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Margaret Virum, an award-winning Minneapolis schools teacher, inspired her students to expand their horizons and use their imaginations.

Virum, who taught primarily first- and second-graders for nearly 50 years in the Minneapolis School District, died on May 14 at her Minneapolis home.

She was 82.

When the University of Minnesota College of Education and Human Development celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2005, she was named one of its 100 Distinguished Alumni.

She may have been the longest-serving Minneapolis teacher, her family said.

"She was very wise in the way she talked about children, and discipline, and in discussing the way children should be taught," said her colleague and friend, Eunice Lindberg Milbrath of Minneapolis.

She even relished having combined-grade classrooms, which she said challenged the younger pupils.

"She believed in children learning from each other," said Lindberg Milbrath.

And she was an innovator, whose teaching methods have become part of modern practice.

Her students followed the seasons of the year, checking on the changes in a tree in the school yard.

And she once brought a wooden cane to class, carved by her father. It was a fallen apple tree branch, headed for the trash, but he had turned it into a useful item, and she turned it into a lesson about wastefulness.

And she "wove poetry into her lessons," said Lindberg Milbrath.

Virum graduated from Minneapolis' South High School in 1943, entering the University of Minnesota that year.

As a freshman, she contracted tuberculosis, and spent a year at the old Glen Lake Tuberculosis Sanitarium, before recovering and returning to the university.

In 1949, she began her career in Minneapolis. After a few years, she headed to New York's Columbia University, earning a master's degree in education.

Upon her return, she taught at the old Minnehaha Elementary School, moving to Keewaydin Elementary, where she taught for 20 years.

"She wanted to spur our imaginations, to get outside the box and do anything you wanted to, read anything, and stretch your imagination," said her former student, Peggy Larson of Minneapolis.

"She was very composed, and calm," said Larson. "You weren't afraid of her, but she always had good control of things."

Virum was active in the Association for Childhood Education International.

In the last years of her career at Keewaydin, she served as the language arts instructor.

When she retired in 1998, it wasn't easy to leave, so she didn't.

She continued as a volunteer at the school for nine more years. On her book cart, traveling from classroom to classroom, she always had one of her favorites, from the popular Clifford series of children's books.

"She loved reading and she loved kids," said her brother, John Virum of St. Louis Park.

In addition to her brother, she is survived by a niece and a nephew.

Services were held at her lifelong church, Minneapolis' Christ Church Lutheran.