Noel, Rene

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                                              RENE NOEL
                                         Influence Remembered 
                                           By Dave Butler
                             And gladly would he learn, and gladly teach

Which is the story of Rene Noel’s professional career. Gladly he taught, and most happily he learned. He was an auto-didact (self-taught) and life-long learner. The first sentence is a modernized English version of the line of Geoffrey Chaucer, who in his classic Canterbury Tales was writing about the most dedicated Oxford professor. But Claucer might well have been writing about Ren, who recently died in his early 60s.

Ren, as he was called by those close to him, was one of my dearest friends. I used to visit his house every couple of weeks for a couple cups of tea and some insightful conversation on the latest books we’ve read. Ren loved to read, he loved to talk about books and I loved to talk with him. And I loved him - he was a great friend, not only to me, but to many others. For over 30 years, he was the best teacher, high school English and history, teaching all levels – advanced, college prep, work-oriented.

At his wake, attended by thousands of people from all walks of life, one of his former students, a great lad but not what you might call a scholar, proudly showed his James M. Hill graduation ring to several people. He, a former student of mine too, said to some people, holding up his grad ring, “See this? – I would never have had it had it not been for Mr. Noel.”

Jim Doyle, principal at JMH and its predecessor, St. Thomas High and a long-time colleague of Ren’s, commented on his untimely demise, “Rene was very dedicated. One of our most admired teachers, not only by our students, but by our faculty. He was so positive, so enthusiastic, not to mention so very well read.”

John Lordon who was a teaching colleague of Ren’s before moving up the pedagogical ladder to a district supervisory position, was a teaching colleague of Ren’s for many years. Ren was a few years older than John and I, but he taught us a lot about teaching. John and I, both retired now, had, may I dare suggest, pretty good teaching careers, much of which was due to Rene.

Wally Jimmo and Tom Donovan, both of whom I spoke with-among many others-at Ren’s wake-will readily attest to the most positive influence Ren had on his colleagues and students. To get back to John Lordon’s comment, he said, “Rene was very serious in his study of history. He always took his students beyond the mere chronology and into what makes history so interesting – I mean the sociological aspect. “Rene, could,” Lordon said, “make history come alive. On a personal level,” Lordon added, “Rene was so personable – he had as great, sharp, quick wit and he was so likeable.”

Ren’s favourite play may have been Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, and his favourite lines, which he quoted often: He was a great man—We shall not look upon his like again.

Yes, we might say the same about Rene Noel.

Source: Miramichi Weekend – April 04, 1997

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