Manitoba·VIDEO COMMENTING

99-year-old Manitoba teacher honoured for 8 decades at the front of the class

The classrooms have changed and so have the subjects, but 99-year-old Isabella Dryden says her love for teaching is exactly the same as when she started — 80 years ago.

Isabella Dryden started in a 1-room school house in 1937, still teaches a computer class

Teacher Isabella Dryden, 99, shows her student, Sheila Taylor, how to use computer programs more efficiently during class at Creative Retirement in Winnipeg. (Sabrina Carnevale/CBC)

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The classrooms have changed and so have the subjects, but 99-year-old Isabella Dryden says her love for teaching is exactly the same as when she started — 80 years ago.

Isabella Dryden says she knew she wanted to be a teacher on her first day of Grade 1 in a four-room schoolhouse in Lenore, Man. (Manitoba Teachers’ Society)
While she retired more than three decades ago, Dryden hasn't stayed out of the classroom. She's spent her retirement teaching computer classes for Creative Retirement in Winnipeg.

"I've learned to care very deeply about my students. They are a part of me. In fact, all the teachers I worked with are a part of me. And my family," she said.

"So I look on all the students I taught as my family."

After eight decades shaping the minds, dreams and education of Manitobans, Dryden will be honoured by the Educators of Business and Technology with a special evening at McMaster House on Thursday.

"I am very humbled. I really don't think I deserve it but I accept it with tears and with gratitude," she said.

Dryden knew she wanted to be a teacher on her first day of Grade 1 in a four-room school house in Lenore, Man.

"I went home and said to my mother, 'I know what I'm going to be when I grow up. I'm going to be a teacher'," she said.

'They are all special moments to me'

In 1937, 18-year-old Dryden finally got her own classroom to teach in at the one-room Errol School just outside Lenore.

The adventures, inspirations and connections with her students continued on each year.

Isabella Dryden was 18 when she got her own classroom to teach in this one-room rural school in Errol, just outside Lenore. (Manitoba Teachers’ Society)

"Each day was a moment, every day. It didn't matter whether it was in a one-room rural school or in a two-room school or in a classroom in an eight-room school or in a high school or in the faculty of education or at Red River Community College or at Creative Retirement," she said.

"They are all special moments to me."

Some things have changed in the classroom since the one-room schoolhouse days, but Dryden has kept up. 

"You learn to adapt like anything else, any change that comes through your life you have to adapt," she said.

Isabella Dryden began teaching in 1937 in a one-room schoolhouse. On Tuesday she worked with students(left) Ethel Einarson and Anne Jackson (right) during a computer class she teaches at Winnipeg. (Sabrina Carnevale/CBC)
With a full lifetime of teaching under her belt, Dryden said the most important thing is for teachers to enjoy their work and, "to give leadership to young people so that they catch the spirit of what education means and that they will, too, learn to grow and blossom and become good citizens of our country."

Sheila Taylor sat in Dryden's computer class at Creative Retirement on Tuesday, taking in all of her teacher's wisdom and advice. She was recommended the class by a friend, who had also taken it.

After eight decades shaping the minds, dreams and education of Manitobans, Isabella Dryden is being honoured by the Educators of Business and Technology with a special evening at McMaster House. (Manitoba Teachers’ Society)
"If I were to choose one word to describe her, I would use phenomenal," Taylor said.

"She puts it very simply. It's simple enough for me to understand."

Dryden efficiently uses the keyboard to highlight letters and numbers, showing Taylor interesting tricks to make computer life a little easier. It's not just education, Taylor said, it builds confidence.

"Certain things I didn't want to touch, I can click it now without worrying if I go into something I don't understand," she said.

Seeing the students grow and learn, no matter their age, is what drives Dryden, she said. When the decades-worth of pupils gather together for the event in her honour, Dryden said it will mean a lot to her to see all the familiar faces.

"I am looking forward to seeing them and saying 'thank you' to them for contributing to my life," she said. 


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With files from Sabrina Carnevale

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