A Short Tribute to Norma Thiele (1930-2023), My High School Journalism Teacher — And Her Special Retirement Issue of “The Northerner”

Norma Thiele, my journalism teacher at North Side High School in Fort Wayne, Indiana, died on Monday at age 92. For more than four decades, “Miss Thiele” was a great writing teacher and adviser to the then-weekly student newspaper, The Northerner. After each issue of the paper, she would mark up everything that was wrong with it in red pen and staple it to the bulletin board; there was always a lot of red pen. She was also someone whom the teenaged version of me butted heads with a lot: she took no guff, but also had a big laugh. It was such a big and complicated influence that I wrote about our relationship as one of my college application essays. She retired at the end of my senior year in 1994. In honor of that, the editors of The Northerner – Josh Kline, Adam Loeffler and I – wrote to the former editors in chief going back two generations to solicit essays and memories about her. The principal, Dr. Richard Gardner, gave us some funds and we published all the essays in a special commemorative issue that surprised her when it showed up. On several occasions in the years since some of us newspaper vets met up with her for coffee or lunch to see how things were going. She never married and lived much of her life on a farm outside of Fort Wayne. But Miss Thiele took on a second career of sorts after retiring by becoming a mentor to the large Burmese refugee community in Fort Wayne — helping them adjust and navigate life, and often serving as an honored grandparent stand-in for people separated from their extended families. Her funeral service is tomorrow. https://www.midwestfuneralhome.com/obituary/Norma-Thiele

Updated 2/20/2023: Big thanks to Adam Loeffler, who found and scanned the tribute issue from her retirement, with remembrances from former editors-in-chief of The Northerner.