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    Alumni Spotlight: Marilyn (Bogusch) Pryle '91, G'97

    September 4, 2019

    Although Marilyn (Bogusch) Pryle ’91, G’97 has had a truly remarkable career as an educator, she has never stopped learning.

    “I always loved being a student,” she recently said while recording an episode of The Scranton Shorts Podcast. “To this day, I’m a student, still.”

    While Pryle may have never stopped learning, it’s fair to say she never stops teaching, either. The West Chester native, who lives in Clarks Summit and teaches World Literature at Abington Heights High School, has dedicated her life to serving others by teaching reading and writing. Since graduating from The University of Scranton, she has encouraged thousands of students to become lifelong readers and writers. She earned her master’s in Reading Education from Scranton and an MFA in Creative Writing from Emerson. Along the way, she wrote seven books on teaching reading and writing, most recently publishing "Reading With Presence" with Heinemann in 2018. Through her website, marilynpryle.com, she provides her fellow educators with resources to develop their students’ reading and writing skills. On Sundays, she runs a free, all-volunteer English conversation group at the Lackawanna Children’s Library for refugees of all ages in the greater Scranton area seeking to improve their English skills. And, in December, she was recognized for her efforts when the state Department of Education named her the 2019 Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year, an honor it bestows annually upon one of its tens of thousands of teachers.

    “Literacy should be a human right,” she said. “On a very basic level, it’s the thing that takes someone’s life from just the survival mode to something much richer.”

    University Days

    Pryle said a good portion of her educational philosophy can be traced back to her days at Scranton, where the University’s emphasis on cura personalis permanently colored her outlook.

    “I really think that my devotion to this idea of the whole child, educating the whole person, comes from my experience here at Scranton,” she said.

    As a senior at Bishop Shanahan High School, however, she had a hard time seeing herself as a Scranton student.

    “I had a deposit down at another school,” she said.

    After a close friend insisted she at least visit campus, however, she was impressed by the positive energy she felt radiating out from its spiritual center and began to reconsider her choice. An equally positive meeting with Dave Hair, the University’s swim coach at the time, convinced Pryle that Scranton was the right choice for her. A member of the Special Jesuit Liberal Arts program, Pryle majored in Secondary Education and joined the fledgling swim team, where she became the first All-American swimmer in University history. After participating in a domestic service trip to Appalachia and an international service trip to Mexico, Pryle chose to continue to serve others by applying to the Jesuit International Volunteer Corps. Once she was accepted into the corps, she learned she would spend two years in Katmandu, Nepal, teaching English at an all-boys school. There was just one wrinkle: she would have to wait a few months after graduating in May to depart for Nepal because of the way its school system was structured. Luckily, she found a temporary job recruiting students in the University’s Department of Admissions; even more luckily, she met Tim Pryle ’89, a fellow alumnus and admissions counselor who would become her future husband.

    “When he asked me out on our first date, I said, ‘You know, I’m still going to Nepal,’ and he said, ‘That’s OK – let’s just see what happens,’” she said. “Then, I went to Nepal for two years.”

    There and Back Again

    Pryle enjoyed her time in Nepal.

    “It was amazing,” she said. “It’s very different from our culture.

    “It’s not the rushed pace we have here.”

    Things moved quickly for Pryle when she returned home. She began teaching, married Tim and decided to pursue her reading specialist degree at the University. Afterward, the couple moved to Boston, where she earned her MFA at Emerson. Shortly after, she landed a dream job teaching a creative writing workshop. Over the next four years, she created and refined many of her own materials for the workshop; with the birth of their first child on the horizon, the couple decided to move back to the Scranton area to be closer to their respective extended families. It was during that time that Marilyn decided to repurpose the materials she had created for the workshop for her first book, “Teaching Students To Write Effective Essays.”

    “Luckily, our son Gavin was a good sleeper,” she joked. “I started chipping away at a manuscript.”

    Teacher Of The Year

    Scholastic published the book, and, over the next several years, Marilyn would go on to write six additional books about teaching reading and writing. She began teaching at Abington Heights High School and founded her website, marilynpryle.com. When she learned of the greater Scranton area’s growing refugee population, she contacted Catholic Social Services to see if there was a way she could help the area’s non-native English speakers sharpen their English skills, which eventually led to the creation of the all-volunteer English conversation group. And, at every turn, Pryle’s faith in the power of the written word and the effect it can have upon her students grew stronger.

    “What I care about is they leave feeling like lifelong readers and writers, or at least they know how to go about being lifelong readers and writers,” she said. “That is what will make them a better human being, a better son, a better daughter, a better girlfriend, a better boyfriend, brother, sister – however they want to define themselves. A better citizen.

    “All citizens should be deep readers and writers.”

    Pryle was nominated for the Pennsylvania 2019 Teacher of the Year Award by Cindy Roe, a fellow teacher at Abington Heights High School. The year-long nomination process, which included writing essays and recording classroom instructional videos, narrowed the field of contestants down to 12 finalists, who gathered together at a conference in Hershey in December for the announcement of the winner. When Pryle learned she had been selected as the Teacher of the Year, she said she felt an initial sigh of relief which was quickly followed by the realization that she would have to live up to the responsibility of representing the state’s teachers.

    “I take it very seriously,” she said. “I’m just so proud and honored to be the person that is teacher of the year.”

    Since winning the award, Pryle has spoken at numerous education-focused events. In November, she will hand in Pennsylvania’s application for National Teacher of the Year, and she will spend 2020 meeting her fellow finalists for the award as they attend events at high-profile locations like the White House, Google Headquarters, and Space Camp. Despite all the accolades she has earned, Pryle remains a true woman for and with others dedicated to the mission statement she wrote years ago to keep herself inspired, a statement which now proudly resides on her website.

    “I believe that connecting with great literature is a force for good in this world, one that cultivates empathy, one that empowers,” the statement reads. “I will help young people experience this connection. I will be a clear conduit of the texts I teach.

    “I believe that becoming a better writer develops one’s own thinking, a benefit that improves every aspect of one’s life, a skill of attention and attunement to this world. I will help each student look closely at her world, and develop and refine his individual voice.

    “I will strive to encourage other educators. I will not become doubtful of the power of words or my power as an educator. I will not become negative or cynical, no matter what happens in my town, state, or country. The calling to teach and the great works of humanity stand larger than the arguments of our era.

    “I will do all of this with my strongest effort, for I know I am not only teaching reading and writing; I am teaching what it means to be a human being, to live in this medium of flesh and words.”

     

     

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