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Published: Friday, 3/30/2001

Educator mixed firm, gentle ways to earn respect

Mildred Tellez, a former elementary teacher and principal in the Toledo Public Schools, died Tuesday in Lutheran Village at Wolf Creek, where she was being treated for respiratory difficulties. She was 87.

Mrs. Tellez became principal at Hawkins Elementary School in 1967 after 27 years as a teacher, a teacher supervisor, and as an assistant principal in Toledo Public Schools.

She began teaching in 1933 at Warren Elementary and later accepted assignments at DeVeaux and Whittier schools.

In the late 1950s, she was named assistant principal at DeVeaux a post she held for nine years. From 1970 until her retirement in 1973, she was principal at Grove Patterson School.

John Bergener, her son and a retired sports writer for The Blade, said his mother was remembered by friends as an educator who took a deep interest in her pupils and, in matters involving discipline, preferred to reason with them rather than resort to paddling, permissible in those days. Her tactics inspired fear and respect among her pupils, he said.

“They'd sometimes walk out snickering from another principal's office, but when they would see the kids coming out of her office, they sometimes had tears in their eyes,” he said.

“She'd lecture them in the office and make them call their parents right there to tell them what happened,” he said. “She never hit a kid in her life. She never even grabbed the kids.” Back then, she could count on the parents siding with the school, he said.

She used her small size to her advantage to spoof her pupils one year during Halloween.

She dressed up as a cowboy and sat in the back of her classroom before any of her pupils arrived, Mr. Bergener said. Pupils entered and in a short time became unruly. “She stood up and said, `Wait a minute. What are you kids doing?' Then they realized she was their teacher. That's the kind of things she did.”

Ron Shnider, who serves on the board of the Old Newsboys Goodfellow Association, recalled while he managed a Pee Wee baseball team of Grove Patterson pupils, Mrs. Tellez would stop to see him during practices if she was having a problem with one of his players.

“This woman knew no hours for her job,” Mr. Shnider said. “Whatever it took, she did it.”

Born in Toledo, Mrs. Tellez was a 1931 graduate of Scott High School. She completed a bachelor's degree in education in 1937 at the University of Toledo and a master's degree three years later at Ohio State University.

She enjoyed music, once attending a music school at the University of Southern California. She sang soprano and studied music at Westminster Choir College, Princeton, N.J.

She was a former member of the choir at Ashland Avenue Baptist Church and a member of the Lutheran Village choir.

Her husband, Jorge Tellez, died in 1981. Surviving is her son, John Bergener.

There will be no services.

The family requests tributes to the Hospice of Northwest Ohio in Perrysburg or to a charity of the donor's choice.



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