Dr. Ruth Wajrnyb (1948-2012), Anaheim University Graduate School of Education TESOL Professor Emeritus, passed away on June 30, 2012. A distinguished linguist, who was known for her theory on Dictogloss, was one of the founding professors of the Anaheim University online MA in TESOL degree program. In addition to being a teacher trainer and linguistics expert, Dr. Wajrnyb was known as the "Words Woman" in her weekly column in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Tribute Messages

It is with great sadness that I write to tell you that Ruth Wajnryb, Anaheim University (TESOL Professor 1998 - 2010) and Professor Emeritus (2010 - 2012), died in Sydney on Saturday, June 30, 2012 from metastatic melanoma. She is survived by her son Sasha, and daughter Laura.

Along with Rod Ellis and myself, Ruth was one of the founding professors of the M.A. in TESOL. She was utterly devoted to her students, and would go to great length to help those struggling with the challenges of online learning to succeed. Although she had a heart of gold, she also had a will of steel, and expected the best from her students. Those who she felt were not working to the best of their ability were always held to account.

On many evenings during residential sessions, she would hold court, sitting on the floor of a hotel corridor surrounded by students, giving impromptu tutorials and advice. All those who were touched by her adored her. As a former AU student once said to me, “I never really knew what it meant to be a teacher until I was taught by Dr. Wajnryb.”

In addition to her work with Anaheim, Dr. Wajnryb was a distinguished teacher-trainer in Australia, a well-known author of books on language, a novelist and author of other creative works. The daughter of Polish immigrants to Australia who had survived the holocaust, Dr. Wajnryb had a special interest in the narratives of holocaust survivors, and documented the way that they used language to capture their experiences. She is well-known among the general public in her native Australia for a weekly column on words that she wrote for the Sydney Morning Herald. In a piece published about her in today’s Herald she was described as “… the ‘words woman’ for the Herald, an academic and teacher who loved nothing more than sharing her passion for the English language with the rest of the world.”

On my last few visits to Sydney, Ruth was too unwell to receive a personal visit. However, she was always happy to chat on the phone, and maintained a lively interest in Anaheim until the very end. In addition to being a scholar, she was a great mentor of younger teachers, teacher educators and academics. I will miss her dearly, as will all the Anaheim teachers, students and administrators who knew her.

David Nunan, Ph.D.
Dean, Graduate School of Education
Vice-President for Academic Affairs
Anaheim University



I worked with Ruth on several residentials. I had enormous respect for her as a teacher educator and even more for her as a person. She was fun to spend time with and I miss the idea she is no longer with us.

Rod Ellis, Ph.D.
TESOL Chair, Graduate School of Education
Anaheim University



Professor Ruth Wajnryb added a unique and interesting dynamic to the experience I had during my Master’s. Although there were many things I learned from Professor Nunan and Professor Ellis (who are great in their own ways), it was Professor Wajnryb who made me think a lot about the balance between discipline, care and ethics as a teacher. She had this way of being strict but nurturing and caring all in the name of fairness and equality. I felt as though she had the power to see through all the silliness and excuses that students could possibly come up with and she had zero tolerance for people who didn’t do their share of the work. And yet, when there were personal disasters, she was warm and embracing.

I will never forget the time in class when she started talking about Vygotsky and when we all became silent hiding behind our screens hoping she wouldn’t call on us, she said, “does everyone know who Vygotsky is?” We all responded shyly saying “no” to which she replied, “well why didn't anyone say so? If you don't know something, ask. If you have knowledge, there’s nothing to fear”. It didn't hit me at the time but over the course of my PhD I came to understand just how powerful her words were. I think she was telling us, “don’t respond so easily. Gather as much information as you can by asking and searching. Don’t stop until you can explain it confidently and clearly to others. There may be other material things that the world can take away from you but knowledge is not one of them”. She nurtured that sense of the importance of books, reading and creating your own voice through writing.

Before her death, I had the unique opportunity of telling her how she enriched my life by teaching me these important lessons. She replied, “I was just doing my job but I’m happy I could make a difference in your life.” She did not make “a” difference, she made thedifference, I am sure, in so many lives. I hope I can keep her thoughts alive in my own teaching, nurturing students but holding my ground in ways that I hope are fair for everyone involved. I think that’s what she would’ve liked.

Julie Choi
Anaheim University MA TESOL Graduate



I am deeply saddened by Dr. Wajnryb's passing. I still remember her talking delightfully in our virtual classroom about her trip she was planning with her daughter. Dr. Wajnryb will be missed!

Elke Damesyn
MA TESOL student of Dr. Wajnryb in 2009



Dear Professor,

A final thank you for making discourse analysis fun and interesting.

A final thank you for believing in the power of TEACHING.

A final thank you for having an oppotrunity to learn from you.

Elizabeth Haga
Anaheim University MA TESOL Graduate



Rest in peace my dearest professor Dr. Ruth Wajnryb

Ampaphan Waters
Anaheim University MA TESOL Graduate


Dear Professor Dr. Ruth Wajnryb,

There was a teacher, there was a teacher, When I was young and learn And every day when the school bell rings Brought sweet teacher to me,

The memory of some rotten board, Some scene or boys or girls, Still brings to mind the happy child, That was there with me, Still brings to mind the happy child, That was there with me.

There was a teacher, there was a teacher, Who taught us we must listen And then the one lovely love lady, Brought happiness on my heart,

I pray farewell to the old bell tower, And on the green rotten room, No more at morning’s joyful hours, My teacher was seen No more at morning’s joyful hours, My teacher was seen.

But once again, oh! Once again, Those joyous days appear, Again the bells ring o’er the room, And good soul her is here.

Rest in peace my dearest professor Dr. Ruth Wajnryb

Ampaphan Waters
July 4, 2012

Melissa Tan,
MA in TESOL student at Anaheim University



Classes with Dr. Wajnryb were never simply exercises to get a good grade. She believed in the power of discovery and encouraged us to go beyond our comfort zones and "thrash" with new ideas. She was constantly working to make new concepts clearer to her students, help us discover ideas for ourselves, and make the content come alive. She kept a sense of humor and made me laugh more times than should have been possible in an online class. Outside of class, she was generous with her time and knowledge, and was quick to assist when we needed

To say we lost a great linguist is true but doesn't seem to get to the heart of the matter. We lost a great friend, mentor, and person. She helped to shape us, and now the world isn't quite right without her. Thank you, Dr. Ruth, for changing our lives. We miss you.

Erika Kono,
MA in TESOL student, Anaheim University



Dear Professor Wajnryb,

You are the reason why I stayed with the course of my studies at Anaheim University and you live on in my heart and knowledge you given to me forever.

I remember when I started my very first course and you were my professor on the course. I had no idea about linguistics or as a matter of fact what APA style is. You soon noticed it. You would have the right to fail me after my very first paper I wrote, but instead to my surprise you took your time explaining to me that I must learn how to write an academic paper even though English is my second language and that I can do this.

I have to admit I was struggling. I started AU because I wanted to become a better teacher in the classroom as an English teacher. You felt the difficulties and struggles I am going through. You did not say it will be easy, but you always told me that I could do this.

You asked me to write a weekly report that now went down in history Professor Wajnryb’s weekly report. It was an extra curricular activity for me and at first I did not understand why you were asking me this…after a while I of course I started to understand. You asked me to write down four things each week: (1) How I felt about the course that week (2) What kind of difficulties did I encountered (3) What kind of positive things did I experience during the week of study and (4) What could I accomplish.

Now, I have finished all ten of my courses and started working in my thesis. I know you are proud of me.

You knew exactly what you were doing to help me. You did not tell me it will be easy, but you told me you would assist me to make it. That is exactly what you did. You made me write and self-reflect. I could write and at the same time by writing I could analyze what worked for me to succeed during the course. I started my MA after over ten years of being in school, so my writing skills became rusty and my main focus in Japan was teaching oral communication. I was thinking at the time that writing is not that important to me, but you helped me to discover that writing is as much as important as any other skills.

You were a genius, a caring genius. You cared about not only the NS of English, but you had a special place for us in your heart NNS of English. I remember on our discussion forum you always encouraged us when we discovered different aspects of our culture while learning languages. You valued culture and differences, you wanted us to know where we came from and use it to our advantage while deepening our studies.

After finishing your course my only wish was that I could meet you one-day in person, of course with your passing it is not possible here, but I am hoping we will meet at another place. Until then, you will live on in your books for me, in the knowledge you given to me and most importantly in my heart forever.

Erika Kerekes (Kono)



Dr. Ruth Wajnryb's profile, message and published works

Photo gallery tribute to Dr. Ruth Wajnryb

Books by Dr. Ruth Wajnryb

Sydney Morning Herald article about Dr. Ruth Wajrnyb