|Kindergarten teacher Marilyn Hassell takes her kindergarten students on a nature walk on the Christ the King School grounds. Hassell is wrapping up a 40-year teaching career with a retirement celebration on Tuesday, May 26. Photo by Rick Musacchio
After 40 years of teaching, including 36 years at Christ the King School, Marilyn Hassell is retiring from her post as the schools kindergarten teacher. She leaves behind a legacy of love for her students, joy for teaching, and loyalty to Christ the King’s students and their families.
Christ the King will honor her dedication to the community with a retirement celebration on Tuesday, May 26. The festivities begin with an 8:15 a.m. all-school Mass followed by a reception in the parish hall.
Mrs. Hassell first felt the call to teach as a college student at the University of Tennessee-Martin. “I planned to be a home economics teacher, but after taking more classes in child development I realized that I needed to be with young children. I’ve always had a tender touch with young children; the younger the better!” she said.
After graduating from UT-Martin with a degree in home economics with an emphasis in early childhood education, Hassell spent the next four years teaching in public schools in Benton County and Nashville.
“I spent my first year after graduation as a third grade teacher in the Benton County School system. The next two years I taught kindergarten in Benton County. After I got married, I moved to Nashville and spent a year as an interim teacher at Gower Elementary. I taught sixth grade after the teacher had a stroke. After she returned, I finished out the school year for the P.E. teacher. He told me he wanted to take a day off to go fishing but ended up being bitten by a brown recluse spider,” she explained.
The following school year, Hassell began an illustrious 36 years at Christ the King.
“When I first moved to Nashville, I applied at every school in Davidson County. I received two interviews in the same week. One was for CKS and the other was for Akiva. ...
“Principal Sister Ann Francis interviewed me. She was retiring, but the incoming principal Tony Springman asked her to hire the new teachers for the following year,” Hassell recalled. “I was hired for first grade. During my first year at CKS, Mr. Springman and the school board decided to restart kindergarten after a 10 year break. They felt it was time to bring it back and I’m so glad they did!”
Hassell’s former students and co-workers remember her affectionately.
“I remember her meeting me and my other classmates for the first time with the biggest smile on her face,” said Ashley Orange, a 2004 Christ the King alum. “Her classroom was such a warm and welcoming atmosphere that I immediately felt at ease.”
Current and former Christ the King faculty and staff remember the joy she had for teaching.
“Marilyn isn’t afraid to get down and silly with the kids,” said Rachel Mathew, pre-K teacher at Christ the King. “We will miss her and wish her the best of luck in all her future endeavors.”
Eighth grade teacher Louisa Bateman agreed. “Marilyn makes everybody feel special when she speaks to them. She always has a smile on her face and a big hug for everyone. She’s kind, conscientious and cares deeply for her students.
“I’ll never forget on my 25th birthday she made me come to her classroom so I could bend over her knee for 25 birthday spankings! The kids thought it was funny even though my bottom was sore,” she said.
Former eighth grade teacher Larry Langley and former principal Christine Caron Gebhardt spoke highly of Hassell’s ability to prepare her young charges for success throughout their school careers. “It’s hard to believe Mrs. Hassell is retiring,” Langley said. “She has done more than her fair share of preparing little ones for the big world. She always said she was the alpha and I was the omega, the beginning and end for our wonderful family of students at Christ the King.”
Gebhardt spoke likewise. “One of her greatest gifts was taking 25 very different little people who came from different backgrounds and prepared them for success at Christ the King. This was not only measured by the extraordinary test scores her students earned but more importantly in the skills her students brought to their subsequent years at CKS. Marilyn helped to build a solid academic foundation for her students that other teachers were able to rely upon.”
Other co-workers described her as being compassionate, committed to her job, professional, loyal and fair. They agree that working alongside her has been a highlight in their careers. “Christ the King has been blessed to have had her for the past 36 years,” said Stephanie Wyatt, first grade teacher at Christ the King. “She’ll be missed.”
“There are many things that we will miss about Mrs. Hassell, such us her friendly smile, her efficiency and dependability, doing the Tooty-tah, her hugbooks, kissing our brains, and Mrs. Carter the 100-year-old sub. She has a knack for creating fun, carrying on tradition, and mothering students and staff,” said Christ the King Principal Sherry Woodman. “What we will miss about her the most is her genuine love for all of us and for Christ the King.”
Hassell appreciates what the Christ the King community has given her during her time there. “I wouldn't be the teacher I’ve been without Christ the King. I feel that CKS helped mold me to be the best I could be.
“It will always be special to me because my two daughters are CKS alumni and being able to be at school with them was very important to me,” she said. “Plus they got the best education and love that any parent could expect their children to receive from a school.”
Hassell looks forward to traveling and spending time with her family, but will always remember what her time at Christ the King has meant to her.
“The principals, faculty, and staff who have worked here over the years, as well as the students and their families, have truly been a special part of my life,” she said. “Watching how the school has grown and improved over the years has also been very special. It’s been the best since the beginning, but is even more so now.”