as my teacher, mentor and my colleague.”
Darger said Reallon is always willing to lend a hand.
“She’s willing to help anybody anytime with any project,” she said.
For example, there is a check-in, check-out program at Kalmiopsis.
Even though this is her last year, she helps struggling students whom she no longer teaches, Darger said.
“It just goes to show what a dedicated professional she is,” Darger said. “You can tell she truly enjoys teaching. She’s gonna do the job until the day she’s done.”
Darger said Kalmiopsis staff will miss Reallon’s presence.
“I don’t think Kalmiopsis will be the same without her,” she said.
Kalmiopsis second-grader Austin Clewell had Reallon for a teacher last year.
“The first day I walked in I liked how she was nice,” he said. “I liked her way of getting you in trouble.”
Clewell was referring to Reallon’s color-coded card system.When students are good, their cards stay green. It changes from green to yellow to orange to red when students get in trouble.
Clewell also liked the end of first grade.
“I liked the end of the year,” he said. “Instead of making us do work, we got to study leaves and trace them. When we were done we got to walk to the park.”
When asked how he would describe Reallon, Clewell said she has short gray hair and used his fingers to point to its length.
Clewell wasn’t sure how to describe Reallon’s personality.
He said he would miss her, and would miss going to the park.
First-grader Kennedy Wallace currently has Reallon for a teacher.
“She’s nice,” Wallace said. “Sometimes after we do our work she lets us have a piece of candy. She’s the best teacher I had.”
Reallon also lets students show and tell when they have something to show and tell, Wallace said.
“I’ll miss her ’cause she’s nice to us and she doesn’t really care if we wear flip flops,” Wallace said.
(Wallace said students aren’t supposed to wear flip flops to school.)
Throughout her teaching career, Reallon has heard quite a few humorous stories from students.
She shared a couple with the Curry Coastal Pilot.
When Reallon asked what “classification” was, a girl said it meant “when the class goes on vacation.”
One day while doing silent reading, Reallon told her students to look at the book because she didn’t want the students who couldn’t read to feel bad.
One girl came up to Reallon and tattled that one student was reading the book instead of looking at it.
In hindsight, Reallon wishes she had written down all of the things her students have said and done.
“You think you’re going to remember them all and you don’t,” Reallon said.
When she retires, Reallon plans to travel back East in the fall, work on quilting projects, sew, knit and read.
She has already signed up to help during school registration as well, and will probably substitute teach some and volunteer.
Will she be back?
“Yes. I will a lot. It was a real mixed feeling about retiring,” Reallon said.
“I’m going to miss it a lot.”