Tribune Print Share Text

A passion for teaching- and learning

Created date

September 20th, 2010

Most Thursdays, Tallgrass Creek resident Judy Turner is out the door at 3 p.m. and doesn t walk back in until about 7 p.m.

That s because Turner, a retired teacher, is still teaching. She tutors first and second graders in one of the most disadvantaged areas in Kansas City, Mo., every week and still finds the work challenging and rewarding.

"Some of the children are pretty far behind," says Turner who along with her husband, Terry, moved to the community two years ago. "But I still love seeing that moment on a child s face when understanding dawns."

 Mom and sons off to school

Turner s road to becoming an educator was not the traditional one. She grew up in Michigan and attended college on a scholarship for two years in Nebraska planning a career in social work. However, she reconsidered and began taking college courses geared to teaching after she and Terry married.

She continued taking classes while their three children were small and studied once they were tucked in at night. She started student teaching when her youngest son began elementary school.

"I was going to school the same time my kids were," she says. "They all came to my college graduation."

Turner s 28-year teaching career started in Kokomo, Ind., where her husband s job as a metallurgical engineer had taken the family. She taught mostly elementary students in both a private elementary school and also in a Montessori learning environment. She and Terry moved to Florida in 1994 after he retired, but she wasn t ready to quit teaching.

"Teaching becomes a wonderful obsession," says Turner. Her teaching experience expanded in Florida where she taught special education for the next 12 years. She found the new environment challenging, but the excitement of watching a child learn continued to inspire her.

"So many special needs children are very bright," says Turner. "They just learn a little differently." 

Teacher becomes tutor

The Turners move to Tallgrass Creek in 2008 put them closer to their oldest son s family who lives in Independence, Mo. Another son lives in Vancouver, Wash., and their youngest son and his family are moving to England.

Turner says relocating to Tallgrass Creek from Florida has been an easy transition.

"There are top-notch people here who have had and are still having very interesting lives," she says. "Coming from Florida, we knew no one. Here, we only had to walk out our door and there they were."

Though Turner relinquished her formal teaching hat when they moved to Tallgrass Creek in 2008, she dons it again every Thursday afternoon when she tutors in the inner city. She teaches reading (her first love) and math to three children during the half hour she has with each of them.

Teaching and learning

When Turner looks back, she can t imagine doing anything other than teach.

"Judy was born to teach," her husband says.

It seems Judy Turner was also born to learn. In addition to facilitating the monthly book club discussion, she gardens, quilts, and swims all activities offered at Tallgrass Creek. The couple also takes dance lessons on-site and is on the community s wellness committee. Turner is also taking a course about religions of the world offered by the interfaith committee.

She notes that education has changed dramatically during her 28-year career, especially with the advent of technology. However, she adds, nothing replaces the student/teacher relationship.

"You have to care and your students have to know you care," Turner says. "It s the cornerstone of learning."