Extraordinary Woman: Marilyn Reynolds


Although born in Fort Stewart, Georgia, Marilyn Reynolds’ family moved to Tampa when she was just 1.  Other than four years at Loyola University in New Orleans, Reynolds has always lived in Tampa Bay.

Being the youngest of five children, Reynolds grew up enjoying the traditions, excitement and the chaos of a large family. “I always knew I wanted to have a large family myself and fortunately, Roy, my dear husband of 10 years, wanted the same,” she says. “We have been blessed with three of the most precious daughters in Isabella (8), Bailey (5) and Bianca (1). The older two attend Admiral Farragut Academy where I teach, and each had me as a teacher. Some days that was more of a blessing than others, but I do treasure those memories. I entered the teaching profession 16 years ago in an untraditional path, but now I can’t imagine working outside of education.”

Although she may come across as an introvert, Reynolds’ PreK students know her as the teacher who sings and dances around the room excited about bugs, fish, the solar system, Dr. Seuss, vowel sounds and the use of sign language for everything.

Recently, Reynolds was selected to create an Americanized curriculum called “Little Captains” for Chinese students in first grade. The first module, which features two puppets named Captain Kai and Captain Coral, is set for completion in May and is going to be piloted to three schools in China.  Future modules will follow for other grade levels.

“I believe that after I become a mom, I became a much better teacher all around.  I understand the students better and I give parents the respect that I want as a parent for my own children.  From texting pictures of students to my parents throughout the day or writing notes of encouragement in my students’ agendas each night, I do my best to keep the parents and students informed, assuage fears, and bring smiles to their faces.  I want to be the kind of teacher that I want my kids to have, so I work hard to accomplish this.  I am happy when my students accidentally call me “mom” and when I am able to tuck them in at nap time and tell them that I love them.”

What do you think is the secret to your family’s success? 

We are always on the go, but most often we are together.  My wonderful husband Roy is always up for attending a birthday party or participating in a family event at school.  We recently added to our family’s bicycle collection with an addition of a baby trailer for Bianca so we can all enjoy family rides and picnics at nearby parks.  We’re always up for exploring new nature paths as well as enjoying our favorites like the Pinellas Trail and the Courtney Campbell bike trail.  One thing I have instilled in my own family is the tradition of eating and spending time eating together at the dining table each evening. We listen to each other’s stories about our day and then snuggle up together on our reading couch where we listen and read to each other each night. We also compete in game nights, plan adventurous trips to local beaches and parks and, of course, laugh a lot.  Our family also stays very active with clubs and sports,including gymnastics, soccer, Legos Club, horseback riding and Girls on the Run. I recently started helping coach our Lower School’s Girls on the Run program with my daughter, Isabella. I want to inspire her to be happy and confident while integrating running into her lifestyle.  Best of all, it allows us more time to spend together.

We try to stay as positive as possible.  The outside world can be negative enough.  Before going to sleep each night, the girls, Roy, and I each say three positive things about our day, ourselves or each other before going to sleep.

What is your biggest fear?

Time is moving so quickly.  I wonder with such a demanding teaching career, am I giving enough time to my own children?

What advice would you give to other women?

Focus on the positive.  When someone gives you a compliment, say “thank you” and accept it rather than dismiss it entirely or redirect it into a “this old thing?” or other type of belittling comments. It seems simple enough, but it’s interesting how difficult this really can be to accept a compliment and be truly thankful.

I would also say give yourself credit for all that do and all that you are.  Women take on so much as care-givers, house cleaners, taxi-cab drivers, and all around workers inside or outside of the home.  We need to love ourselves and see the good in all that we are doing rather than focus on all of the chores that aren’t done or the missed opportunities.

What is your proudest moment?

Holding each of my newborns in my arms over these past eight years has made it clear to me why I am here on this earth.  My children make me whole; they make me want to be the best person and the best mom I can be.  They inspire me to be the best in everything I do and try, and I attempt to instill that same inspiration back to them, as well as, the students in my classroom.

What is your biggest achievement?

Little Captains Summer Camp at Admiral Farragut Academy, which started as a one-week K-3 camp with 20 campers and has grown over the last four years to a 4-5 week program for PreK4 – 8th grade students with about 100 students attending each week.  It has opportunities for older students to volunteer and work with younger students.  I offer an educational and fun-filled camp utilizing all the amenities of our waterfront campus, sports fields, swimming pool and the STEM and science labs. This camp is now open to the public.  It has grown so big that I have added a creative and talented teacher, Cate Taylor, who helps me run the camp, too. We develop daily lesson plans and activities for the campers to enjoy that go with the theme for the week. We both go crazy with Pinterest!  Last year, for animal week we had a pet parade in which the campers brought their own pets to school.  We even taught our campers how to fish for our “Water, Water, Everywhere” themed week.  One year, in one of my themed weeks, I coordinated with USSOCOM at MacDill AFB to develop an outreach program focusing on military appreciation.  USSOCOM came to my camp and provided our campers with the opportunity to see and try out body armor, night vision goggles, tactical medical kits, and biometric devices. The people in charge of logistics also came out and set up a mobile field center for the campers to experience.  All of this culminated with a Robinson R22 helicopter landing on Admiral Farragut’s football field. Each of the campers was able to hop inside and talk with the pilots!  The campers were thrilled!

What makes you happy?

I am happy when others around me are happy.  To see my girls happy brings me such joy.  My students are excelling at school, which make me happy and proud.  They are so smart and buy into the magical world that we create together.  I love seeing my students and my girls’ eyes light up when we bond, act silly and laugh.

How do you relax and take time for yourself?

Each morning I wake up for an early morning run to get my day rolling and listen to music to clear my mind and get prepared for the busy day ahead. I also enjoy the opportunities I get to go out with Roy on date night or to meet friends for dinner. My guilty pleasure is to sneak away for a pedicure (when I get the chance).

What is your biggest inspiration or role model?

Besides my mom, my dad, my big sister Carolyn, and my wonderful brothers David and James, my big sister Kim has always been my biggest inspiration and role model.  When anything good or bad happens, she is the first person I call.  She, too, is a mother and teacher and is an amazing one at that.  When I am up late, working on Pinterest gifts for my students for an upcoming holiday, I can rest assured that she is up late doing the same thing for her students because she teaches middle school in North Carolina.