By Chelsey Hinsenkamp

SLN Staff

Most educators teach because they believe in it.

But there are those rare few who believe so strongly in enriching others, that they dedicate their entire lives to education.

The community recently said goodbye to longtime educator Marilyn Coogan, 77, who taught locally for more than three decades. She died Aug. 6 after suffering a massive stroke.

Marilyn Coogan

Education was a passion for her, her daughter Bridget Trewyn said. “She knew how important education was to helping people get further in their lives.”

Coogan was the first in her family to attend college – enrolling at Dodge County Teacher’s College right out of high school. She later earned her Master of Education from University of Wisconsin-Whitewater in 1978.

She started her teaching career in a one-room school called Seibel, in Dodge County. Coogan taught a class of 22 students at the school in 1958, prior to taking a few years off to start her family.

In 1970, she began teaching fourth and fifth graders at West Side Elementary in Elkhorn and in ’95 moved to Tibbets Elementary where she worked until her retirement in 1997.

Retired principal Cliff Schiefelbein who was Coogan’s supervisor at West Side said his memories of Coogan are fond.

“She was a fantastic teacher, always willing to go the extra mile with the kids and the curriculum. I just can’t say enough good about her.”

Among many great teachers, Coogan excelled, according to the former principal.

“I visited every classroom everyday and Marilyn’s was always at the top,” he recalled, “and at that time I had many good teachers.”

Trewyn, who teaches science at Elkhorn Area High School, said her mother, who started in a one-room schoolhouse, was ahead of her time.

“She always used her own curriculum using novels, not a reading book…

“She really was good at teaching reading and she always emphasized how important it was to read.” Trewyn continued.

Coogan not only served as a role model for her students, but Trewyn said she also acted as a mentor to the other teachers, providing encouragement to them when it was most needed.

“Many people have told me how they appreciated her help… She was just that kind of person that people felt comfortable coming to,” Trewyn said.

Retired teacher Doris Reinke teared up when describing her late colleague, saying, “I remember when I retired, she came down and she put her arms around me and said how much they would miss me and that was nice to know.”

“I imagine that when she retired, she had someone do the same for her. She was such a dependable teacher,” she added.

Reinke also worked with Coogan through the Walworth County Historical Society.

After Coogan retired, she tapped back into her earlier days in the classroom, instructing groups of children at the historical society’s one-room Blooming Prairie School at the Walworth County Fairgrounds for more than a decade. Mock classes at the historic building are held to give students of today a look at what learning was like in the 1800s.

“In the spring and the fall we have these one-room school classes that we offer…” Reinke, the historical society president said. “Marilyn was one of the people who taught the class. She had taught years ago in a one-room school so she was just a natural for it.”

According to Trewyn, her mother’s teaching style was consistent whether she was volunteering or instructing her own students.

“She had a good sense of humor, she was very calm and never got very upset about things, but had high expectations for her kids,” she said.

Coogan maintained a handle on her students even with her lighthearted nature, according to Trewyn.

“The discipline in her classroom was not through discipline but just through having a good relationship with her students,” she said.

“She really saw the value of education just for its own sake.”


Marilyn Coogan left a strong impact on former students who offered the following memories of her online:

“Marilyn was my fifth grade teacher many years ago. I’m now living in Boulder, Colo., and heard the news from my parents in Elkhorn. I’m very sorry to hear that she’s passed. I know she was a great teacher and was loved and appreciated by the hundreds of young people she worked with over the years. We’re all lucky to have learned the value of education from her early in our school-age years. My thoughts and prayers go out to her family and loved ones, along with a final thank you to Marilyn for her service in this world.”  – Quayle Hodek, Boulder, Colo.

“Mrs. Coogan was my fourth grade teacher. I had many fine teachers, but she was the finest. She introduced me to my first love (Abraham Lincoln), my favorite movie (“Anne of Green Gables”), and my best friend (Kari). She was wise and stern and witty and tall, very tall. I remember her often and always will.”  – Karen Carlson of Ocoee, Fla.

“So sorry to hear of Mrs. Coogan’s passing. She was my fifth grade teacher and I remember fondly her entertaining us with the accordion (such a lost art) and reading to us from “My Side of the Mountain.” It was special to have her at my high school graduation. My thoughts and prayers go out to her whole family. Thank you for sharing her with us.” – Jessica Hodek of Louisville, Ky.

Source: Haase, Lockwood & Associates Funeral Home guestbook at


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