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Memories from a country school teacher
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Sheri Holmes

Mr. Joel Kahnt, Ellinwood Grade School Principal, shared this article, written by his mother, with our staff. I felt it was worth sharing again, and they gave me permission to do so. 

From the 

Editor’s Desk

by Joann Kahnt

“Teaching is a Gift ... my Mom and now my boys and daughter-in-law carry on that gift.”

A couple of weeks ago, our Looking Back page had the list of the Morris County rural grade school teachers and their monthly salaries. Mom’s salary was $70 per month. I’m not sure where mom was teaching at the time but it would have been her seventh year of teaching. She taught at Blue, Gilbert, Burton and Grandview in her nine years of teaching. She began teaching straight out of high school after taking “Normal Training” in high school. Taking that training allowed teachers to go right into teaching in country schools only. She taught from 1926 to 1935.

She often told about some of her 8th grade boys being taller than her and sometimes almost her age due to some of them having to miss school to help on the farm so having to take classes over.

Her largest group of students was 28 with students in all eight grades.

She felt like kids who went to one room country schools had a few advantages such as first graders listening to seven other classes, older students learning to help the younger ones, kids learning to play together regardless of their ages and learning responsibilities in helping with chores around the school.

Mom told me many stories about teachers in the rural schools arriving at the school in the early morning in plenty of time to get the fire going to warm up the building and hauling drinking water for the day.

I remember her telling about teaching at Blue where they had a wonderful separate library room ... but there wasn’t a book in it!

I’m sure most of you know the story about mom having to get permission from her school board to get married a few months before school was out due to her not having a car to get to school. Dad lived in Delavan close to where the school was and they were planning on getting married that summer anyway. But, if they got married in February, she would have a way to get to the school using dad’s car. Well, two of the three board members were fine with her getting married but they had to convince the third one.

Mom loved teaching but she didn’t have the money to go to college so she could teach in the “city schools.” And, of course, once she got married she could no longer teach in the country schools. Mom always said that was why there were so many secret marriages in her day so the wife could go on teaching. But, mom needed to live with dad and that was certainly forbidden so they got married, she finished out the school year and then she helped dad in the grocery store/restaurant he owned in Delavan. Unfortunately, they had to give it up as it wasn’t making enough money for them to live on and even more unfortunate, they sold it before the air base was constructed or they would have had a gold mine..... but when they sold the building (the businesses ceased to exist after that), it was in the midst of the depression in the mid to later 30’s and they didn’t have a crystal ball into the future.

Anyway, mom was thrilled when Joel got his teaching degree and she would be even happier to see both of her grandsons and granddaughter-in-law in the teaching profession as she always felt, teaching was a gift and I truly believe it is!!!

Sheri Holmes is the director of library and media services for the Ellinwood School and Community Libraries. She can be reached by email at