Donna Barnes, 80, whose passion for composing outlined her educating profession

When Donna Barnes arrived in North Haven in 1970 to educate, she took over a classroom stuffed with the youngest learners on the island.

She had properly trained to teach more mature students, but jumped into her new part at a single of North Haven’s two schoolhouses with the peaceful self esteem and enthusiasm that would define her long training career in Maine. It was there, in a classroom of pupils just mastering how to study, that her enthusiasm for literacy took root.

Barnes, who assisted pioneer the way the producing process is taught and individualized her teaching to satisfy every single student’s needs, died Nov. 28 at her property in Topsham. She was 80.

Donna Barnes Photograph courtesy of Barnes relatives

“She by no means required to give up on a single child. She hated little ones staying labeled as negative youngsters or non-learners,” explained her son, Julian Barnes. “She seriously felt it was just that lecturers hadn’t found a way to arrive at that child, to excite them.”

Donna Barnes was born in Boston and graduated from high university in Needham, Massachusetts. When attending Trinity Faculty in Washington, D.C., she went to the March on Washington in 1963 and participated in sit-ins to guidance Civil Rights. She formulated strong political passions, specifically all over the struggles of poverty and equivalent obtain to instruction, explained her daughter, Caitlin Ruthman.

Before relocating to North Haven, Barnes taught in lousy communities close to Boston. On the island, she taught kindergarten by 2nd grade. She comprehended how a trainer demands to adapt the curriculum to their learners, reported Gordon Donaldson, who taught with Barnes.

“Donna was tremendous gifted at individualizing and maintaining children interested,” he mentioned. “She had so significantly strength.”

Following leaving North Haven to receive her master’s diploma at the Harvard Graduate College of Instruction, Barnes returned to Maine and expended most of her occupation as a reading expert and elementary classroom trainer in North Berwick. In the 1980s and 1990s, she led a group of lecturers who aided popularize and unfold a new type of composing education and learning initially pioneered by Donald Graves at the University of New Hampshire.

Although using a summer season class on the writing procedure at UNH, Barnes satisfied academics Kay Morgan and Karen Weinhold, with whom she would later create a guide for educators, “Writing System Revisited: Sharing Our Tales.” They started assembly often as a composing team, a time they came to take into consideration sacred, Morgan mentioned.

Around tea, the girls shared their crafting, tales of boosting their young children and the struggles of instructing creating to learners at many grade degrees, which led to their guide. They later on traveled to conferences to present their perform. Barnes liked responding to queries and strategies from individuals in the audience, Weinhold said.


“She was just all in,” Morgan said. “When she determined on a individual tack, she was going to go for it and preferred to do it with her whole heart. And I imagine she did.”

In an essay in the e book, Barnes asked herself how she could teach kids to write without crafting and how she could know how to generate with out writing.

“I would not aspiration of coaching somebody in tennis until I knew how to play tennis and, I may possibly increase, play tennis properly,” she wrote. “The exact same goes for crafting. I are not able to hope to information little ones in composing with no remaining a writer.”

Ruthman remembers going to her mother’s classroom more than the summertime to get ready for the future year. Barnes worked challenging to make a classroom community that felt risk-free, caring and successful, which Ruthman now strives to do in her possess classroom. It was generally apparent that training was a calling for her mother, she mentioned.

“It influenced me to want to have the exact sort of career that I felt so fully commited to and fulfilled by,” Ruthman mentioned.

Donna Barnes Courtesy of Barnes spouse and children

Barnes’ concentration and passion for crafting also encouraged her son, now a New York Occasions reporter. When he was expanding up, she in no way informed him how to produce, but listened and requested questions. Barnes considered that very good crafting demanded revision right after revision.

“She’d prod you to acquire no matter what you ended up accomplishing to the future amount,” said Julian Barnes, who continue to utilizes the “Donna Barnes method” of reading every tale out loud to make guaranteed it sounds correct.

Just after retiring from training in 2004, Barnes spent summers on Damariscotta Lake in Jefferson with her spouse, Robert Griffith. She saved a journal about the publications she browse, tended a significant vegetable backyard and loved hiking. She loved expending time with her four grandchildren and was usually ready with a snack or action at just the correct time.

Donaldson, who maintained a friendship with Barnes very long just after their time on North Haven, said she was warm and experienced a beautifully dry feeling of humor. When the households got collectively when their small children were being youthful, they’d reenact the winter season Olympics.

“Donna was often in the thick of that, cheering men and women on and earning the celebration joyful and unforgettable,” he claimed.

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