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MCMINNVILLE, OR, June 16, 2010 /24-7PressRelease/ --- Though a revered instructor of three languages (English, French and Spanish), Phyllis J. Fread is very fond of one particular word. In a recent interview with Cambridge Who's Who, she used it to sum up her 44 years in education. "I've had one reward right after another in whatever I've done [because] I went into it with enthusiasm, I continued in it with enthusiasm, and I ended it with enthusiasm," she said, chuckling. "Enthusiastic" is definitely a fitting description for the retired teacher and counselor. Her eyes sharp and mirthful behind her glasses, Mrs. Fread looked back on a colorful career that saw her establish her high school's foreign student exchange program, attain the position of dean of students, and grant scholarships as an associate of the Ford Family Foundation.
It began unceremoniously without any inkling of these future accomplishments. Set on becoming a French teacher like her favorite aunt, Mrs. Fread attended Cornell College and earned a bachelor's degree in French and Spanish in 1948. When recruiters from Seattle Public Schools came to visit, she was advised to sign up for an interview despite there being no openings for language instructors. "[They told me,] 'It's good practice for you.' So I did, and I did all the wrong things - I laughed, I crossed my legs, I just enjoyed myself," she recalled with a smile. "Within two weeks, I [received] a letter of intent." For the next two years, Mrs. Fread taught French and Spanish at George Washington Junior High School in Seattle, where she also met her husband - or, as she said with characteristic drollery, "I met a man and decided that he would be all right to marry."
In 1953, Mrs. Fread found her way to Roseburg High School, where she would spend most of her career as an educator. Tasked with teaching English, French and Spanish, she was soon inspired to parlay her language skills into another endeavor. "I began to think we needed foreign exchange students to give us a well-rounded education," she said. With her principal's blessing, she formed a partnership with the American Field Service, and in 1960 Roseburg sent its first student abroad and took in its first exchange, a girl from Turkey. "One of the goals that I had was [for] our students here in the United States, and particularly in Roseburg, to have the opportunity to learn from other cultures," Mrs. Fread stated. "So we've had students from hither and yon. I liked to get the ones from yon because those are the ones we don't go and visit."
Mrs. Fread's linguistic abilities enabled her to play a special role in foreign students' adjustment to American life. A born nurturer, she took many of them under her wing and now reflects happily on the lasting relationships that her efforts had forged. In particular she remembers a non-English-speaking student from Quebec who, with some patience and encouragement, got over intense homesickness and left being able to speak English. That student is now in Austria studying to become a language teacher. "I just feel good about her and the fact that I am still in touch with her," Mrs. Fread shared. "It's simplistic, but that's the kind of thing I excel at, counseling people."
It was no surprise, then, that Mrs. Fread ventured into counseling. She obtained a master's degree in counseling and guidance from the University of Oregon in 1956 and eventually devoted herself full-time to the pursuit. The dean of students at Roseburg High School from 1960 to 1980, she reminisced on the challenges of being a school counselor - "There was a time when I was in real heavy crisis counseling, particularly with some of the kids who were on drugs in the '60s" - and shared the rewards of providing a leg-up to students who needed it the most. "I had a box marked 'Precious Things: Don't Throw Away without Reading.' It [had] notes and things that students sent to me saying, 'Mrs. Fread, please call me into your office; I need to talk to you.' I never turned a kid down if I could help it," she said.
Mrs. Fread retired from Roseburg a much-loved figure and made a return to teaching at Umpqua Community College, conducting French classes there for 10 years. She also lent her expertise to the Ford Family Foundation. Appointed as the team leader of the scholarship program selection committee, Mrs. Fread took pride in representing an organization that placed as high a premium on learning as she did: "[Kenneth Ford] felt that an education was the most important thing that a young person could get because nobody could ever take it away from him."
Officially retired from her profession since 1992, Mrs. Fread retains an infectious enthusiasm for life. "I think I have to live forever because [I'm afraid] I might [miss] something," she quipped. She stays active in her community by maintaining affiliation with Zonta International and contributing articles to Hillside Highlights, the Hillside Retirement Community newsletter. She also enjoys the company of her newborn first great-grandchild.
Phyllis J. Fread may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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