Edna Downing, a Minneapolis English and Latin teacher, made an impact on the lives of students in Minnesota and across the United States.

She helped lead local and national education groups and wrote three books, including "How to Read and Use the Newspaper -- Units for English, grades 7-12."

Downing, 90, a retired Minneapolis' Sanford Junior High School teacher, died April 12 in New Hope.

She lived nearly all her life in the north Minneapolis home where she was born.

She accumulated a shelf full of awards, including the 2004 University of Minnesota Outstanding Achievement Award and an award for Excellence in Teaching from the Minnesota Education Association.

Downing hoped her students would be "successful and encouraged through my classes. That's the test -- it's not just subject matter, but it's people opening up and expanding their horizons through language and literature," she said in a 2004 article in the University of Minnesota's Link magazine.

Downing was a 1936 graduate of Minneapolis North High School. In 1941, she earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Minnesota's College of Education, and in 1953, a master's in education from St. Paul's Macalester College.

She first taught in Silver Lake, Minn., and later at North St. Paul High School.

From the 1940s to the 1970s, she taught English, speech and Latin at Sanford Middle School in Minneapolis.

A lifelong desire

She served a stint as a leader of all English teachers in the school district, said her lifelong friend, Florence Timmerman of Minneapolis, a retired Minneapolis English teacher.

"It was her desire to teach from childhood," said Timmerman. "It involved her entire being."

"She dearly loved teaching, and she really loved her students," said Timmerman.

But she was no pushover.

Harlan Cavert of Minneapolis took English and Latin at Maria Sanford.

"She was exacting, and had high expectations of her students," said Cavert. "She was very precise."

Cavert said Downing made learning fun, having Latin students translate English children's books and holding Latin gatherings, with attendees clad in togas.

"She was dedicated to her students," said Cavert.

Outside the classroom, Downing helped lead the National Council of Teachers of English. She was a former president of the Minnesota Council of Teachers of English and a leader in the Minnesota Education Association.

Best book by an educator

The University of Minnesota and Minneapolis Public Schools selected her to help upgrade English education as part of a nationwide program. She also worked with the U's College of Education seniors.

Her book on reading newspapers was selected as the best book written by an educator by the American Newspaper Foundation and educators.

She held workshops on the subject, and her work on newspapers is still in use.

Downing liked to have tea parties and show friends her back yard flower garden.

"It was lush and varied, inspired by English cottage gardens," said Cavert. "It was a showplace."

There are no immediate survivors. Services have been held.