SNAPSHOT: Paul Turner, Our Teacher

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Paul Turner, left, crossed paths with fellow Class of ’77 member Tim Reich of Ottawa during the Notre Dame 40th anniversary pilgrimage in October. (File photo/Joe Barkovich)

By Joe Barkovich, Scribbler-at-large

I thought about calling the principal, and a teacher or two, and speaking to a student or two for their thoughts about Paul Turner, the Notre Dame College School teacher who is ending his teaching career, retirement bound, after 32 years at the same school. But I decided against it, opting to leave this part of a retirement story to local media to pursue.

I think I know enough about Turner to craft a piece on my own.

I was in the school for a meeting a week or so ago when a support staffer with whom he was engaged in lighthearted conversation happened to say: “I don’t know what we’re going to do without you.”

It wasn’t a lighthearted comment on her part.

The tone of her voice gave that away.

Turner was a walking billboard for Notre Dame and the myriad activities that go on there. More than anyone else, I dare say, he wore themed sweaters or t-shirts for various activities in which he was involved one way or another: pilgrimage, Montreal Massacre awareness, hockey, poverty, fair trade, social climate, the list goes on, too many to remember, too many to mention. But he didn’t just wear them – Turner lived the causes and projects he espoused, he was always an integral part of them and they of him.

Turner was a religion teacher – no stress there, you may want to say. But think of the responsibility there is in being a religion teacher. There’s this old saying many of us are familiar with – keep the faith! That’s only half the story, probably the easy half. The old saying should really be – Don’t just keep the faith, share it! Turner was adept at that. He shared it by living it, practicing it, encouraging it, breathing it, not just inside the classroom or the chapel but outside it too.

He does it in his personal life. A man of many hats, my friend Turner is gifted with – or maybe it’s blessed with – ‘walking the talk’ in whatever he does. We’ve worked together on a few projects and causes over the past few years and he has never failed to amaze me with how he applies faith to what he is doing or involved in. It’s not something that stays in the classroom after the bell rings. It’s portable, and Turner is sure to bring it with him wherever he goes.

I like to think that through our association, I became one of his students, too, because there was always something to be learned. And that’s why I can say without reservation: Thanks Paul, you taught us well.

(Snapshot is a recurring feature on the blog.)

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