Dustin’s seventh-grade French teacher, Mrs. Bensley, passed away unexpectedly on Tuesday, 14 March 1995. The Charlotte Observer ran this tribute to her the following Thursday.
By Gerry Hostetler
They say she loved teaching so much that she danced down the halls of Carmel Middle School, where she taught French and journalism for three years.
And if her students couldn’t picture a dog’s puzzlement as Mount Vesuvius erupted in ancient Italy, she would climb on top of her desk and illustrate the “Uh-oh, I’m in trouble now” look.
Ellen Trice Bensley was stricken from coronary atherosclerosis at school Tuesday and died at Carolinas Medical Center. Mrs. Bensley, of Morning Dale Road in Matthews, was 49.
“She was a master teacher,” said Ron Thompson, Carmel’s principal. “Once an evaluator observed her French class and said, ‘This is the best foreign language lesson I have ever observed.’ She was energetic and made learning French a lot of fun for her students.”
Students said she really believed in putting herself into each lesson, and that extended beyond the classroom, Thompson said. She was an adviser to the International Club and Monday had taken them to the Great Wall of China restaurant to experience a different cuisine, he said.
“Kids came to talk about how she would always want them to be first in everything, to be involved, to really be excited about learning. A student in her first-period class said, ‘Mr. Thompson, we never had a bad day because she was so happy. She tranferred energy and positive feelings to us, and we were able to carry it all day long.’”
Courtney Turner, 13, a French and journalism student, said Mrs. Bensley would tell about her trips to France. “She made us feel like we’d been there. She made her class something to look forward to.” Courntey is a writer for “Paw Print” the school newspaper. “She always had ideas to make our stories better.”
She said that the paper plans to dedicate the next issue to her, and that the school yearbook plans to do the same.
Mrs. Bensey was a 1964 Myers Park graduate and graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 1968 with a bachelor’s degree in French. She studied at University of Lyon in France for a year, and returned to France as often as possible. She believed that one learned a language best from those who spoke it.
She was a member and Sunday school teacher at Myers Park United Methodist Church and a Friendship Trays volunteer. She enjoyed bridge, art and travel and had planned to leave Friday for Chicago with a group of friends. She looked forward to seeing the painting “Afternoon on La Grande Jatte” by Seurat, her favorite French painter.
Memorial service is 2:30 p.m. today at Myers Park United Methodist Church. Visitation is 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. today at the church. Williams-Dearborn of Matthews is in charge.
Survivors are her daughter, Miss Brandon Bensley of Chapel Hill; parents, Charles and Julia Trice; sister, Mrs. Ann Faircloth of Tega Cay, S.C., Ms. Susan Donaldson of Washington, Mrs. Jean Deason of Atlanta; nephews and nieces.
Memorials may be made to Myers Park United Methodist Church, Peter and Ellen Trice Bensley memorial fund, P.O. Box 6161, Charlotte, NC 28207.
The Charlotte Observer, Thursday, 16 March 1995, page 2C