Victim from Quebec was 'proud Canadian, dedicated to French'

A French teacher originally from Montreal was one of 32 people killed by a gunman at Virginia Tech in Monday's tragedy, state police have confirmed.

Jocelyne Couture-Nowak established a French-language school in Nova Scotia

A French teacher originally from Montreal was one of32 people killed by a gunman at Virginia Tech in Monday's tragedy, state police have confirmed.

Jocelyne Couture-Nowak, who taught French in Virginia Tech's department of foreign languages, died in the shooting incidents on the sprawling campus Monday morning.

Couture-Nowak, a mother of two daughters, was originally from Montreal and lived in Nova Scotia before taking upteaching at Virginia Tech, along with her husband Jerzy Nowak, a horticulture professor who is head of the school's department.

She taught intermediate French at Virginia Tech for many years, and was well liked and respected, said her colleague Janell Watson, an assistant French professor at state university.

"She was a wonderful colleague," Watson told CBC. "She was a very dedicated teacher of French, and seemed to be popular with the students."

"She was a proud Canadian, and dedicated to the French language and to Quebec," she said.

Couture-Nowak's death has devastated the languages faculty, Watson added. "It's more feeling than thinking at this point."

According to comments posted on a Virginia Tech website used to rate professors, students appreciated Couture-Nowak's efforts in the classroom.

"Mme. Couture-Nowak is an excellent teacher. She makes everything as easy as possible for you to learn the subject material. She is extremely nice and understanding," wrote one student who took her intermediate French course.

Other students described her as "matronly."

The Montreal native was in a campus building Monday to teach a course when a gunman entered the building and opened fire in several classrooms and hallways, before he committed suicide.It's not yet clear where she was when she was shot.

Virginia police have identified the gunman as Cho Seung-Hui, 23, a native of South Korea and an English major who lived on campus.

Lobbied for French school in Truro

Couture-Nowak spent several years living in Truro, N.S., with her husband Jerzy Nowak, who taught horticulture at the Nova Scotia Agricultural College (NSAC) from 1984 to 2000 and was the department head for part of that time.

Couture-Nowak nurtured her love of the French language during her stay in the Maritimes and was instrumental in founding a French school called the École Acadienne de Truro in 1997.

"She was a great person," said Heather Parker, who worked with Couture-Nowak and another friend on the project.

Parker, who taught Couture-Nowak at the Nova Scotia Teachers' College, said the Quebec native's passion for linguistics was evident early on.

"She was dedicated to everything to do with life and living, a very non-violent person," Parker added, "and it's just not a way such a person should pass.

"I think if everyone could follow her vision of a non-violent society and a passion for life, that this would be a much better place for everybody."

Flags at NSAC were lowered at half-mast in honour of Couture-Nowak's death.