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Published: Monday, 2/6/2006

Teacher never sour, period: 89-year-old red-inks grammar scofflaws

BY JANET ROMAKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
On Feb. 18, Louisa Strock, a teacher at Northwest State University, will be honored on her 90th birthday. On Feb. 18, Louisa Strock, a teacher at Northwest State University, will be honored on her 90th birthday.
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LIBERTY CENTER, Ohio - When Louisa Strock heard that sauerkraut was being served as the theme for a festival in her hometown, she initially turned up her nose.

Ever the trouper, however, Ms. Strock decided that the show must go on.

Reworking lyrics into such toe-tapping tunes as "Don't Sit Out in the Cabbage Patch with Anyone Else But Me," she pulled a rousing musical production together for the festival.

Besides directing a community show once a year in Liberty Center, Ms. Strock, who turns 90 on Valentine's Day, is a near-legendary grammar guru, a comma coach ready to red ink anyone who dares to turn in sloppy copy.

Some might consider her just a tad old-fashioned. After all, who really cares about semicolons and plural possessives in a text-message world?

Proper grammar never goes out of style, says Ms. Strock, who teaches composition and speech classes at Northwest State Community College near Archbold.

During a special event Feb. 18, the college's spotlight will shine directly on Ms. Strock when area residents gather to wish her a happy birthday - and to honor her as a lifelong educator.

"She will be a teacher forever, until her last breath," said her daughter Cecily Rohrs, who also teaches at the college.

In her office, Louisa Strock sifts through student papers, looking for errant punctuation marks and other mistakes. In her office, Louisa Strock sifts through student papers, looking for errant punctuation marks and other mistakes.
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Peter Wilhelm, chairman of the college's arts department, describes Ms. Strock as dynamic, a professional, and "just a sweetheart."

For many years at the college, Ms. Strock taught composition and speech to students checkered by failure - unemployed former inmates, down-on-their-luck folks fired from dead-end jobs.

Some came to class with chips on their shoulders; chain-drive wallets jingling from their jeans pockets.

"We scraped them off the streets, and she straightened them out. These were people who normally would have hated English in high school with a passion. It literally was almost a miracle process. I marveled at how she did that," said Mr. Wilhelm who ran the retraining program for 19 years.

Liberty Center High School's Class of 1933 valedictorian has been at the head of the classroom most of her life.

Ms. Strock taught English, Latin, algebra, French, speech, and journalism at Liberty Center, and served as drama director. In 1985, she retired from those duties, but almost immediately signed on at the college. She's been there since.

Ms. Strock could be the "poster child" for the college's philosophy that education is a lifelong process.

She is director of the college's Center for Lifelong Learning that offers educational classes and programs for older residents in northwest Ohio, such as travel study trips, including the upcoming trek this spring to New York City.

She's organizing the trip, and yes, she's going, not to tag along, but to lead the way.

Tom Stuckey, the college's executive vice president, said Ms. Strock has kept the "same sparkle, the same amount of energy" for decades.

"She is totally dedicated to the students, to education, and to the college. That enjoyment has kept her young," Mr. Stuckey said.

She's tough on her students. She challenges them; she raises the bar. Her expectations are sky high. For her students, for herself. To keep fresh and current, she regularly zips off to conferences and seminars.

"I'm always ready to teach, and my students need to be ready to learn," Ms. Strock said. "I tell the students that they need to be ready for anything."

Fiercely independent, she drives the 40-mile round trip to campus, rain or shine. When she gets there, she climbs the stairs to her office, bypassing students who take the elevator to the second-floor classrooms.

Contact Janet Romaker at: jromaker@theblade.com or 419-724-6006.



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