Thursday, January 29, 2015

"Are You A Teacher?"

I was asked this question so many times in my life and it wasn't just during the years I was married to a teacher, though it probably happened more often then. Other than 'playing school', the closest I came to being a teacher was the summers I was fifteen and then sixteen and helped teach Vacation Bible School at our country church, Fairview.

Of course my Mother was my first teacher, just as all parents are. She helped ready me for my first day of 'real' school which was Jasper Center located a mile north of where we lived. (We called it Jasper #2. It was also known as the Humbert School.)

I think this photo is of the last day of school the spring before I began school in the fall. That's the old school house behind us. Mom has her arm around me while holding my little sister's hand. Before photo bombing was ever even dreamed of, our neighbor boy, Normie, did just that.

I remember some things about my first grade teacher, Miss Ternahan, and my second grade teacher, Miss Flowers, but the teacher I remember most was the one I had third through eighth grades, Mrs. Kimball. And I don't think that is just because I had her as a teacher for so many years.

1954-55 School Year. Me on the right in the back row next to Mrs. Kimball.

I believe it had more to do with her as a person and a teacher. She was a good teacher, seeing to it that we actually learned something. When you think about the role a one-room country school teacher plays, you realize how much more she has to be than the teacher. She is also the school nurse, janitor, psychologist, disciplinarian, arbitrator, physical education instructor, guidance counselor, sometime school bus driver - though it wasn't a bus, but her personal car she used to convey us to reading and spelling contests as well as sports days with other country schools in the township. She could be understanding and sympathetic if things were going wrong, but she could also tell you to quit feeling sorry for yourself if the occasion warranted it.
Naturally there were times when I was less than enchanted with her, but then my friends and I would discuss which of the other teachers we knew we'd rather have, and we always decided none of them.

L-to-R, Me, Mrs. Kimball, son, Preston and daughter, Kari.

I liked and admired her as a teacher and later as a friend. I was glad when two of my children also had her as a teacher many years later. Vera, as I learned to address her once I was an 'adult', was also directly responsible for me obtaining my first office job. I will be forever grateful to this woman, the teacher of my formative years in that most educational one-room schoolhouse.

Maxine and me at her 96th birthday party last year.

Over the past year I've been very fortunate to meet and then become a friend of another special woman who began her life-long profession as a one-room country school teacher. From the stories she has shared of her teaching years, I have come to appreciate Maxine as a very wise, gifted purveyor of learning and motivator in the seeking of knowledge. As an example: She told me of an elementary student she had - a boy so intelligent it was hard to keep him from being bored with the normal curriculum - so she set him to learning the German language.
Maxine not only encouraged her students in the obtaining of an education, she practiced what she preached, spending nights, weekends and summers obtaining her own higher degrees while continuing to teach in the classroom during the school year.

This photo is of Maxine and her students at Grant Center in Ringgold County during the 1956-57 school year. That was the same school year I completed eighth grade at Jasper #2 in Adams County. Sometimes after I've spent an afternoon with Maxine, conversing along our usual widespread topics, I find myself wondering what it would have been like to have had her as my teacher. With her emphasis on the importance of education, would I have been more likely to go to college? And then what would my life have been like? I might have even been answering that question, "Are you a teacher?", with a "Why yes, yes I am."

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