Mary Esther Public Library bids farewell to long-time youth programs educator

Devon Ravine
Northwest Florida Daily News

MARY ESTHER — The Mary Esther Public Library honored one of its most beloved employees, Marlene Bosak, with a going-away party Monday. Bosak, who has been responsible for the library’s youth education programs since 2001, will leave her position this month.

For Monday’s event, Bosak was sporting a navy-colored shirt, splattered with yellow, green, blue and magenta paint. The shirt, painted by children in one of her educational programs, was a reminder for Bosak of the fond memories she has of the children she taught. But the paint-covered shirt is indicative of her approach to making learning a hands-on adventure.

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Marlene Bosak has some fun with children in one of her youth programs at the Mary Esther Public Library. Bosak, who is leaving the library this month, was honored with a going-away party Monday for her almost 20 years of providing activities and programs for the library's younger readers.

Every other week children would gather in a small classroom at the library to learn about topics ranging from ancient Egypt to the California Gold Rush. And Bosak would base everything — her costume, the craft activity and the snacks she served — on that particular topic.

“For President’s Day I found out what were the favorite foods of the presidents and then served that for snacks,” said Bosak, who noted that Ronald Reagan’s jelly beans were a particular favorite. For her program on ancient Egypt, she baked pyramid-shaped cupcakes.

And the activities she planned were designed to engage the children as well. During one program on the Winter Olympics, Bosak turned her small classroom into a bobsled track. 

“My husband built the track out of PVC pipe and we froze little army men in ice cubes,” explained Bosak.

Marlene Bosak with the Mary Esther Public Library was honored with a going away party Monday for her nearly 20 years of providing activities and programs for the library's younger readers.

In another program, she had the children set up a picnic adjacent to an ant hill outside the library to see which foods the ants preferred.

“My goal was always to have the kids learn something, but to have so much fun doing it that they didn’t realize it was educational.”

In addition to the library programs, Bosak also held educational activities for pre-kindergarten children at Okaloosa County Head Start.

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“The kids were so thrilled to come here,” said Library Director Sheila Ortyl of Bosak’s biweekly reading programs and summer camps. And, Ortyl noted, “there have been thousands of kids that have come through these doors.”

Some of them showed up Monday to show their appreciation for Bosak’s educational efforts, including 12-year-old Kaliana Bowers.

“She’s amazing; she always made me feel welcome,” said Bowers, who has been attending the programs for four years. “If I didn’t have a mom, she’d be my mom because she’s so loving and caring.”

Marlene Bosak talks with Grant Chastain, one of the many youths who have participated in her programs at the Mary Esther Public Library. Bosak was honored with a going-away party Monday for her almost 20 years of providing activities and programs for the library's younger patrons.

Also at Monday’s gathering was Laura Chastain, whose six children have attended Bosak’s youth programs at the library since 2006.

“They each sent me a text or a note” to say how much they appreciated Bosak and how much fun they had in her summer programs, Chastain said.

As a projector ran a slideshow of pictures from her programs over the years, Bosak reflected on her almost 20 years of educating and expanding young minds.

“When you stand in front of a roomful of children, whether at the library or the Head Start school, you know it is going to be an adventure,” she said. “It can be funny, sweet, emotional or whatever, but it’s always memorable.”