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Gertrude ‘Trudy’ Moskowitz, trailblazing professor of foreign-language education at Temple University, dies at 93

“Dr. Moskowitz did everything with heart,” one of her former students wrote. “She touched the lives directly and indirectly of tens of thousands through her work as a teacher of teachers."

Dr. Moskowitz taught at Temple University for 35 years.
Dr. Moskowitz taught at Temple University for 35 years.Read moreTemple University

Gertrude “Trudy” Moskowitz, 93, of Bala Cynwyd, a pioneering professor of foreign-language education at Temple University, author, speaker, and mentor, died Sunday, Oct. 10, of dementia at home.

The daughter of Russian immigrants, Dr. Moskowitz spent much of her 35-year career at Temple helping other foreign-language teachers improve their classroom techniques and effectiveness. Using the Flanders System of Interaction Analysis and other progressive classroom learning practices, Dr. Moskowitz helped reshape traditional graduate school classes into personal, participatory, and student-centered exercises.

And she did it, former students said, with a unique blend of determination and compassion.

“Dr. Moskowitz did everything with heart,” one of her former students wrote in a tribute. “She touched the lives directly and indirectly of tens of thousands through her work as a teacher of teachers.”

Dr. Moskowitz published four books, including Caring and Sharing in the Foreign Language Classroom in 1978; wrote 60 academic papers; and spoke about teaching techniques more than 200 times in the United States, Canada, Israel, Mexico, and Japan.

She created a groundbreaking filmstrip called Don’t Smile Till Christmas: A Story of Classroom Interaction and was the 1981 Modern Language Association’s educator of the year for Pennsylvania.

“You, too, can learn to control your verbal interaction, and, as a result, improve the communication and the dynamics in your [foreign language] classes,” Dr. Moskowitz wrote in 1972 in the Foreign Language Beacon. “A truly exciting, practical, promising approach.”

A contemporary of fellow Philadelphia education pioneers Marciene Mattleman and Gloria Moskowitz, her sister-in-law, Dr. Moskowitz urged teachers to encourage students to find their own motivation and engagement in class, focus on both the intellectual and emotional aspects of learning, embrace self-evaluation, and interact with others from different cultural backgrounds.

“Mom was a woman ahead of her time,” said her daughter Jan Zacharjasz.

Born April 14, 1928, in Toledo, Ohio, to Ida and Hyman Rothenstein, Dr. Moskowitz earned a bachelor’s degree in education in just three years at Ohio State University. She met Merle Moskowitz in college, and they married in 1950. They moved to Philadelphia shortly thereafter and then to Bala Cynwyd, where they raised daughters Jan and Lynne. They later divorced.

A Spanish teacher at first, Dr. Moskowitz got her master’s degree, and doctorate, both in education, at Temple, and became one of the university’s first female tenured professors. She worked mostly nights since many of her students had day jobs as teachers. She developed and ran weekend workshops, and was revered for her 24-hour accessibility and personal attention.

“It was not just a job for her,” Zacharjasz said.

She took one of her struggling students into her home for a time, and walked another down the aisle at the woman’s wedding. “She set an example of bringing kindness, positivity, and dedication — along with late nights and a sweet tooth — to all she did,Zacharjasz said.

Balancing a busy nighttime schedule, and a driving commitment to her career and students, with family life, Dr. Moskowitz showed her daughters how to be confident, independent, and critical thinkers. “She was the busiest person I know,” said her daughter Lynne Glasser. “But she always made time for us.”

She invited her daughters to help on her many projects and talked often of how important it was to be open, nonjudgmental, and connected. “She saw people for who they were,” Glasser said.

Said a former student in a tribute, “She taught me so much, and will be forever in my heart.”

In addition to her daughters, Dr. Moskowitz is survived by four grandchildren, two great-grandchildren, and other relatives. Her former husband and infant twin brothers died earlier.

Services were Oct. 13.

Donations in her name may be made to Beth Tikvah B’nai Jeshurun, 1001 Paper Mill Rd, Erdenheim, Pa. 19038; Beth David Reform Congregation, 1130 Vaughan La., Gladwyne, Pa., 19035; and Temple University’s Office of Disability Resources and Service, Howard Gittis Student Center South, 4th Floor, Room 420, 1755 N. 13th St., Philadelphia, Pa. 19122.