Marihelen grew up in the farmlands of Western Kentucky. She began her teaching career in art when she was 25 years old after completing an MA degree from Eastern Kentucky University. She has had the opportunity to teach in a wide range of environments from private boarding schools in Kentucky and Tennessee, a private elementary school in New Haven, Connecticut as well as a residential treatment center for neglected and abused children in Appalachian Kentucky.
Upon relocating to Florida in 1982, she moved to Levy County where she taught for 10 years at Bronson and Chiefland Elementary Schools and at the Hurricane Island Outward Bound School, an outdoor experiential education program serving adjudicated adolescent girls, near Fanning Springs. During this time, she completed an MA Ed. in exceptional student education from the University of Florida and also served as Levy County Coordinator of Very Special Arts Florida.
Since leaving Levy County, Marihelen has been teaching art at Westwood Middle School in Gainesville for the last 20 years. She has enjoyed the honor of being selected teacher of the year while tenured at Bronson Elementary School and then again at Westwood in 2011.
Marihelen has been married to Dr. Paul Wheeler, a local marriage and family therapist, for 25 years. Dr. Wheeler is the owner/director of the Gestalt Center in Gainesville. Marihelen is mother to 3 sons as well as mentor, surrogate mom to many local and Kentucky children she has worked with over the years. The Wheelers have also served as host family to many Japanese students in past years and continue to have strong family ties with those children abroad.
Marihelen’s activist work has included 8 years of working with a variety of water groups in Florida to control water quality and quantity in the region. She has been an outspoken advocate for water conservation of rivers and springs as well as our coastal waters. It was her conviction to correct problems with educational testing practices and water conservation issues that compelled her to become a candidate in the 2012 election for Florida House of Representatives from District 20.