Thursday, January 28, 2016

A tribute to Mary Beth Blegen

This past Monday, I received the sad news that Mary Beth Blegen passed away.  Mary Beth taught for thirty years in Worthington, Minnesota.  She was the Minnesota Teacher of the year in 1995 and the National Teacher of the year in 1996. 

All sorts of beautiful tributes have been written about Mary Beth. 
Each day this week I’ve read some amazing and stirring words about Mary Beth on her Facebook page:

Watch the ceremony at the White House when she was awarded the Teacher of Year trophy by President Clinton here.  It really got good at minute 15:

Read a beautiful tribute to Mary Beth written by Beth Rickers in the Worthington Daily Globe:

I even found a blog she started.  It can be read here:

I never had the opportunity to have Mary Beth as a teacher.  I knew her, though, as she was a teacher at the High School.  She was always around and always present.  Growing up in a small town it seemed that we all knew everyone—and Mary Beth was part of the community.  She was part of Worthington—so we were connected.

I remember going to her house when we had musicals and talking to her at her church when I played the violin there.  She was always interested in what was going on in my life.  She would ask me a question, then be silent, and listen

One of my memories of Mary Beth was the column she wrote for the Worthington Daily Globe.  If I remember right she started writing it in the early 1980’s.  Her column was the first thing I would read in the paper.  She always had a beautiful story to share.  At the time I remember being amazed at what a skillful writer she was.  She had the ability to focus attention on something that was really important.

The last time I saw Mary Beth was when my parents and I traveled to Washington DC in the summer of 1996.  My mom was a delegate to the N.E.A convention.  During a luncheon Mary Beth came to talk to my parents and me.  When she saw us she was interested in what was happening in our lives.  She asked questions and then listened.

Later on I re-connected with Mary Beth through Facebook.  Occasionally she would ask a question about God on her page, and she would ask me to respond.  Always the teacher—looking to draw out ideas from the people she knew.

The world is a diminished place with Mary Beth’s passing.  But it’s a better place because of her presence.  Many of us carry her lessons with us.  As we share these lessons, we will give tribute to her legacy, and make our world a better place. 

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