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Appreciation for a Teacher

Teacher appreciation is still a couple of months away in May but it’s never too early to recognize one of our own.
I spent some time with Dorothy Robinson, a resident since August 2022, as she remembered her time in her one-room schoolhouse.
“I taught in a country school, all grades. 1st until 8th but we combined 4th and 5th grades and 7th and 8th grades,” she says. “I had four little first graders my first year, twenty-seven students in all. It was a different atmosphere from the parents to the children. Whatever I said, that was it! There was no arguing; I never had to spank anyone! I was the only teacher.”
I asked her why she had wanted to be a teacher and she talked about her students. “I received a thank you letter from one of my first-grade students from the first year I taught there,” she remembers. “He sent me a Christmas card and he wrote thank you for being my teacher. He has been successful. That will be enough for me, that my students are successful.”
One of the possibly unintentional benefits of a one room schoolhouse that my own father has talked about was that if you missed a week for any reason, sickness or needing to help with the farm, it didn’t hurt your education. You made it up the next year. Because all the grades were in the same room together, all the knowledge was reinforced, and you heard it more than once.
Dorothy also talked about some of the duties outside of teaching that were required.
“I taught in Sprague Schoolhouse, just west of Rich Hill, MO,” she recalls. “I had to start the fire to heat the room in the winter mornings. The third year I taught there an 8th grade boy was paid to help with the ashes in the stove. I got there early, absolutely. I had to be able to manage things, but the parents were always helpful. All I had to do was tell them I needed something.”
Although schools look very different now, historian Michael Day says one-room schoolhouses are a huge part of American history. “For most of our nation’s history, most people in the United States got their education in a one-room schoolhouse. The last one closed in 1967,” he said.
Dorothy said she couldn’t compare the two since she hasn’t had anyone in school for a while. She mentioned that up until the last three years she had still been substitute teaching and still enjoyed it.
Dorothy also reminisced some of the fun events outside of lessons. “We had a pie supper. I was dating the man I married, my Bruce, and he knew which basket was mine,” she says. “I didn’t have a car when I first started teaching but it wasn’t too long before I got a little Model A Coupe. It had a carriage in the back and kids loved climbing into it for a ride. We lived in a different time, it was wonderful.”
I asked her if she had any advice for teachers today and she thought about it for a moment. “I don’t know what advice I would give. Everyone was helpful, I never had to ask for anything that I needed or wanted. It was a great environment to teach school in.”
Teacher Appreciation Week is May 6 – 10. Eleanor Roosevelt started the celebration in 1953, originally observed in March.
During this year’s appreciation week, take a moment to thank a teacher in your life like Dorothy. Something as simple as a card or a message can let them know that all they do to help lift future generations is appreciated.

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