“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires,” says writer William Arthur Ward.
A teacher can touch a person’s life in a positive way with creativity, innovation, intellect and a love of children.
This is what teaching was for Jeanette Truex, or Mz. T as she was widely known among her students and as a true teaching legend in the Upper Grand District School Board.
On April 11, in her 83rd year, Truex passed away peacefully in Guelph, with her family by her side.
Her enthusiasm, commitment, passion, and spirit for teaching endures within the lives of students she taught over many years.
“She loved teaching,” says her son, Paul. “She was bigger than life, always ready to challenge and inspire. She saw hope and promise in everyone.”
Truex spent many years at Tytler Public School in Guelph, teaching all subjects.
“Jean Truex was a beloved and outstanding teacher,” says Heather Loney, spokesperson for the Upper Grand District School Board.
Hundreds of former students share special memories of Truex on social media recalling her passion and dedication. Many say that Truex was a one of a kind, someone who always looked out for them, especially those disadvantaged, and who really needed that extra vote of confidence.
“She was there, ready to inspire the underdog or those less fortunate. For me, she was my mom. She was my biggest defender. And, sometimes even my co-conspirator,” Paul says.
“I was the youngest. Sometimes, she would take me out of school and we would go shopping or fishing.”
After retiring at the age of 65, Truex returned to Tytler Public School in a volunteer role, leading the popular 1-2-3 GO! Preschool Literacy Program for another 18 years.
“Jean Truex would work with young children to ensure they had a good start when entering the school system and was dedicated to the young children she supported. In 2009, Jean and Maggie Whittaker were awarded an Everyday Hero Award by the school board for their work with the 1-2-3 Go Program. Mz. T was a legend at the school board. Her compassion and care for every child and generous spirit will be remembered fondly,” Loney said.
Truex’s husband, Paul Sr., says the program was a labour of love.
“The program was started to get young kids reading. She was an advocate for kids being in school as early as possible. And this was all run by volunteers. The Rotary Club of Guelph donated to the program every year, but other than that, it was the volunteers that made it happen."
After retiring himself, Paul Sr. would see his wife head off to school, ready to volunteer and ready to read.
“She would get so pumped up. She would come home and say, ‘Alastair learned to read today,” Paul Sr. says.
That was the day, the young boy “believed” he could read.
Truex would also publish a weekly newsletter with tips on preparing children for school and teaching suggestions for parents at home.
“She would say that the program is just as much for the parents as it is for the kids,” Paul Sr. said.
“She was passionate about everything, whether it was teaching, her school, her students, her spouse and her children.”
Truex was the loving mother of three children, Torii John, and Paul. She holds a special place in the hearts of her grandchildren, Ricky, Taylor, Renee, Kennedy, Xavier and Hope.
“Her children and grandchildren were the apples of her eye,” Paul Sr. says.
“We were married for 62 years, but this doesn’t count courting time as well, my grandkids remind me.”
The couple was from Ossining, New York.
“We were in fourth grade together and then through high school. We got serious three years before we were married,” Paul Sr. says.
“I was working for Johnson & Johnson in the U.S. They asked me to go to Montreal. That was 53 years ago. We were there during the Olympic Games in 1976. That was an exciting time. We were in Montreal for 10 years and came to Guelph in 1978.”
While in Montreal, Truex attended McGill University.
“She received her teaching certificate. When she earned her bachelor’s degree, she had already been teaching four years by that time. When we first came to Guelph, she was a supply teacher at first and then landed a full-time position at Tytler Public School. She taught there for about 30 years. And she loved it,” Paul Sr. said.
“For Jean, classroom discipline was a huge issue. She relied heavily on chats with my mom who was also a teacher. She learned that discipline starts right from the very first time you meet a child. And that each child is different and should be treated so. She’s received so many accolades from students, each one treated differently, in their own unique way. This is what distinguished Jean from others.”
With such a long career, she taught many students, their children, and in some cases, even their grandchildren.
“She was a special person, and she was very active too. She loved her community. She loved and affected anyone who met her,” Paul Sr. said.
Along with a Mayor’s Award from the City of Guelph, Truex also received recognition for her volunteer service from the provincial government with an award in 2016.
“Receiving these awards really meant so much to her,” Paul Sr. says.
Mz. T’s passion for teaching influenced the lives of her many students. She guided with enthusiasm and gave them the fuel to stay the course.
“She always taught us to chase our dreams and to not take ‘no’ for answer. Teaching was her dream. It was her food in life,” her son Paul said.
“If mom saw an opportunity to inspire, she was there. She did everything for love of her family and her students.”