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Gift from retired teacher helps train MU education majors

Miriam Cecil ’65 Doetsch
 watches two of her four grandchildren play with tablet computers.

Miriam Cecil ’65 Doetsch
was watching two of her four grandchildren play with tablet computers when it got her wondering: Would she, as an elementary school teacher, have been able to teach with computers?

The question led to an idea, which led to a special fund, which now provides professional development workshops for teaching and educational studies majors. Doetsch’s generosity has “extended learning beyond the four walls of the classroom,” says Professor Heather Schilling, chair of MU’s Education Department.

A native of La Fontaine, Ind., in Wabash County, Doetsch is a proud third-generation Manchester graduate who followed her grandfather, mother, aunt and uncle – all schoolteachers.

Back in the early 1960s, Doetsch says there weren’t a lot of career doors open to young women, who mostly went into to teaching, nursing or secretarial work. She chose teaching.  Manchester was “a very good choice,” she adds, because she was from a small school and liked that “everybody knew everybody, more or less.”

After graduation, Doetsch taught elementary grades in the Maconaquah School Corp. in Miami County, and the East Noble School Corp. in Kendallville, Ind. She left full-time teaching to raise three sons but continued to work part time with homebound children and as a substitute.

“I loved seeing the ‘Aha!’ moments,” says Doetsch about her teaching days. It was rewarding to look back at a school year and realize how much her students had learned.

Because learning today is so technology driven, Doetsch and Schilling turned the idea Doetsch got from her grandchildren into training for prospective teachers.

The result is an annual workshop that addresses four topics on a rotating basis: Integrating technology with curriculum, the impact of poverty on children and young adults, supporting children and young adults who have experienced trauma, and a current “hot” topic in education.

“Because of Miriam’s enthusiasm for enriching the undergraduate experience, students in our majors have gained a deeper understanding,” says Schilling. “Miriam’s gifts have not only influenced the lives of hundreds of Manchester undergraduates, they have impacted the lives of thousands of people with whom our graduates work.”

For her part, Doetsch, who lives in Fort Wayne, says she’s “just glad to be involved with giving back to the Education Department” and helping future teachers. She hopes other alumni donors will consider enlarging the fund to provide more and even better teacher education workshops.

Doetsch also encourages alumni to consider doing something for the departments from which they graduated. “It will be interesting and rewarding to see what develops,” she adds. “I’m just glad to help out.”

By Melinda Lantz ’81