IEC volunteer spotlight: Marilyn Bailey


Marilyn Bailey has devoted more than 20 years of her life to helping immigrants in the Twin Cities learn English. For the past eight years, she has volunteered on a weekly basis at the International Education Center. She loves being in the classroom and interacting with students from all over the world.

“I get to meet very interesting and smart people every day,” she says.

Marilyn’s own father immigrated to North Dakota from Germany. She often marvels at how he learned to speak English in small-town North Dakota with no formal teaching. “There were no schools like the International Education Center in those days,” she says.

Her background as a former writer and editor at the Star Tribune makes her a natural fit in the classroom. In addition, Marilyn has traveled the world extensively. And, she wrote travel articles for the Star Tribune. Her love for other countries and cultures makes it easy for her to connect with students at the IEC.

She likes to focus on helping students with the practical application of English. Marilyn encourages students to write down words they come across that they don’t understand. She has students bring the words to class so she can help define them.

For example, some students didn’t know what the popular acronym “BOGO” meant. Marilyn explained it to them by showing them a grocery store ad. “I was able to help them understand how much money they could save at the grocery store because it was a buy one, get one free sale,” she says. “It’s often the small words and phrases that we take for granted that immigrants need help understanding.” 

Marilyn finds her time in the classroom very rewarding. She particularly enjoys getting to know the students on a personal level. She says that’s what keeps her coming back each week.

“There are so many smart and gracious students who pass through the doors,” she says. “They thank me after every class. I feel like I’m investing time and getting such a great dividend from it.”