President of the Woodhaven Residents Block Association
As children, we were taught that we were like seeds that need to be nurtured and that, in time, we would grow up into mighty oaks. Like seeds, many of us left Woodhaven and scattered across the nation, settling down and taking root in other communities.
And as Facebook became a tool connecting the past to the present, reuniting P.S. 60’s Class of 1976, it was through this social medium that we learned of the passing of our greatest nurturer and beloved mentor, Mrs. Eleanor Roth, who passed away last week at the age of 87.
Mrs. Roth was the 6th Grade IGC teacher and, back in the 1970’s, she taught the students French and each year organized a superb French Fair, which included a stage play that included singing and dancing, mostly in French. The lessons she taught us have remained with us for many years.
“To this day I can still sing the French national anthem,” said John Devlin, who now lives just outside of Syracuse, N.Y. “I was part of an exchange program in high school and I was able to sing ‘La Marseillaise.’ The kids in the class could not believe an American knew their national anthem. I think we broke down some barriers that day, thanks to Mrs. Roth.”
Leann Coffin of Katonah, N.Y. also remembers every word of the French National Anthem and says that Mrs. Roth was an inspiration to her. “I never had a teacher who was so dedicated to her students,” she said.
Jennifer Prink (Marsh) of Benicia, California says that she will always have fond memories of the French Fair. “She also started my lifelong love of steamed pork buns from Chinatown,” she said.
Elearnor Roth was certainly versatile, switching to teaching Italian and organizing Italian festivals in her later years as an educator. But while she may have been versatile in terms of what language she taught, one thing remained steady - her love for children.
Sherry Grosman, who currently teaches Pre-K at P.S. 60, told me that after Mrs. Roth retired (in the late 1980s), she continued coming back to P.S. 60 once a week to teach the students Italian. And she continued organizing the Italian festival long after she officially retired – all of which she did for free.
“She really loved the children, she loved teaching them,” Grosman said.
Outside of languages, Eleanor Roth helped nurture students in many other ways. To this day, Robert Chambers of Littleton, Colorado can recite her lesson on why there is “360 degrees in a circle” and credits her with his love of photography. “She was the best of a group of great teachers we had at PS 60,” he said.
John Nicoll of Wilton, NY remembers learning about the workings of government through Roth, but he doesn’t remember it being political. “We knew all of the key government positions and who held the office at the time,” he said. “This set the foundation of being an informed citizen, able to make voting decisions on relevant positions not popularity or star power.”
Other memories of Mrs. Roth revealed that she was not only a nurturing presence in our lives, but also knew how to keep a bunch of unruly 12-year olds in line. And, trust me, we were unruly.
Noelle Acosta of Charlotte, North Carolina agrees. “She was very stern and did not take flack from anyone but she knew her business. It couldn’t have been easy to put on a show with approximately thirty 12-year olds, speaking French no less! My fondest and happiest time spent with Mrs. Roth would have to be when she took a few of us to Jahn’s Ice Cream parlor right before our graduation. I felt so proud thinking Mrs. Roth liked me, she really liked me!”
“She was very stern which I didn’t appreciate back when I had her for 6th grade,” says Chris Mortensen, who now lives in Washington, DC. “I now know her strength was in that ‘sterness’ to make us work as hard as we possibly could and that strength would, in fact, become wisdom for later years. She was a teacher that set the bar high not only for herself and her students but also for future educators everywhere.”
Robert Cooney of San Clemente, California adds, “she was one of the few teachers who appreciated my sense of humor and and could see past my silliness. Most teachers try to force students into a mold but she encouraged me to be who I was.”
As for myself, Mrs. Eleanor Roth was my teacher during a difficult period in life.
She taught me French, but she also taught me kindness. And as I hear from her former students – my classmates, scattered across this grand nation, I’m happy to see that she lives on within them, and the hundreds and hundreds of other students she taught in her career.
She is a testament to the power that one person has to make the lives of others better, and she will be loved and remembered for many, many years to come.
Adieu, Mrs. Roth, merci beaucoup.