Marie Bush: 2024 YWCA Milestones Honoree for Education

By Asia Nail
The Truth Reporter

In education there emerge luminaries whose contributions echo through generations, leaving an indelible mark on the landscape of learning. Marie Bush, PhD, a beacon of inspiration and trailblazer of educational development, is one such luminary. As we celebrate the YWCA Milestones: A Tribute to Women, we hold Bush’s Education honor in great reverence, casting a spotlight on her remarkable achievements.

Marie Theresa Latham Bush was born in Winona, Mississippi, where she and her family resided until she was seven years old. Her family then relocated to Toledo, Ohio in the height of Jim Crow and the Civil Rights movement.

“I come from a family rooted in education. My father, David, and mother, Frenchye Latham, both served in the field of education—my father as a school principal and my mother as a teacher,” says Bush.

“Additionally, my grandmother, Willie Harper, taught colored deaf children in the 1920s. Her oldest daughter, my Aunt Theresa Brister, was also a preschool teacher in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s in NYC. A passion for education runs deep in my family’s DNA.”

A proud graduate of Robert S. Rogers High School, Marie’s pursuit of knowledge led her to Ohio University, where she earned a Bachelor’s of Science and a Master’s Degree in Secondary Counseling. Unquenchable in her thirst for learning, she attained an Education Specialist Degree from the University of Toledo and a Ph.D. in Education Administration and Supervision.

Marie Bush’s educational journey began in the bustling halls of the Toledo Public School district (TPS), where she would later leave an indelible mark. “I taught in the classroom for 2.5 years. I was a Social Studies teacher at Morrison R. Waite High School,” she recalls. “The rest of my career was in education administration.”

Her professional career featured a myriad of roles—dean of girls, Junior High school counselor, Senior High School counselor, junior high assistant principal, elementary school principal, special education supervisor, and case management of Special Education Supervisor. Her expertise also extended to Bowling Green City Schools, where she served as assistant principal.

“I later worked at the Ohio Department of Ed.-Special Education Department Mediator and adjunct professor at both the University of Toledo and Bowling Green State University.” recalls Bush.


Empathy in Education

Marie Bush extends her philosophy on education, emphasizing the crucial link between educators and their students’ experiences. She ardently believes that being an educator involves an ongoing commitment to understanding not just the academic curriculum but the broader context of students’ lives.

“If someone wants to be an educator, they need to be aware of what they are undertaking,” explains Bush. “It’s not just receiving your degree, your education must be ongoing. It’s a continuous process of also knowing your school’s neighborhood and your students on a personal level.”

Promoting the idea of educators immersing themselves in the neighborhoods where their students reside may seem unreasonable to some. Still, Marie Bush emphasizes a deeper connection that transcends traditional teaching boundaries. She strongly believes this empathetic approach is not only beneficial but a fundamental aspect of effective teaching, guaranteeing that educators are attuned to both the challenges and triumphs of their students’ everyday experiences.

“My career in education has been significantly shaped by this insight derived from firsthand experience. When people say we need more ‘Black teachers’ or any ‘type’ of teachers I always say: We need more ‘Great teachers’,” she clarifies.

“Great teaching is more than book learning. You have to learn what is and is not important to people in order to teach them.”


Diversity and Learning

Navigating education is akin to embarking on a multifaceted journey that extends beyond textbooks and curriculum. It’s a dynamic process that demands an acute understanding of the intricacies that shape the lives of both students and faculty.

Marie Bush, drawing from her wealth of experience, asserts that great leadership involves an intimate knowledge of what holds significance in the lives of others. This means recognizing the unique challenges, aspirations and cultural nuances that influence students’ learning journey.

“My students always knew I genuinely cared about them. You cannot fool children. Kids know when you’re a sincere educator,” she says.

Her approach underscores the importance of connecting with students on a personal level, recognizing that the true art of teaching lies in the ability to bridge the gap between academic knowledge and real-life situations. In her view, educators must be perceptive observers, attuned to both the challenges & triumphs that shape the identities of those they seek to educate.

In the formative years of education, children are more than sponges absorbing information—they are budding souls awaiting direction. A teacher who encourages them to explore their passions, embrace their uniqueness, and reach for the stars lays the foundation for a lifetime of self-discovery and achievement. Bush’s legacy epitomizes this transformative role, illustrating that educators who foster a sense of possibility are invaluable architects shaping the future.

“The pandemic has proven there are areas where education does need to evolve. If we are expected to teach the next great leaders of the world, we cannot be slow to change,” adds Bush.

The profound impact of great educators on the lives of children cannot be overstated. Beyond the transmission of knowledge, they serve as architects of dreams, instilling in young minds the belief that they can be anything they choose. Educators like Dr. Marie Bush transcend the conventional role of teachers, becoming mentors, guides, and champions of untapped potential.


Evolving Landscape of Education

Reflecting on the educational landscape from the 1960s to the present day, Marie Bush draws attention to the remarkable transformations that have unfolded. In the era she entered the field, roles were often delineated based on gender, exemplified by titles like ‘Dean of Girls.’ Fast forward to contemporary times, and the educational landscape has undergone a profound shift with more inclusive roles and curricula.

“In today’s era I believe teachers still need more skills in diversity training to make the new diverse curriculum effective. It’s very important especially now with the attacks on African American History,” highlights Bush. “Embracing diversity enriches the learning experience and prepares students to be our future leaders, doctors and innovators.”

In the past, curricula often reflected a narrow perspective, focusing primarily on Eurocentric narratives while neglecting the contributions of diverse cultures. Today  there is a growing recognition of the need for diverse voices and perspectives in education. Institutions are increasingly incorporating content that reflects the richness of global cultures, providing students with a more comprehensive and accurate understanding of the world and themselves.

Another transformative change in education is the integration of technology into the learning environment. In the past, traditional methods such as chalkboards and textbooks dominated classrooms. Today, technology plays a pivotal role in education, with interactive smart boards, online resources, and digital learning platforms becoming commonplace. This shift not only enhances the learning experience but also equips students with valuable digital literacy skills essential for the modern world. The marriage of education and technology represents a paradigm shift, facilitating more engaging and dynamic learning opportunities.

“You have to adjust to where your kids are and where you as an educator are trying to bring them,” shares Bush. “I’m hopeful for the future of education with all the new ways kids can learn and educators can teach with technology.”

A luminary in education, Bush’s impact resonates deeply among many circles. Her accolades adorned national stages at prestigious events such as the National Alliance for Black School Educators and she’s received recognition from esteemed organizations like Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated. Notably, she was awarded The University of Toledo Judith Herb College of Education Alumni Affiliate Distinguished Achievement Award, a testament to her unwavering dedication.

“The ripple effects of encouragement resonate through a child’s entire life,” says Bush. “What I enjoyed most about being an educator was the positive impact we have on children’s lives that will stay with them through adulthood.”

In 2003, Bush concluded her formal education journey, but her commitment to uplifting others persists. Embracing community service, she’s now a lighthouse in organizations like Sew N So Sewing Club, and Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Northwest Ohio, where she serves as board chairman. Her influence also stretches to national roles, including the presidency of the Girl Friends Fund Incorporated.

“I find the greatest satisfaction from my career when former students approach me to express gratitude or tell me a story of how I impacted their lives. Nothing surpasses that joy for me,” Bush shares.

Children who have the privilege of being guided by educators like Marie Bush are equipped not only with academic prowess, but also with the fortitude to face challenges, the audacity to dream big, and the compassion to uplift others. Her legacy echoes through the streets of Toledo, where grateful voices still recall her as their ‘favorite teacher or principal’.

In honoring you Dr. Marie Bush, we extend our deepest gratitude for your unwavering dedication to education. Your legacy stands as a testament to the transformative power of educators who not only impart knowledge but also nurture the spirit of possibility within each student. Thank you, Marie Bush, for being a beacon of inspiration. Congratulations on your well-deserved YWCA Milestones honor, and may your story continue to inspire future generations of our brightest educators.

The YWCA 29th Annual Milestones: A Tribute to Women Awards will be held at the Glass City Center on Tuesday, March 19, 2024.