Eleanor O'Donnell Joyce, 86, city teacher

February 04, 1999|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,SUN STAFF

Eleanor O'Donnell Joyce, whose concern for students carried her to a nearly 40-year career as a Baltimore schoolteacher, died Saturday of Alzheimer's disease at Stella Maris Hospice on Dulaney Valley Road.

Mrs. Joyce, who was 86 and lived most of her life in Govans of Northeast Baltimore, taught ninth-grade mathematics to East Baltimore youngsters for 38 years -- first at the old Patterson Junior High School and later at the former Hampstead Hill Junior High.

At both schools, she delivered the same message to students: You can enjoy yourself in class, but only after you've learned the lesson.

"She knew the real purpose of school, and that was to learn," said Carolyn Munsey, one of Mrs. Joyce's students at Hampstead Hill. "This doesn't mean that she was a stick in the mud because she could joke around, too -- but always after you knew the math of the day."

Soon after she began teaching, Mrs. Joyce was recognized for her keen skills and asked to help train new math teachers, in addition to her teaching duties. She also was assigned students who were destined to go to "A-course" high school programs.

"She loved teaching and found it was very rewarding," said her son Jack Joyce of Baltimore. "She required and received respect from students. But teaching, it was her life."

Colleagues and former students said Mrs. Joyce was known for her calculator-type mind and the flair of the red pen used for corrections.

"After she'd correct an assignment, you'd see more red than pencil" that students used, Ms. Munsey said. "You'd see a bunch of red marks -- even on papers that had the right answers."

Mrs. Joyce often played a game in which students would make algebraic equations and give her a few moments -- sans calculator -- to come up with the answers.

If she was successful, the class was assigned extra math problems. "We never found out what our reward would be because she'd always win," Ms. Munsey said. "We played the game and fell right into her trap."

A Baltimore native, the former Eleanor O'Donnell graduated from the old St. Mary's Star of the Sea school in 1931 and received a bachelor's degree in education from the College of Notre Dame of Maryland in 1935. She began teaching soon after graduation and retired in 1973.

Mrs. Joyce, who was active with St. Mary's of Govans Roman Catholic Church for more than 30 years, had few hobbies. Her spare time was spent caring for the ill or offering rides to the handicapped or elderly.

"She lived to teach or help other people out," her son said. "She felt good about what she did."

She married Jerome J. Joyce in the early 1940s; he died in 1985.

Services for Mrs. Joyce were held yesterday.

In addition to her son, she is survived by another son, Jerome Joyce Jr. of New Market; a daughter, Eleanor Huber of Baltimore; and six grandchildren.

Pub Date: 2/04/99

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