Sister Mary Joanice, 90, school principal in city, Annapolis

April 10, 2003|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Sister Mary Joanice Giebel, a retired school principal who once was named Maryland's junior high English teacher of the year, died of a circulatory ailment April 3 at St. Joseph Medical Center. She was 90.

In her 64 years teaching English and math, Sister Joanice was also a parochial school principal in Baltimore's Govans neighborhood and in Annapolis. She was a member of the School Sisters of Notre Dame.

In 1988, she was named the Middle-Junior High School Teacher of the Year by the Maryland Council of Teachers of English Language Arts.

"She was completely dedicated to her calling. She was proud to be a sister and understood her role as a teacher of youth. She was a great inspiration to me as my eighth-grade teacher," said Archbishop Daniel A. Cronin of Hartford, Conn., a former pupil, who celebrated her funeral Mass yesterday at Villa Assumpta, the order's motherhouse at 6401 N. Charles St.

"She was also very good as a religious superior," the archbishop said. "It is a great compliment to be remembered fondly by your peers."

Born Magdalen Theresa Giebel in Washington, she entered the School Sisters' Aisquith Street convent in 1930. She earned a bachelor's degree from Boston College in 1943 and a master's from the College of St. Rose in Albany, N.Y.

Sister Joanice taught in Cambridge, Mass., Fort Lee, N.J., and Harrisburg, Pa., before moving in 1955 to Maryland, where she was mother superior and a teacher at St. Mary's School in Hagerstown. She taught in Forestville from 1962 to 1964, the year she became principal of St. Mary of the Assumption in Govans. From 1970 to 1975, she was principal of St. Mary's parochial school in Annapolis.

"She was the kind of person you would trust your children and grandchildren to," said the Rev. Michael Roach, a friend who is pastor of St. Bartholomew Roman Catholic Church in Manchester. "Within and without the archdiocese, from rural Maryland to inner-city Baltimore, she was a great force. She was serious without being grim. She was precise without being pedantic."

During his sermon Sunday, the Rev. Paschal A. Morlino, a Benedictine priest and pastor of St. Benedict Church in Southwest Baltimore, recalled that in the mid-1970s a prominent Maryland political figure wanted to have a family member admitted to St. Mary's in Annapolis. Sister Joanice declined to advance the child ahead of others on the school's waiting list.

"Other people have been waiting for two or three years. I believe in fairness. I am sorry. I am not bending," Father Morlino recalled her saying. "She was through and through an educator. She used to tear my sentence structure back and forth, up and down."

Even so, he added, "She was very popular with her students."

In 1975, she arrived at Madonna Middle School in Southwest Baltimore. For the next 21 years, until her retirement in 1996, she taught English and tutored. A 1989 Evening Sun article detailed her display of dozens of ceramic or wood angels, often given to her as presents by her pupils. She also decorated her classroom with bulletin boards - and kept some examples - of her pupils' best work.

"She was articulate and good at holding our attention," said Peggie Ward Curley of Ruxton, a former pupil. "All she had to do was stand in the front of the classroom and she had an aura that engendered respect. She clearly loved teaching and wanted us to do our best."

"I still like the thing she said on her 60th jubilee," Father Roach recalled. "`I have to say one thing, on the whole, I've been terribly overrated.'"

She is survived by nieces and nephews.

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