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Last week, Philadelphia lost one of its education luminaries. Gertrude “Trudy” Moskowitz, 93, a pioneering foreign language professor at Temple University, died Oct. 10 in her Bala Cynwyd home.
Moskowitz was a teacher of teachers. During her 35-year career, she helped introduce and further the idea that teaching should be participatory — that people learned best when they were invited to participate in conversation, instead of just sitting through lectures.
“Dr. Moskowitz shaped and mentored so many educators for our Philadelphia and suburban schools,” said Marco Zanoni, a current principal in the School District of Philadelphia who was Moskowitz’s student in the 1970s and ’80s.
“I think back to all of the typical graduate school lecture classes that so many of my colleagues endured. Instead, Prof. Moskowitz redefined the traditional and made every class personal, participatory and student centered,” Zanoni said.
An Temple alum who earned her masters and doctorate in Philadelphia alongside education stalwart Marciene Mattleman, Moskowitz became a sought-after author, and international speaker on foreign language education, humanistic teaching, and multicultural education. She published four books and 60 scholarly articles, and delivered more than 200 presentations in the US, Canada, Israel, Mexico, and Japan.
“Many people around the world are in your debt,” wrote colleague Peter Grudy, professor emeritus at Durham University, in a 2002 letter, reflecting on her book “Caring and Sharing in the Foreign Language Classroom.” “I’m sure the resource books for teachers that have transformed much language teaching are direct descendants of Caring and Sharing.”
In 1981, the Pennsylvania State Modern Language Association awarded Moskowitz the Educator of the Year Award.
“Dr. Moskowitz has been an inspiration to me in many ways, personally and professionally,” said Valerie Nelsen, another former student who now works in Philly schools herself. “She exemplified the most beautiful and important traits of humanity – a generous spirit, kindness, perseverance, dedication, open-mindedness, and an altruistic willingness to help others.”
The teaching filmstrip Moskowitz created — “Don’t Smile Till Christmas: A Story of Classroom Interaction” — promoted relationships and positive learning experiences decades before the teaching philosophy became mainstream.
“Mom was a woman ahead of her time,” said daughter Jan Zacharjasz. “She was a working mother when no one was a working mother, and she set an example of bringing kindness, positivity and dedication – along with late nights and a sweet tooth – to all she did.”
Born in Toledo, Ohio, to Russian immigrants, Moskowitz attended Ohio State University, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in 1949 and began her career as a teacher. She moved to Philadelphia to continue her career and begin her family. Fellow education icon Gloria Moskowitz was both her sister-in-law and dear friend.
In addition to her daughter Jan, she is survived by daughter Lynne Glasser, grandchildren David Glasser, Marla Hoggard, Mindy Zacharjasz, and Shelly Heller, and two great-grandchildren.
Contributions in her memory may be made to Beth Tikvah B’nai Jeshurun (1001 Paper Mill Rd., Erdenheim, Pa. 19038), Beth David Reform Congregation (1130 Vaughan Ln., Gladwyne, Pa. 19035), or Temple University — Office of Disability Resources and Service (215-204-1280).