Teaching has changed a lot in Marlene Mutch's 63-year career. For example? She no longer stables horses

Marlene Mutch, far right, stands with her class of 1963 at Oak Bluff School. She had 33 students and taught grades 3, 4 and 5 that year.  (Submitted by Marlene Mutch - image credit)
Marlene Mutch, far right, stands with her class of 1963 at Oak Bluff School. She had 33 students and taught grades 3, 4 and 5 that year. (Submitted by Marlene Mutch - image credit)

Helping students put their horses in the barn before school isn't generally required of teachers — but it was one of Marlene Mutch's duties when she first started teaching in 1961.

"Today teachers can type up their lessons with a click of a button, copies for their classes can be printed. You can Google pictures and information for our lessons to be shown on the smartboard — like it's just amazing what you can do," Mutch said.

The Winnipeg elementary school teacher is retiring in June after a remarkable 63 years in the classroom.

Mutch, 82, is a part-time Grade 1 and 2 teacher at Oakenwald School, where she's taught for 46 years.

"I have mixed feelings, but it's time," Mutch told CBC's Information Radio host Marcy Markusa Monday morning.

Mutch had the opportunity to retire and receive a pension at age 65, but she asked to continue teaching part-time within Pembina Trails School Division because she enjoys teaching and spending time with children.

Submitted by Marlene Mutch
Submitted by Marlene Mutch

"Honestly, every day something will come up and it'll make you smile or make you laugh, or they will really make you appreciate what you're doing for them," said Mutch, who's been working one day per school cycle for the last 17 years.

Mutch estimates she's taught nearly 2,000 students during her career.

She got her first teaching job at Oakleaf School in the municipality of Glenella-Landsdowne when she was 19. The rural schoolhouse had one classroom and included students of all ages.

Mutch says it was an "amazing" experience that inspired her to continue teaching despite also being responsible to act as the principal, secretary and custodian — in addition to helping stable the horses children rode to school.

Mutch knew she wanted to become a teacher at a young age because she always pretended to be a teacher when she played with other children.

However, there was a brief period in Mutch's life when she faced doubts about her career.

Submitted by Marlene Mutch
Submitted by Marlene Mutch

From kindergarten to Grade 8, Mutch attended a rural school in southwest Manitoba, but she failed her Grade 9 year because there wasn't a teacher available and she had to teach herself.

"I was really hesitating about it, but my dad said, 'You always wanted to be a teacher — try it again,'" she said.

After graduating Grade 12 and completing one year of college, Mutch taught for two years at Oakleaf School before teaching at Oak Bluff School, Sandford Collegiate, General Byng School, Viscount Alexander School and lastly, Oakenwald School.

Mutch is amazed by the ways technology has changed teaching over the years, but one thing remains the same, she said — "the enthusiasm with the students. They get so excited when they learn to read or they understand a math problem."

Teaching has been stressful but "extremely rewarding," Mutch said.

Her advice to new teachers is to have structure in the classroom, set expectations to improve student learning outcomes, put in the extra time when a student may be struggling and be fair and understanding when it comes to discipline.

Submitted by Marlene Mutch
Submitted by Marlene Mutch

Mutch enjoys bringing animals to her classroom to enhance educational learning opportunities for students. In the past, she's hatched chicken, duck, turkey and goose eggs in addition to bringing a lamb, piglet and pet snake for the kids to interact with.

Laura Funk, a mother of two of Mutch's former students at Oakenwald School, said her eight-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter loved being taught by Mutch for two or three years each.

During a school unit about money, Mutch prepared a laminated bookmark for each child that included a rare coin and a special message, Funk said. Mutch also wrote kind comments on her children's worksheets.

"She was really obviously very caring and very organized, as well and thoughtful in how she taught, but really in a way that also made a connection with each child and made them feel special," Funk said.

Mutch made her son "feel really valued as a person" and it's been a "tremendous opportunity to have an older adult come into the class and engage with the kids."

Submitted by Laura Funk
Submitted by Laura Funk

Mutch was a role model for her children, Funk said. Her children often note in their daily school journal when Mutch teaches the class, especially when she has brought an animal for show and tell.

On Saturday, Oakenwald School held a celebration in honour of Mutch, with approximately 160 people in attendance.