‘Conscientious teacher’ Shield to leave after 24 years

Rachel Schwartz

After her 24th year of teaching French at Harvard-Westlake, Marilyn Shield will retire to participate in her Unitarian Universalist Church choir and spend more time with her husband and their dog Sammi.

“I thought it was time to turn over a new leaf in life,” Shield said.

She said she will miss her daily routine and the myriad connections she shares with her colleagues and students.

“I don’t know how I can not miss it,” Shield said. “Just this morning I realized I would even miss the drive.”

She said she always knew she wanted to be a teacher and was inspired by her French professor and mentor at University of Northern Iowa, Dr. Michael Oates.

Shield said her professor taught her to be herself with her students. He made her love French and want to share that with her students.

“You don’t want to be a phony in front of your students,” Shield said. “I think they appreciate honesty.”

She has taught for a total of 39 years, starting out as a teaching assistant at the University of Northern Iowa, then as a French teacher at Catholic schools Columbus High School and Flintridge Sacred Heart.

She started at Westlake School for Girls teaching seventh through ninth graders and transitioned to working with older students at the Upper School after the merger.

“She is a good-hearted, conscientious teacher who really cares about her students,” fellow French teacher Geoff Bird said.

They have taught some of the same courses and Bird said he has enjoyed having her as a colleague.

French III Honors is the class she is most proud of and she is a big part of the French program’s good AP track record, Bird said.

“The things I do in my honors classes are much more adult-oriented rather than adolescent-oriented,” Shield said.

Students in French III Honors explore themes that are emphasized on the AP exam like the environment, media and techonolgy and social justice.

“The subject matter is much more serious,” Shield said. “We are not just talking about the rooms in a house anymore. I think it’s important for students to be exposed.”

Shield said that she has learned patience and understanding from her students.

“I’ve learned that students here work very hard and I respect that,” Shield said.