Isabella Dryden receives Sovereign’s Medal

Born in the Lenore District, this 101-year-old teacher has had a storied career including nearly 40 years of volunteer work.

Isabella Dryden, at 101 has just received an award from Canada’s Governor General - the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers.

From her birthplace on a Lenore farm until today, Dryden’s love for teaching has taken her from simple beginnings as the eldest child of James and Mary Dryden, teaching her siblings to read, to become a lifelong educator.

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In 2018 she was invited to Ottawa to receive the volunteer’s award, but the centenarian explained that she could not attend the Governor General’s ceremony. Other arrangements were made and on June 25, Dryden was one of three to receive the Sovereign’s Medal presented by Manitoba’s Lieutenant Governor the Honourable Janice C. Filmon.

Dryden said receiving this honour was overwhelming.

“It was a breathtaking ceremony. I shed tears. Tried to hide them, but I couldn’t,” she said.

“Her Honour, the Lieutenant Governor and her husband were just so gracious! And all her staff couldn’t do enough to make us feel comfortable.”

Following the presentation, a buffet luncheon was provided where Dryden visited with the Lieutenant Governor, her husband and her staff. “There was time for fellowship. They were so gracious and so kind.”

Dryden first taught at Errol School near Virden. After a brief hiatus from teaching, when she took up office work and got a business degree, she found her way back into education.

In the early days Dryden taught business classes at Virden Collegiate Institute - bookkeeping, typewriting, law, and economics.

During the 1970s, Dryden led the way in business education, teaching business classes at the University of Manitoba and Red River Community College.

When computers came on the scene, she took up the challenge to become adept with each new version of hardware and software, to be able to teach others. 

When she retired as a teacher, she volunteered, instructing children, adults and senior citizens in basic computing, typing and career development. Dryden continues to do so.

With an upcoming 102nd birthday in October, she does not take her days for granted, but still enjoys teaching.

“I’m going to try another term with Creative Retirement,” she says.

Recently a gentleman has volunteered to provide her with transportation to her classroom. It’s quicker and easier, and no bus transferring is needed.

In her 12-seat Creative Retirement classroom Dryden offers three different classes - introductory computer classes levels one and two, plus Microsoft Office Suite.

She must keep up to ever changing software programs, but Dryden loves what she does and plans to continue, saying she will know when to quit “when the time comes.”

In the meantime, she says, “I believe in keeping myself mentally, physically and spiritually active.”

© Virden Empire-Advance

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