Bertha Ann (Upton) Munn
Life and Work
Bertha Ann Munn was a person with great skill as an educator. She taught all subjects to her 30 years of grade 6 classes in Wetaskiwin. However most remember her for her ability to bring numbers alive in her teaching of mathematics.
She was born in 1884 in Clifford, Ontario. Soon after she and her family moved to Alberta. Her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Upton, and eight siblings lived on a farm west of Pincher Creek. For her high school Bertha went to Calgary and proceeded to become a teacher by attending Normal School in Regina.
She taught in country schools in Southern Alberta before marrying a railroader, James Alexander Munn in September, 1907. They lived in Calgary until 1911where their two sons, James and Clifford were born. In 1911 they moved to Wetaskiwin where they lived until she moved to a nursing home in Edmonton.
After her sons were old enough to go to school Bertha began teaching again. She taught grade six in the King Edward School and continued for 30 years. Even after retirement at age 67 she continued to substitute teach and then tutored in math in her home well into her 80's.
She was a strict disciplinarian. If her students had not done their homework it meant after school detention for them. Even some corporal punishment was meted out if necessary. In spite of this she was a kind and considerate teacher helping her students to master their studies and bundling them up in the cold. All teachers and students walked home for their noon lunch and Bertha had almost a mile to walk. Perhaps that is why she remained so slim throughout her lifetime.
Bertha seemed to love entertaining and often had the school staff to her house for socials and card games, as well as her church groups and Red Cross meetings. Her home was open at school festival time for the children to come and practice.
Their home was interesting in that it was the first pre-built modular home in Wetaskiwin. It is still on the same corner today.
Her legacy lies in the children that benefited from her instruction and her ability to teach the mathematical concepts to the youth of the time. Many of Wetaskiwin's seniors today can attest to her great teaching as they went through the school system.
In 1964 she was awarded the honour of Citizen of the Year in Wetaskiwin for her devotion to teaching. At the Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting in 1964, the guest of honour's former students were asked to stand. As if it had been only yesterday they sat in the desks at King Edward School and Bertha Ann Munn recalled their names.
Bertha Ann Munn died in 1980 at the age of 96.
"I respected her and thought there was no one that could match her in teaching. She set an example that made me want to be a teacher... I remember her always wearing a hat and being very neatly dressed... after falling through the pond ice, she had a supply of clothes that we could change into while ours dried on the registers."
- Beryl Ballhorn, student, Mrs. Munn's Grade 6 Class
Memories of Mrs. Munn by Beryl Ballhorn
Mrs. Munn was one of my favourite teachers. She taught Grade 6 at the King Edward School for many years. She was a very caring person and I remember often children got wet walking on the slough ice and falling through. She had a supply of clothes that they could change into while their clothes were hung on the big registers to dry. Mrs. Munn was an excellent teacher and one of her favourite subjects was mathematics. I'm sure she taught many of us to love math and feel comfortable with numbers. I remember her always wearing a hat and being very neatly dressed. When the music festival was on we went to her house to practise and this was really special. She taught for many years and I remember that she was retired but still tutoring in mathematics when she was in her 80s. This was high school math I understand, as well as other grades. I respected her and thought there was no one that could match her in teaching. Perhaps she set an example that made one want to be a teacher.
- Research: Evelyn Blanch
- Contributors: Beryl Ballhorn, Evelyn Blanch
- Curator: Harriet Liddle