February 15, 2004 - Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Paraguay RPCV Dencie Munns dies in Milwaukee

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Paraguay: Peace Corps Paraguay: The Peace Corps in Paraguay: February 15, 2004 - Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Paraguay RPCV Dencie Munns dies in Milwaukee

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Paraguay RPCV Dencie Munns dies in Milwaukee

Paraguay RPCV Dencie Munns dies in Milwaukee

Munns strove to liberate students through education
Posted: Feb. 15, 2004

When Dencie Munns resumed her teaching career after taking time off to raise her three sons, she planned on working only as a substitute teacher.

But after she walked into a north side Milwaukee middle school to take over a classroom full of rowdy students who had seen nearly a half dozen teachers come and go, she was offered and accepted a full-time job to lead the class.

Despite the difficult work that lie ahead, Munns rose to the challenge and stuck with the children.

"By the end of the school year, she had made good friends with everyone in that class," her son, Doc Munns, said. "She was such a tough-willed person. She was no more than 5 feet 2 inches, but she had such a presence.

"She ended up staying in that school for several years."

Such tenacity was the hallmark of Munns' life, which she spent fighting for social justice and liberating people through education.

She taught into her 60s and even embarked upon a Peace Corps mission to Paraguay in the early 1990s to help revamp the educational system there.

Munns, formerly of Lannon, died Thursday after a long battle with rheumatoid arthritis and Parkinson's disease. She was 84.

Munns was born Dencie Stalker in a communityin northern Minnesota. Her mother, Prudence, died while giving birth to her.

She became an orphan of sorts after her father, according to Doc Munns, was ostracized by the community a short while later because people felt he married too soon after the death of Dencie's mother.

Dencie Stalker was raised in Minneapolis by an aunt and would not learn about her father or meet him until she was well into her 40s, her son said.

She met the man she would eventually marry, Milton Munns, at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.

When her future husband served in the U.S. Navy during World War II, Munns finished her studies earned degrees in art and English.

After the war, the couple got married, moved to Milwaukee in 1954, and to Lannon a short while later.

In the early 1960s, Munns resumed teaching. Although she had only planned to work as a substitute teacher, she was offered a job teaching a classroom full of children who had been designated "discipline problems."

"She cried," Doc Munns said of his mother after she returned from her first day of work, frustrated and exhausted. "Those kids were in serious trouble."

But the experience would shape her philosophy on teaching. She once wrote an essay titled, "Let's Stop Rewarding Destructive Students and Concentrate on Teaching Them."

Munns later taught in the Hamilton School District in Sussex, where she developed a team-teaching method.

The method, her son said, involved getting teachers from various disciplines to collectively take students on an educational journey to various periods in human history, such as ancient Greece.

During the Civil Rights era in the mid- to late 1960s, Doc Munns said, his mother once walked into an activist black church in Milwaukee and asked how she could help.

The congregation told her to "go back" to the suburbs and educate people there about racial injustice. So she did just that, her son said, leading discussions on racial discrimination and intolerance at her church, which in turn created dissension and drove some members away, but also attracted new members.

"She was a tremendous difference-maker in people's lives," Doc Munns said.

Munns' activism continued into her 70s, when she and her husband joined the Peace Corps and were dispatched to Paraguay a few years after the 1989 overthrow of longtime dictator Alfredo Stroessner.

She helped revamp the educational system there, her son said, by teaching teachers creative writing and lessons in independent thought.

Dencie Munns' teachings had a "a hugely empowering effect," her son said.

Dencie Munns published a romance novel titled "Storms of Love."

Besides Doc Munns, Munns is survived by two other sons, Joe and Roger; four grandchildren; and one great-grandchild. Her husband died last year.

Services will be held at 1 p.m. Tuesday at St. Luke's Episcopal Church, 3200 S. Herman St., Milwaukee.

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Story Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Paraguay; Obituaries



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