Jeanie Davis Pullen of White Bear Lake Township, an educator who served many school districts in the northeastern Twin Cities area, led programs that gave high school students real-world experience, and elementary students fun-to-learn courses in summer.
Pullen, 66, who worked to spark children's interest in careers and fields of study, died of lung cancer Aug. 16 in Edina.
From the mid-1980s until 2006, as a staff member for Northeast Metropolitan Intermediate School District 916, she matched mentors with high school juniors and seniors who were seeking experience beyond the classroom.
District 916 is a consortium of school districts that provides programs such as Pullen's Mentor Connection.
She taught students how to operate in an adult workplace, said her supervisor, Gordon Williams of Little Falls, a retired manager of Northeast Metropolitan schools.
"She was a very skilled listener and interviewer, and she passed those skills along to her students," said Williams. "She was an exceptional teacher."
It could be challenging to find a mentor for a student with nontraditional dreams.
One wanted to be in the circus, another wanted to ride horses. She found a public relations person with a circus client for the one and a veterinary technician for the other.
Dr. Heidi Gunn of Little Falls wanted to be a doctor, and Pullen found a medical researcher for her as a mentor at Regions Hospital in St. Paul.
Gunn, who is Williams' daughter, said she learned skills that she has used since. Learning to interview people or how to conduct yourself with confidence in a meeting are "huge things to learn when you are 17 years old," said Gunn.
"She made us feel that we were very important," said Gunn.
For 20 summers until 2007, Pullen led the North Suburban Summer Academy for High Potential Students. In the three-week program, hundreds of children from the Twin Cities study and learn hands-on about different fields from many course offerings.
Some write plays, others study bugs and others immerse themselves in history-themed classes such as "Little House on the Prairie," where they would make bonnets, churn butter and learn pioneer history.
Pullen's daughter Lara, of Oak Park, Ill., said one key to her mother's success was that she drew skilled teachers to the program.
"She loved it," said her daughter. "She saw it as a place to nurture teachers, because they were a critical resource."
Pullen is the author of "Life Teachings: Raising a Child," a book about parenting.
In 1963, she graduated from Kentucky Wesleyan College in Owensboro. She taught briefly and raised her children.
She moved to the Twin Cities in 1975; in 1983, she earned a master's degree in education from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, focusing on education for the gifted.
In addition to Lara, she is survived by her husband of 45 years, Michael of White Bear Lake Township; her other daughter, Julie of Pacific Grove, Calif.; sisters Gayle Davis of Colorado Springs, Colo., and Nan Ternes of Henderson, Ky.; brother Gabriel Davis of Louisville, Ky.; and four grandchildren.
Services have been held.