LÉGARÉ, ANTOINE, teacher; b. 2 Oct. 1799 at Saint-Roch de Québec, son of Ignace Légaré, a tanner, and Marie Parant; d. 7 March 1873 at Saint-Roch de Québec.
After completing his senior class at the seminary of Quebec in 1820, Antoine Légaré took up a teaching career. He was the first layman, in Lower Canada, to devote himself to elementary teaching after having gone so far in his classical studies. At that period, a schoolteacher was regarded as an unfortunate person who had not succeeded in other professions, and who had turned towards teaching while waiting for better things. Even in the last years of Légaré’s career, a teacher who earned $300 a year was considered to be very well paid. In the same period a coachman drew an identical salary, but received his board and lodging in addition. In 1872, Légaré received a pension of $35.
For Légaré and those like him, teaching was therefore a veritable vocation: he devoted all his talent and his whole life to it. In 1822 he started the first elementary school in the parish of Saint-Roch de Québec, where he taught for 50 years. Meanwhile a few courageous inhabitants of Quebec had followed in this pioneer’s footsteps, and in 1845 they met, under Légaré’s presidency, to form a school-teachers’ association. Légaré was then chosen as vice-president of the first board of directors. Five years later the new society was incorporated under the name of the Association de la Bibliothèque des Instituteurs du district de Québec.
In 1846 Antoine Légaré had been appointed by the cabinet a member of the Catholic Board of Examiners of the district of Quebec City. This board preceded the founding of the normal schools, and its aim was to eliminate incompetent teachers. Légaré worked on it until 3 Jan. 1851.
Antoine Légaré’s confrères, who considered him their model and dean, on 12 June 1872 celebrated his fiftieth year as a teacher. On this occasion, they entertained him at a banquet and literary meeting among the population of Saint-Roch whom he had loved so well; he had taught 4,000 children there.
Less than a year later he died, a bachelor, at Saint-Roch de Québec, after an illness of some weeks which he bore with resignation.