Outstanding teachers make an impression on their students because they’re patient, knowledgeable, and tough (if necessary), and, above all, they know how to truly connect with their students. Even though students don’t always get to see these special teachers after they finish school, the bond remains, sometimes for many years. Concordia of Monroeville resident and former schoolteacher Helen Livengood has been able to reconnect with past students over the last eight years because they live so close to her – in the same building! Two of these students even got to celebrate Helen’s 100th birthday with her. Their stories and memories show just how much teachers matter to their students.
Helen was born on November 29, 1915 and graduated from what was then known as Turtle Creek Union High School in 1933 with 366 other students. She went to Slippery Rock University and completed some graduate work at Penn State University, then began teaching in what is now the Woodland Hills School District (just outside of Monroeville). She taught mainly social studies and language arts and was later asked to be a reading specialist.
“The first class I taught had 48 students in it: six rows of eight students,” Helen remembered. “I could hardly walk through the rows!”
Helen continued teaching more and more students as the years went by – 44 years, to be exact. Helen’s remarkable memory allows her to remember virtually all of her students’ names and what years she had them in her class. Many of these students have lived at Concordia of Monroeville during the eight years she has been there, including current residents Cecelia Page and Alice Bonura.
“There were both very good; they were never problem students and always behaved,” Helen said.
When Cecelia, who originally grew up in Meyersdale, Pa., had Helen as a teacher, she was a new 5th grade student at Electric Plan Elementary School.
“I always remembered Mrs. Livengood. She was so nice to me, and she helped me get used to the school. I was a good student; I usually behaved,” Cecelia said. “When I saw her here [at Concordia], she remembered my first name and even my maiden name, Shultz, even though it’s an unusual one.”
Alice, who was one of five children, had Helen as a teacher twice – first at Electric Plan Elementary School and later at Penn Avenue School.
“She was the most outstanding and pleasant teacher I ever had; she was always so helpful,” Alice said.
When Alice first moved in to Concordia of Monroeville, she looked across the dining room and saw Helen at a meal. After she recognized her former teacher, she got a chance to introduce herself.
“I said I had her in class, and once I said my first and maiden names, she stopped me and said, ‘Well, let’s not go any further,’” Alice said. “And then she said all of my siblings’ names too, because she remembered them all!”
Helen said she’s able to remember so many names through connections. When she meets someone new, she simply associates his or her name with other names and people she already knows. Helen also has a secret about how students still recognize her: “I never change my hairdo.”
Another thing that Helen didn’t change over the years was her attitude toward her students.
“My favorite thing about teaching was the children,” Helen said. “I loved the children, and they loved me.”
Helen’s students certainly did love her. Even though Cecelia and Alice were the only students able to celebrate Helen’s 100th birthday with her in person, other former students sent her birthday cards – she received almost 40!
Concordia wishes Helen many more happy birthdays to come!
Concordia of Monroeville offers many services to its residents, including short-term rehabilitation, personal care and long-term nursing care. For more information or to schedule a visit, call the Director of Admissions at 412-373-3900, visit Concordia of Monroeville’s website or message us through the Contact Us form on our website.
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