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Marguirette Struble

  A beloved teacher and mentor, Dr. Marguirette Struble began her 37-year career at the Laboratory School in 1924. “Miss Struble” (as she unfailingly was called, although her male colleagues were duly accorded their title of “Dr.”) taught both Latin and French. 

  She was born on May 29, 1901 near Iowa City, and earned her B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Iowa. Like Ida Fesenbeck (who taught German before her in the Lab School), Dr. Struble began her career teaching Latin and French in the Rock Rapids (Iowa) school system, but she was soon recruited by the University of Iowa to teach at its Laboratory School. 

Our Lab School Calls

  When she was only 23 years old, however, Iowa State Teachers College and its Laboratory School called. Dr. Struble was a perfect hire for the Lab School because she engaged early on in cutting-edge research. In 1932, she co-adapted and edited with Helen M. Eddy, an edition for high school students of the famous French novel The Three Musketeers. Dr. Struble explained her work in a 1937 article in The Journal of Educational Research titled “The Construction of French Reading Material for Second Year High School.”

  From 1898 to 1929, she explained, teachers of modern languages sought to follow the counsel of the Report of the Committee of Twelve of the Modern Language Association of America (1898). It called for teaching to center on the four aims of speaking, writing, understanding, and reading the language. However, by the 1920s, teachers began to confess that they “struggled to accomplish the impossible task of giving the pupil in two years’ time—for only a small proportion of her pupils continue to study longer—such an ability to read, speak, write and understand the language as would be permanently useful.” 

 As a result, in 1929 a new nationwide “Modern Foreign Language Study” called for a complete change of goals. Reading ability now was to be “the primary and essential objective to which all other aims shall be subordinated [in a two-year program] and to which all class activities must contribute or be discarded.” Here indeed, Dr. Struble exclaimed, was “a new outlook for the modern-language teacher!”

 Dr. Struble immediately set to work in support of the new goal; that is, to create ideal reading matter to advance her students’ reading skills. She chose The Three Musketeers for many reasons:

 “In the first place, it ranks high in favor among those stories of the world

which are the common heritage of [hu]mankind and the favorites of

children in many many languages. Moreover, Les Trois Mousquetaires

is most popular with children of 14-15 years, the exact age in which we

are primarily interested. The story has, however, a verve and a dash which

captivates even an eleven-year-old, and which, indeed few adults can resist.

It offers the further advantage of being almost equally popular with boys

and girls. As Dumas’ best-known novel, it affords, too, the logical introduction

to the other works of this ‘master of the art of story-telling.’”

  The key was to present the novel in simple and common words—and in ways to enhance vocabulary growth. With scientific precision, Struble and Eddy adapted Les Trois Mousquetaires to include all the major plot incidents involving the hero d’Artagnan in a text of 185 pages, containing 45,000 words—but only a total vocabulary of just 2,464 words and idioms. When a new word was introduced, it was given in bold type—and it also was inserted in the margin in the line of its first appearance. Whenever possible it was repeated three or more times in close succession and, thereafter, at gradually increasing intervals.

 It helped, Dr. Struble explained, that “the essence of the novel is contained in the breathless action of its plot, development . . . dependent largely upon the use of dialogue, with a minimum of space and importance allotted to elaborate description.” The adapters provided summaries in French of omitted portions of the novel that were essential to the thread of the story. Additionally, each chapter was followed by a set of comprehension exercises in French on the content just read, and a section of word-study exercises designed to assist vocabulary-building. The comprehension exercises included questions as well as multiple-choice, true/false, and matching items: 

 “Conscious effort was made to use in these exercises words introduced 

 either in the chapter or previously. The word-study material [brought] 

 out salient points of the relationship between French and English,  

contain[ed] interesting word-histories, and by a variety of exercises 

 aim[ed] to assist the memory by associations of synonyms, opposites,

 word-families and the like.”

Struble and Eddy followed their trail-blazing Les Trois Mousquetaires with Ecrivons in 1942 which included text and exercises from the Mousquetaires but also from the novel Madame Thérèse which tells the story of the French Revolution through a young boy’s eyes. The praising reviewer in The Modern Language Journal observed that the book was published in response to demand from teachers:

 “Ecrivons is unique in its uses of Dictées . . . .The vocabulary used 

 is not stilted, but colloquial. The exercises are well-formulated, 

 modern in type, and give effective application to the rules. The 

 Grammaire contains many excellent teaching suggestions because 

 of its ingenious arrangement.”

Or, as Dr. Struble summed up her work in 1932: “What greater challenge for the progressive teacher than the opportunity thus afforded of taking an active part, on the one hand, in creating the materials of her teaching or, on the other, of providing through scientifically conducted experiments the only adequate means for perfecting these materials into more useful instruments for the accomplishment of her purposes!”

Latin & a Teaching Style

 Dr. Struble’s Latin instruction proved equally rich—as suggested by her course descriptions and her students’ response. “The two-year sequence in Latin,” she explained, “centers upon the Latin language, the Greco Roman civilization that it interprets, the country of Italy where it developed, and evidences of its cultural and linguistic influence upon the world of today”:


Latin I

 The first-year course, open to students of grades nine through 

 twelve, presents a series of readings in Latin, gradually increasing 

 in difficulty, through which students become familiar with 

 characteristic features of ancient Roman life, important people of 

 the time, incidents from Roman history, and stories from classical  

mythology. The aim is progressive development of the ability to 

 read Latin with comprehension, while at the same time acquiring 

 a background of information valuable as a part of an individual’s

 general education. 

 Since more than half of the words in English are derived 

 from Latin, practice in utilizing this close vocabulary relationship 

 between the two languages is provided in two ways: (1) familiar 

 English related words serve as an aid in figuring out and retaining 

 the meaning of new Latin words, and  (2) Latin words already 

 learned can often serve as a key to unlock the meaning of unfamiliar 

 English words that are met in increasing numbers from ninth grade 


 Famous landmarks in Athens and in the Forum of Rome, 

 likewise the  excavated city of Pompeii, become readily recognizable

through photos and comment, as do famous works of Greek and 

 Roman art and characteristic features of classical architecture seen 

 in ancient structures still preserved and in buildings of today (e.g., 

 in our national capital). Attention is given to Latin abbreviations 

 commonly used in English (1 lb., A.M., P.M., i.e., etc.), as well as 

 to Latin expressions in general use (such as post mortem, terra firma, 

 status quo), and to well known mottoes (such as our national motto, 

 those of the Marines and the Coast Guard, and of the State College 

 of Iowa [UNI] and other  schools.) 

 Each student is encouraged to plan and carry out an individual 

 project connected with some phase of the course that has aroused his  

interest. For success and enjoyment in the course, daily preparation 

 of 40-60 minutes is expected.

 Latin II

 The second-year course continues the aim, method and general

 emphasis of the first year. Reading material includes well-known 

 stories from Roman history and a five act play by the Roman author  

Plautus. The latter forms part of a drama unit dealing with the 

 invention of drama by the Greeks, its characteristics and original 

 purpose, its adoption by the Romans, and its continuous influence

 upon ancient and modern times. 

 Roman admiration and imitation of Greek art and literature is

stressed, together with debt to the Romans through whom Greco

 Roman civilization spread to all countries of the Roman Empire 

 and thence to North and South America. Acquaintance with places 

 of interest in Italy is expanded, as is the individual’s ability to use 

 his knowledge of Latin to increase and illuminate his English 

 vocabulary. Attention is given to Latin words that have come into 

 English with no change in spelling (villa, stadium, doctor, crisis, 

 apparatus, species), some of which retain in English their Latin 

 plural (e.g., alumnus, alumni). 

 Individual projects are again encouraged. To derive from 

 the course its potential values, it is expected that a student will 

 spend 40-60 minutes in daily preparation.

  If Dr. Struble’s research blazed trails and provided materials for fellow teachers, her classroom teaching invariably has been described by her students (and by professional evaluators) as not only congenial but rich in range, depth, and light. On the first day of French, each student chose a French name. Barbara Kraft Wood, who became a teacher herself, says, “I still write my name as it was spelled in that class: Barbe.” 

  “She had light years of technical knowledge of her subject area,” adds Susan d’Olive Mozena, who, like Wood, studied with Dr. Struble every day for four years, first Latin and then French. “She knew that she could only have us for two years of Latin and two years of French, so instead of trying to cram in all the Latin and French she could—and she did a good job of that—she wanted us to know (and here is where her genius was)—about the culture and the context of those languages.” 

  Patricia Severin DeMey, who also became a teacher, confirms that “She taught lots of history, literature, and architecture all entwined with the Latin language lessons. She referred to the Iliad and Odyssey in her storytelling. We heard about Helen of Troy and the Trojan horse, Agamemnon, Priam, Menelaus. We saw pictures of the wonderful ruins still to be seen in Italy and Greece. When I was in Italy, I purchased a calendar of pictures of so many of the places she taught us about and sent it to her when I got back.”

  Mozena’s Latin class “project” was to make posters of the Roman Forum, with pictures and descriptions of all its monuments. Three years after high school, Susan was standing in the Forum with her mother: “I was pointing out all these ruins and Mother looked at me and said, ‘How do you know this?’ And I said, ‘Two words, Mom: Marguirette Struble.’” Because French is a modern living language, at Christmas time Dr. Struble would tell the students what a French family would be doing around Christmas. In the spring, the class would celebrate Mardi Gras with pralines.

  Robert Stephens, who became a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, confesses that he has “very fond memories” of Dr. Struble: “She impacts my life to this day . . . how I pronounce various words and think about language. Of course, she was the best English teacher going . . . that’s where I really learned English.” 

  “She wanted us all to be successful,” Wood explains. “I always thought that test questions had to be a great mystery and I had better study. The day before the test she would have study questions written on the board behind a large map and the class would go over each question. On the day of the test she would roll up the map and those same questions would be our test.”

  Support and encouragement also came in the form of celebration of each student’s birthday, complete with candy and the singing of “Happy birthday to you” in Latin or French. Dr. Struble would pass around a box of Russell Stover chocolates, starting with the birthday honoree. “The last time I saw her, 30-plus years after graduation, she reminded me that I liked the nuts and chews,” Stephens recalls. “What a great teacher and great mind!” Mozena notes, “She bothered to look up our birthdays. She was celebrating each one of us.”

  Dr. Struble’s own birthday was May 29, and in their senior year, Wood, Stephens, Mozena and their fellow classmates arranged with the principal to get into her classroom early, before the day started, to decorate it with balloons. “We brought candy for her birthday,” Mozena recalls. “She was incredibly touched.”

Junior Classical League

  In the summer of 1955, Dr. Struble helped host the second national convention of the Junior Classical League, an organization of high school Latin Clubs. More than 500 students from 26 states convened on the ISTC campus for a series of workshops, programs, and elections. Dr. Struble led the Campus High School Junior Classical League Club, but clubs also existed in the Cedar Falls Junior and Senior High Schools and five clubs flourished in the Waterloo Schools. (The National Junior Classical League continues to thrive today with more than 45,000 members.)

 In 1956, Dr. Struble took two of her Latin students to the third Junior Classical League Convention, held at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. Marna Lou Prior Xanos, one of those students, gives this vivid account:

 “Miss Struble invited Joyce Frandsen and me to travel with her [to the 

 Convention]. We were fifteen. We would travel in her new 1956 Chevy.

 Miss Struble had planned, ahead of time, to stop at every historical 

 place along our route. We were shown President Herbert Hoover’s home 

 in West Branch, Iowa; birthplaces of famous people; and even some sand 


 We saw the Abraham Lincoln home in Springfield, Illinois, and the 

 Lincoln statue, and the tomb where Abraham, Mary, and their four sons are 

 buried. Then we went to Lincoln New Salem Historic site, a reconstruction 

 of the cabins where Lincoln lived for about six years. This was most 

 fascinating to Joyce and me. We couldn’t imagine how someone could live 

 in a one-room cabin, and read by the light of the fireplace. These sites were 

 of particular interest to me because Abraham Lincoln lived in Decatur and 

 other towns where my ancestors resided. One of my great grandmothers, 

 Nancy Miller, had lengthened pants for Abraham when he was a young  man,

and he chopped wood for her.

 We stayed in a dormitory on the Miami University of Ohio campus.

There were Latin classes and for the final banquet we dressed as Romans,

in our togas (sheets), and had to eat dinner with our fingers (sans silverware).

Now that was fun.

 On the way home, I remember walking on the campus of Notre Dame 

 University in South Bend, Indiana. I was impressed by the ivy-covered 

buildings and the feeling that we were special enough to walk on the  

campus of such a big university.

 After visiting Notre Dame, we headed west. Miss Struble must have 

 been tired of driving, for she asked me to drive. I must have had my  

driver’s permit and I got to drive the Chevy! I must say that Miss Struble 

was a good sport, because she did not want to go to Chicago. But after 

Gary, Indiana, we were headed straight for downtown Chicago. Maybe I 

missed a turn, but after Gary, the highway just led us right into the Windy 

City. Once out of Chicago, our adventures continued. We had more places 

to see, and we were truly entertained along the way. The trip ended up 

being a very good educational adventure.

 Miss Struble stayed close to our class of ‘58 throughout the years. 

 She was invited and attended most of our reunions. She always  

remembered our trip to the Latin Convention. How could she forget!”

  One sees, in retrospect, the trust Dr. Struble placed in her young students. Xanos, who became an x-ray technician, recalls that Dr. Struble “emphasized speaking with the correct French pronunciation. She wanted us to be able to go to France and converse in French without hesitation. Because she taught us to speak accurately, my University of Iowa French professor was impressed by the way I could pronounce my words. He entered me into a poetry reading contest and I placed. I credit Miss Struble for my winning. She taught me well, as she did the others.”

A Teacher’s Influence

  One can never fully measure a teacher’s impact on her students. However, Susan d’Olive Mozena believes that, although she has had many wonderful teachers across her life, “as far as the impact on the way I view the world, and my view of other people, and the way I try to be, she was magnificent.” Mozena first taught high school for four years; then after some years at home raising her son and daughter, she embarked on a 30-year career as a hospital administrator and health care executive. In Grosse Pointe, Michigan, in her late fifties, she felt a call to ordained ministry, went to seminary, and began her current career as an ordained Presbyterian minister. 

 In a long interview, she tried to explain what “Miss Struble” meant in her life: 

 “Miss Struble was not physically elegant; she was intellectually elegant—

 and ethically elegant. I think it was the way she conducted herself. Let 

 me tell you how that worked. For instance, she taught us a lot about 

 respecting others—and not dis-sing people. I mean, bullying would have 

 been the last thing she would have tolerated in her classroom. No one

ever even dreamed of being an idiot in her classroom. People might

have failed to do their homework, and she quietly found it out, but no

one acted up in her room. Why? Because we respected her too much,

and we knew— somehow we all knew, without her ever saying it—that

she loved us. She respected us for who we were.

 The word ‘often’ is an example. A lot of people say ‘off-ten,” but it’s

 properly pronounced “off-en.” Guess how I know that? Marguirette

Struble. She had a giant dictionary on a wooden dictionary stand.

So if a  student mispronounced a word in English, like saying ‘off-ten

instead of  “off-en,” she wouldn’t say ‘Well you’re wrong!’

(implying ‘you dummy’).  Instead, she would say, ‘You know, Tom,

I’m not sure about that word.  Would you mind going over to the dictionary,

and could you tell me how it is pronounced?’ 

 Now isn’t that a genius thing to do? All these years later—I’m 76  years old—

and all those years ago, I still remember that moment. She didn’t jump

the kid. She didn’t say, ‘You’re wrong.’ And I have never  pronounced

that word ‘off-ten’ since. 

 In freshman year we were learning about Latin direct and 

 indirect objects, and we had an indirect objects quiz. And, oh my God, 

 I failed it. I flunked the test. I was beside myself. I had never had 

 that happen to me—ever. Miss Struble asked me to stay after class. She

 had me sit down across the desk from her, and she said, ‘Susan, I know

 you’re really upset about failing this test, but honestly there is 

 probably just one tiny thing that you didn’t catch. We’ll fix that in a few 

 minutes. I know that you’ll get it, so don’t worry about that. You’re going 

 to understand it, and you’re not going to have trouble with indirect objects 

 ever again. But I want you to think about something. You know how 

 terrible you felt about failing the test. I want you to consider that some

 of your classmates deal with failure every day.’ 

 Now that’s being ethically elegant. How wise she was—kind of 

 bringing me up short in a loving way, helping me to understand that I 

 wasn’t the only person in the room, that there were other people who 

 struggled with academic issues every day. What a life lesson she taught 

 me. I think she tailored her approach to each student. She cared about 

 us as individual people.

 When she taught us about other cultures, we might say, ‘Oh, 

 that’s really weird.’ And she would just quietly say with her sweet 

 little smile, ‘Well, it’s not really weird, it’s just different.’ She was

 teaching us way back then about not ‘othering’ other people. This

 was her ethical elegance.

 The summer after my junior year in college I had an opportunity

 to travel, and I had to decide how I wanted to do it. Did I just want to go

 jet hopping around or maybe get a Eurail pass, or did I want to go to France

 and live with a family? The idea of bombing around with a backpack

 and living in youth hostels actually left me cold—probably because I

 wasn’t adventurous enough—but in addition, I had learned so much from

 Miss Struble about trying to appreciate another culture that I knew I wanted

 to live with a family.

 So I was accepted into the Experiment in International Living 

 summer exchange program and ended up in southern France, which is 

 where my d’Olive ancestors had come from. That was the summer of 

 1966, and all these years later I am still connected with my French family. 

 I am connected to my French ‘sisters’ and ‘brother,’ and to my French 

 ‘mother’ who is still living. She is going to be 100 in February 2022, and 

 my plan is to be there for her 100th birthday with her children—and 

 their children and grandchildren. I now have a four-generation relationship 

 with that family. And Marguirette Struble is the reason that I made the 

 decision to travel to Europe that way instead of traveling more 

 superficially as a tourist. That’s a huge difference.

 Our family has hosted exchange students. I have tried to pass

 on to my children the insights that Miss Struble gave me. Our

 son spent almost one year in France, living with my French family and

 working on my ‘brother’s’ vineyard, and we have welcomed people from 

 all parts of the world to this house mostly because of the way Marguirette 

 Struble opened my eyes—and my heart. She was just wonderful. She 

 was the real deal. She was a class act. And she was so humble.”

In January 2021, Mozena even included a Lab School moment in her sermon at Grosse Pointe Memorial Church on the baptism of Jesus:

 “We called one another to worship a few minutes ago with the first four

 verses of Psalm 29. The psalm is all about divine speech. In it, God’s 

 voice thunders, it is powerful, it is full of majesty.

 God’s voice can be rather quiet, too. The first bit of Genesis is 

 also on the scriptural menu for today, the beginning when God

began to  create, a wind from God, God’s Spirit, sweeping over

the waters, and then God’s voice speaking light into being,

‘let there be light,’ and there was  light, separating night from day,

in that beautiful, rhythmic cadence: ‘There was evening and

there was morning, the first day.’

 I recall one day, probably 60 years ago, when it wasn’t so calm.

 I am in my high school Latin class, at State College High School in Cedar

 Falls, Iowa. Our teacher is Dr. Marguirette Struble, who will end up being

 my favorite teacher of my entire life, from every level of my education. I

 cannot read this passage from Genesis without thinking of her. We are in

 her classroom, in the afternoon. The rather small room is beautifully 

 illuminated by a wall of windows with a western exposure, not quite floor

 to ceiling windows, but very tall. Today, the angle and strength of the 

 afternoon sun have caused Dr. Struble to pull down the shade on the

 window closest to the front of the room all the way to the bottom. It is

 a very long and strong window shade, covering that big, long window,

 top to bottom. That room is generally very quiet. No one messes 

 around in front of Dr. Struble. We aren’t afraid of her; we all respect

 her, and many of us truly love her. . . . We are focused on her as she 

 stands in front of her blackboard, where she has written in her perfect

 script the Latin sentences that we are being called on to translate. One

 after another, we are responding to her. She encourages us, nudging us

 along, gently correcting when needed, smiling her approval when we get

 it right. All is as it should be in Dr. Struble’s room.


 Out of nowhere, into that peaceful moment in the comfortable non-glare, 

 that window shade roller mechanism unsprings itself, and the shade 

 rackets wildly and loudly up to the top of the window, shocking all of us

 out of any post-lunch afternoon Latin class torpor we might be 

 experiencing. We jump halfway out of our seats, a few sheets of paper

 and books hitting the floor in the process.

 Dr. Struble? She looks up calmly, smiles just a bit, and says, 

 ‘Well, let there be light . . .’”

Professional Praise

 In 1969, Malcolm Price Laboratory School’s accreditation was renewed by the North Central Association of Secondary Schools. Dr. Camille LeVois, one of the evaluators from the University of Iowa’s Department of Foreign Languages, wrote this in her report: “I saw Dr. Struble teach a Latin class that is undoubtedly the best I have ever seen anywhere, anytime.”

  Marna Lou Prior Xanos wrote of the Dr. Struble she knew in the late 1950s: “She was an extraordinary teacher; she loved her students, and her students loved her.” In 2001, the year Dr. Struble turned 100, Mozena brought her daughter, Beth, to Cedar Falls in May to meet her mentor and to celebrate the day:

 “Beth and I were at her table for lunch. Now she was essentially blind, but 

 you never would have known it. She was as sharp as ever. She and I were

 sitting in the living room before we left, and out of the blue she said to me,

 ‘Je t’aime’ which in French is the familiar, intimate way of saying ‘I love  you,’

instead of the more formal ‘Je vous aime.’ Technically speaking, she

 threw me for a loop. In our decades-long teacher/student relationship,

I don’t think we had ever used the intimate form of address in French with 

each other. For me to respond to her ‘je t’aime aussi’—I love you too—in 

one way was inappropriate because I was way her junior, but I just

responded in truth ‘Je t’aime aussi.’

  Dr. Marguirette Struble exuded, throughout her days, the qualities of many of the best Lab School teachers. She taught people, not subject matter. She wanted her students to succeed and she created ways for this to happen—in small and large form. She built a classroom based on mutual respect and common purpose in which she modeled the love of learning and showed that language study meant more than nouns and verbs, but cultural breadth, and the ethics of love. She unceasingly helped her students see the connections between Latin and French and their own English language and the Greco Roman and French cultural links to the students’ current lives and world.

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