Letter changes former teacher’s life
Margaret Letkeman recounts a life marked by gratitude
WINKLER, MB—Margaret Letkeman of Winkler is grateful for affirmation former students provide when they stop to visit, send cards, or call. Letters are her favourites because “when a phone conversation ends, it is gone.” A letter in her mother’s lovely handwriting is a treasure from the past.
Margaret graduated from high school in 1945, taught one year on permit, then attended “Normal School” to earn her teaching certificate. Her choice was teaching in one-room country schools where she did not feel the pressure of comparison with other teachers. She wanted to focus on helping her students.
“If they didn’t catch on, you had to talk to yourself. They weren’t being naughty…” she maintains. “Once in a while you had to change your method, or bring in something that would interest them.”
With up to 30 students in eight grades, the youthful teacher had many opportunities to practice patience. Diligent students, like the one who came to her for coaching with correspondence courses so he could continue past Grade 8, are fondly remembered. “He was smart! To this day, we are friends!” she says.
Sensitivity and creativity guided Margaret through 15 years as a classroom teacher, including a stint in Newfoundland with Mennonite Central Committee, and an assignment at Grand Rapids. “I loved teaching!” she says.
A letter changed Margaret’s life dramatically. Among friends she made in the Wakeham district, while teaching near Haskett, was a young family. The children were not yet old enough to be in school during the years Margaret taught in the area, but the family, like others in the community, came to school programs.
When the young mother died, Margaret grieved her loss, as did many others. Two years later, when the widower proposed by letter, Margaret “…didn’t know what to think of it!” Some people expressed reservations, concerned the challenge might be too difficult for Margaret. Perhaps it was her sensitivity to the children’s needs that gave Margaret needed encouragement. She agreed to marry Abe Letkeman.
Her deep blue eyes sparkle as she recounts transitioning to a new role as wife, mother, and farming partner. Again, her sensitivity served well as she strove to help the hurting family.
As “Mom,” Margaret encouraged the children to keep talking about “Mommy,” even asking how their birth mother would have done things. “I never felt the children were reluctant to talk to me about their mother. I honoured that—it gave me a good feeling.”
Gratitude colours Margaret’s life, from recounting of lunch-pail toting schooldays, farm life, and the community in her retirement complex. Whether as a teacher or as a wife and mother, Margaret’s gentle nature and servant heart endear her to those she serves.
Pat enjoys learning how God is working in and through people, and delights to share these stories with others.
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