A teacher who started her career in Virden and area, Isabella Dryden, at 99 years of age was the honoured guest at an evening held in her honour, at McMaster House in Winnipeg, Thursday, Mar. 23.
An individual of unusual presence, dedication and longevity, she was born to James and Mary Dryden in the Lenore district, 100 years ago in October.
After some 46 years of classroom teaching, and educational planning, Dryden has continued to teach for another 35 plus years in the Creative Retirement program.
Dryden’s colleague and good friend, Lea Mansell with Educators of Business Information Technology, (EBIT) hosted the celebration of Dryden’s 80 years of dedication to teaching, and in particular, her pioneer work in business education.
Mansell it was a wonderful evening with all of the 110 invited guests tuning out, including family members from British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba and even one nephew who flew from Arizona just for the tribute.
Dryden reflected on the evening. “I shed tears. It was wonderful to see so many former students, many former colleagues and to have nieces and nephews, great nieces and great nephews and great great nieces and nephews join me. I didn’t expect so many of the family, but they were there.”
She was surprised by the accolades and thrilled to see many former students. “I think they were there from all the school from where I taught except one. So you can understand how it was exciting and overwhelming.”
Dryden takes a great interest in the learning process and in people. “That’s what teaching is all about. It doesn’t matter what age they are, whether they are primary school students, junior high or high school, university or retired,” she said.
Mansell said Dryden went around to each table and thanked every guest, individually, for coming.
“Miss Dryden” began her teaching career in 1937 at a one-room school when she was just 18 years of age, fresh from Central Normal School, where all Manitoba teachers were trained.
She taught at Erroll School near Lenore; and in 1941-42 she taught 42 students in Grades 1-10 at Bardal School near Sinclair.
Adversity seemed to set her up for a stellar life-long career. In a story written by Mireille Theriault published this March by The Manitoba Teacher, Dryden said “I stayed one year at the second school and I had a breakdown and so I left teaching and moved to Ontario and took an Administrative Secretarial course.”
Office work, secretarial duties and a desire to return to teaching worked together to open the way for Dryden to begin teaching shorthand, book keeping, economics, law and typewriting in Virden Collegiate Institute in 1949.
“I decided I needed my degree and I needed to strengthen my teaching experience in the area of business. I guess it would be for 15 or 16 years every summer I would go to school for special courses,” Dryden told The Manitoba Teacher. She became Department Head of Business Education until 1967 for Virden. Eventually she was invited to become a member of the staff of the Vocational Branch of the Department of Education to give leadership in the Business Education program.
Winnipeg media covered the event and a video is being created about this amazing lady.
Dryden has had a role in the big picture of Business Education, creating Special Area Groups (SAG) for teachers resulting in EBIT organization among other provincial and even Canada-wide groups for furtherance of business education.
Mansell attributes Dryden’s work behind the scenes including many published articles, as the impetus for business education to become a recognized course at Red River Community College and later a degree course in University of Manitoba.
Mansell, thirty years younger than Dryden, and herself a business educator, readily acknowledges the challenge this completely dedicated senior teacher meets, in order to teach with excellence. She says, “When you’re teaching technology, it’s the same as teaching math. You’re always learning. She’s had to do as much learning as I have.”
Dryden continues to track her student’s progress. Mansell says, “And even at 99, she’ll still make a lesson plan. Her mind is golden, she’s kept right up using the latest technology, using Windows 10, Word 2016...”
Dryden takes the bus to downtown Winnipeg three days per week, fall, winter and spring and twice per week in the summer, where she currently teaches in a Creative Retirement program. Although she fell and broke her wrist in the course of her bus trek one day, she got to her feet, proceeded to her classroom and later went to have her wrist seen to.
At the celebration last week, she was awarded a Business Education plaque for her work with EBIT.
Isabella Dryden has also been nominated for an Order of Manitoba award.