Teacher at Mira Costa Given $25,000 Honor

Times Staff Writer

A South Bay teacher received kudos and a check for $25,000 Wednesday as one of the winners of the 1988 California Educator Awards.

Marilyn Whirry, an English teacher at Mira Costa High School in Manhattan Beach, was honored along with 11 other educators, including Jaime Escalante, the Garfield High School mathematics teacher who was profiled in the film “Stand and Deliver.”

The winners were chosen by a committee of county superintendents of schools and state Department of Education representatives. They were selected for their leadership abilities, professional achievements and commitment to excellence in education, a state education official said.

At a luncheon ceremony at the Four Seasons Hotel near Beverly Hills, Whirry said she has always lived by the words “greatness consists of striving to be great.”


A veteran of 23 years in the classroom, she observed that “it is a wonderful, beautiful and difficult job to be a teacher. Thank you for rewarding my efforts.”

The awards, first given in 1987, are funded by the Milken Family Foundation of Los Angeles, a charitable organization with a special interest in education.

Several recipients noted how surprised and happy they were to receive a substantial amount of money as part of the award. “It’s the first time I got $25,000 in one shot--thank you!” Escalante said.

Whirry said she has not yet decided how she will use the money, although she would like to buy a home computer and books for her classroom.


Whirry, who lives in Torrance, has been described by L’Cena Rice, an assistant superintendent in the South Bay Union High School District, as the kind of teacher “who can get the very best out of (students) without them being aware of what she is doing.”

“It’s unfortunate we can’t clone her,” school board member Lyn Flory said.

Whirry learned at the ceremony that she has been nominated for 1988 California Teacher of the Year. She was recently chosen English Teacher of the Year by the Southern California Teachers of English.

Other Los Angeles-area honorees were Jewell Boutte, principal of Crenshaw High School, and Lorna Mae Nagata, 1987 California Teacher of the Year and a longtime elementary teacher in Alhambra.