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Former teacher volunteers at Clear Spring Elementary

March 24, 2001

Former teacher volunteers at Clear Spring Elementary



By ANDREW SCHOTZ

andrews@herald-mail.com

CLEAR SPRING - Dorothy Truax's 37-year teaching career ended 10 years ago.

But she's back at it, unpaid.

For the last four years, Truax has been a fixture at Clear Spring Elementary School, where she volunteers 15 to 20 hours a week.

"I knew when I left the classroom that I wouldn't be too far from kids," she said.

Truax, 79, who lives in Big Pool, sits with first- and second-graders, listening and coaching them as they read.

"It feels good when you see a child get it," she said.

Truax can't recall a single pupil during her career who didn't "get it" to some degree.

"I never had a student that I could not reach or not help," she said.

Clear Spring Principal Jill Burkhart said Truax is like a magician when she gets certain kids on track.

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"She is able to get people to think and use analysis ... they normally wouldn't use," Burkhart said. "Her strength is her kindness and gift of caring and concerns."

Truax said it was devotion, not money, that kept her in education.

At her first job, in Montgomery County, Md., she was paid $1,800 a year to start.

When she moved to the Washington County school district, her salary was $2,300. It went up to $3,500, but dropped again after she took seven years off to raise her children.

Teachers bought their own notebooks, pencils and other supplies then, Truax said.

"You really have to love children because the pay isn't there," she said.

During World War II, Truax enrolled at Towson University, a teachers' college at the time.

"I was well prepared," she said. "We worked with kids from day one. ... You left as a teacher."

Early on, there were 35 to 40 children in her classes, and as many as 42 or 43, Truax said.

She gave her pupils experiences, not just lessons.

"We made our own victory gardens," she recalled.

They took bus trips to the bread factory, to the zoo, to the library.

"You talk about animals, you went to see the animals."

Truax taught second and third grade at the former Howard Street School in Hagerstown for two years.

She spent the remainder of her career at Fountaindale Elementary School in Hagerstown, teaching fourth and fifth grade.

The breadth of her experience is valuable today at Clear Spring, Burkhart said.

Burkhart said Truax is both a volunteer and a substitute teacher, but she donates her pay to the school. She can teach music, art, math or social studies.

Truax brings "boatloads of resources," straight from her basement, whenever teachers need help, Burkhart said.

Community groups make use of Truax's time, too.

She organizes Red Cross blood drives, children's vision tests for the Hagerstown Lioness Club, membership drives for the Washington County Teachers Association, fund drives for the National Diabetes Foundation and Christmas wreath sales for Habitat for Humanity.

At St. John's United Church of Christ in Clear Spring, Truax runs the Sunday School and the Alive after-school program, in which children have snacks, study the Bible and worship.

She helps at the Homewood retirement home, too.

"Ms. Truax has also provided immeasurable service and acts of kindness as well as financial aid to individuals and families in need throughout Washington County," Burkhart wrote in nominating Truax for a volunteer award from the Community Foundation of Washington County. Truax was one of three winners.

"I go wherever I'm needed, wherever I'm wanted," Truax said.

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