LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

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Marilyn Zylstra

Position: Elementary Secretary
School: Wagner Elementary School
School District: Wagner Community School
City, State: Wagner, SD

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Marilyn Zylstra was nominated by a colleague who wishes to remain anonymous.

Ms. Zylstra has worked in her district for nearly 50 years, and has been highly involved with students and families throughout the years. Students gather in her office at the beginning and end of the day for a greeting, hug, or smile from her. She reminds them to be on their best behavior and is always encouraging them to do their best.

"I have worked with her as a teacher, parent, and principal, and I have watched her interact with the students. She knows every student by name and they truly trust and love her," the nominator said.

Ms. Zylstra serves as secretary for students in grades 1-4. After students leave elementary school, they often follow the same routine of walking through her office at the beginning or the end of the day to get her positive reinforcement.

"When I worked with Ms. Zylstra as an administrator, I would occasionally answer the phone. Often times, parents didn't want to talk to me; they immediately asked for Ms. Zylstra, a familiar, trusted voice," the nominator said. 

Ms. Zylstra not only works with families and children, but with teachers who turn to her to share their concerns or seek advice in working with a student. She has made it her life's mission to take care of the students and families with whom she works. She is dedicated to each student and she loves each one of them. Teachers and families trust her because she is truly dedicated and trustworthy.

"Throughout her career at the Wagner School, she has touched many students, and their lives have been enriched with her caring, loving, and honest approach. She is one of a kind, and we are so blessed to have her in our district," the nominator said.

Marylin Zylstra in the News:
Wagner secretary nominated for national LifeChanger of the Year award 
Wagner LifeChanger nominee: 'Try to be there' for the kids



Comments (5)


Rosie Koupal Posted over a year ago

Marilyn is a person who has loved working at Wagner Community School for many many years. Her years of service have nurtured each child's spirit for growth and achievement. She has gained the respect of children, parents, grandparents and her peers. She has never been satisfied to do things just as others have done, but always a little better. She has counted on the constant efforts to be first class and brilliant to conquer the heights of excellence. We Love You Marilyn!!!

Stacey Knebel Posted over a year ago

Where do I even start. Marilyn is what makes our school go. She is the heart of our Elementary. I have taught in Wagner for 17 years and Marilyn has been like a mother/grandmother to me and everyone in our building. She loves her job and our kids mean the world to her. She knows each and every one of our families and will do whatever she can to help teachers, students, and families. Our kids even sometimes think Marilyn is our principal because she will help whenever needed. She is one of the most humble individuals you will ever meet. She deserves a big pat on the back and to let her know how much she means to Wagner Elementary. Retirement will come one day for our dear Marilyn and I don't know what we will do without her. She is and will always be the heart of our school.

Lisa Cihak Posted over a year ago

Marilyn is such an important part of our school. She is the one that the kids go to see if they are wondering what to do after school or if they just need a hug and some attention. Practically every child knows who Marilyn is. She is also the one that the elementary staff goes to if they have a question about a family. She seems to know everyone and everything that is going on with the family. People just trust her and confide in her. She is also a huge asset to our staff. She keeps everything running smoothly in the office from making copies to making and taking phone calls and numerous messages. Marilyn is a wonder. I don't know how she juggles everything and does it with a smile, but she does. And she consistently does it, every day!!!

Pam Kocer Posted over a year ago

Marilyn is the most amazing and wonderful person. She is kind and makes me feel happy to see her. When I need to talk she gives you great advice. She always ask how are you Pammy Sue she really cares. That is why she is very deserving of this award.

Jamie Kuhlman Posted over a year ago

The comments about Marilyn are so true! She is a treasure to our students, school, and community!