Centenarian recalls her teaching career

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A lot has changed in education over the past 60 years.

Someone who has seen those changes happen in her lifetime is 100-year-old Jean McCallen, who taught at Waterford District High School in the 1960s.

She was born in Haldimand on May 5, 1919 and lived in the Cayuga and Norfolk area growing up.

She attended Waterford District High School and Robinson Business College in Waterford.

“A Waterford teacher thought that I should apply to teach shorthand because they weren’t going to teach it anymore. I put on my pink coat, because I knew the principal’s wife always wore bright clothes, so I put on my coat, applied, and got the job,” McCallen said about the start of her career at WDHS.

McCallen was head of the commercial subjects.

She taught at the school for nearly 10 years, providing instruction in shorthand, typing, secretarial science, business practice, library science, and economics.

“I had more classes, and more students per class than any other teacher in the high school,” McCallen said.


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One of the high points, she recalled, in her life was working with a class of children with developmental disabilities. McCallen rode along on the bus with the students to ensure their needs were met while the driver was busy keeping his eyes on the road.

“I went along for the rides, and then I worked with the leader of the class as a volunteer.”

That activity led to getting her job at a residence for adults with developmental disabilities near Tillsonburg.

McCallen then finished her working career as a bookkeeper in Tillsonburg.

She said she believes she knows how she has lived to 100 years.

“I have the idea that having unpasteurized honey every day of my life was helpful in preserving my life,” she said. “I don’t know that officially, or scientifically, but I think it’s true.”

McCallen’s father was a beekeeper when she was growing up, and she helped look after the colonies.

For a short time she moved to Toronto. She worked at the James Fisher Advertising firm, where she typed the orders. She got that job when the man that previously held the position was sent to war.

After marrying a Toronto man, Bob McCallen, they moved back to Waterford and raised a family. They had four children together, David, Margaret, Evelyn and Don. She now has seven grandchildren and three great grandchildren.

After retiring she drove local people to medical appointments when she wasn’t travelling.

She’s been an avid reader and quilter.

She enjoys birding and has traveled to spot birds. For several years she helped count birds for the Long Point Bird Observatory.

McCallen spoke of her worldly travels, listing off the places she had been throughout her life. She has been to China, Australia, New Zealand, Galapagos, Ecuador, Peru, and England. During an interview, she and daughter Margaret had a hard time listing all of the destinations because she has travelled extensively.

Some of her favourite memories from her travels are the animals she has seen around the world.

“I saw an orca whale, which of course was exciting for me,” said McCallen.

She also mentioned a high point was seeing monkeys in Gibraltar.

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