Baltimore’s Chalkboard Champion Wyatt Oroke

Any teacher who needs a reminder about why we do the work we do can take a look at this video of middle school teacher Wyatt Oroke from Baltimore, Maryland. This chalkboard champion teaches humanities to eighth graders at City Springs Middle School. Wyatt attended a taping of the Ellen Degeneres show last October, where he was surprised to find himself seated in the interview chair. He shared his passion for teaching, expressed his love for his students, and described his goals for their success. “What happens in classrooms today impacts what happens in the world tomorrow,” says Wyatt. “If you fill your classroom with love today, you’re going to fill the world with love tomorrow.” Take a look:

To read more about this amazing educator and his students, click on this article published in Education PostWyatt Oroke 1, or this one in the Baltimore SunWyatt Oroke 2.

Nebraska’s Lucy Gamble, the first African American teacher in Omaha

Many talented schoolteachers can also be applauded for their historic firsts. One such teacher is Lucinda (Lucy) Gamble, an elementary school teacher who was the first African American to be hired to work in Omaha public schools.

Lucy was born Lucinda Anneford Gamble on September 9, 1875, in Lincoln, Nebraska, the oldest of eight children of her parents, William and Evaline Gamble. The family moved to Omaha when she was five years old. As an elementary student, Lucy was first enrolled in the Old Dodge School, but later transferred to Pacific School. She graduated from Omaha Central High School in 1893.

Following her graduation from high school, Lucy enrolled in Omaha Normal School, a college which trained future teachers. She completed her two-year course of study there in 1895. “My teacher in the Normal school tried very hard to discourage me from going to the school as she said that I never would secure employment in the school system,” Lucy once recalled. But she must have been a very impressive candidate, because within three months of her graduation, Lucy was offered a position at her former elementary school, the Old Dodge School. With this appointment, Lucy became Omaha’s first African American school teacher. Later Lucy transferred to Cass School.

After six years of teaching, according to the custom of the day, Lucy resigned when she married the Reverend John Albert Williams, the son of a former slave who had escaped to Canada through the Underground Railroad. After the Civil War was won, John immigrated to the United States, landed in Nebraska, and became an activist for the African American community. The couple had one son they named Worthington, and two daughters, Catherine and Dorothy.

Even though she was no longer teaching, Lucy continued to serve her community. For ten years, she was the chairperson of the the board of the Omaha’s Negro Old People’s Home, and she was a prominent member of the Omaha Colored Women’s Club. In addition, she also served on the board of the Omaha chapter of the NAACP.

Read a transcript of Lucy Gamble’s personal history on file at the Library of Congress at this link: Lucy Gamble.

Teacher and Chronicler of the Dust Bowl Caroline Henderson

I love to share intriguing stories of dedicated educators who exhibit talents in arenas outside of the classroom. This one is about Caroline Boa Henderson, a high school English and Latin teacher who is also celebrated as an author of her personal Dust Bowl survival story.

Caroline Boa was born on April 7, 1877, in Wisconsin, the eldest daughter of affluent farmers. Even as a young girl, Caroline dreamed of someday owning a piece of land she could call her own.

After her high school graduation, Caroline attended Mt. Holyoke College, where she earned her degree in languages and literature in 1901. The new graduate accepted her first teaching position in Red Oak, Iowa, where she taught high school English and Latin from 1901 to 1903. She then taught in Des Moines, Iowa, until 1907. Then, in pursuit of her childhood dream, Caroline relocated to Texas County, Oklahoma, where she staked out a homestead claim on a quarter section of land and moved into a one-room shack which she christened her castle. There she accepted a teaching position in the local school.

In 1908, Caroline married named Bill Henderson, a Texas County farmer. The couple established a farm in nearby Eva, Oklahoma. The following year, Caroline gave birth to a daughter they named Eleanor. When Eleanor came of age, the youngster enrolled at the University of Kansas, where she eventually completed her bachelor’s degree. In order to help pay for Eleanor’s education, Caroline relocated to Lawrence, Kansas, where the two women shared an apartment while Caroline taught school part-time. During this period, Caroline also enrolled in graduate courses in English at the University of Kansas. In 1935, she completed the requirements for her master’s degree.

During the years from 1931-1937, at the height of the Dust Bowl, Caroline published a series of letters and articles in the prestigious magazine Atlantic Monthly. These letters and articles chronicled the grueling conditions faced by farmers who elected to remain on their farms during the severe conditions presented by the Dust Bowl drought, as harsh a natural disaster as any our nation has seen, even in recent years. She also included descriptions of daily life on her own farm, including her experiences with housekeeping, canning, cooking, tending her vegetable and flower gardens, ironing, and caring for her chickens. Her letters and articles earned her a national following, and were included in a PBS special on the Dust Bowl created by Ken Burns in 2012. To read some excerpts from these published pieces, click on the link Letters from the Dust Bowl.

This very amazing teacher and talented author passed away on August 4, 1966, in Phoenix, Arizona.

The Life Lesson Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Teaches Us All

Today’s national celebration of the birthday of civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., offers teachers an excellent opportunity to share the story of this prominent figure in America’s history, and to guide young people in their reflection on what lessons about life this great leader’s life can offer us.

As a young child myself in the 1960’s, I can remember vividly watching the “I Have a Dream” speech on television that hot August night in 1963. I was eight years old then, and impressionable. I’m all grown up now, but throughout the five and a half decades since that historic March on Washington, whenever I watch video of that historic speech, I am impressed all over again with the possibility that the world we share could, and should, be a better place, and that no matter how young—or old—I am, I can take action, even if it’s small, that would make such improvement come about. This is one of the most important lessons MLK has taught us all, not only then, but most especially now.

The video of King’s historic speech is below. To learn more about this amazing man, click on MLK Biography. To examine the website of the MLK Center for Nonviolent Change, click on King Center.

Physical Education Teacher and Olympic Athlete Dick Ault

There are many examples of fine educators who have distinguished themselves in the world of sports. Such is the case with Dick Ault, a high school physical education teacher who competed in the 1948 Olympics.

Richard “Dick” Francis Ault was born on December 10, 1925, in the city of St. Louis, Missouri, the son of the Herbert and Madeline (Dowling) Ault. After his graduation from Roosevelt High School in his home town, Dick attended the University of Missouri from 1946 to 1949. While there, he won the Big 6 title in the 220-yard low hurdles in both 1946 and 1947. In the seasons that followed, he garnered the Big 7 title in the same event in 1948 and 1949. He was also named the conference champion in the 440-yard dash in 1947 and 1949. In 1948, Dick competed in the London Olympic Games, finishing 4th in the 400-meter dash. In 1949, the former Olympic athlete competed in Oslo, Norway, where tied the world record in the 440-yard dash.

In 1950, Dick accepted a position as a teacher and coach at Highland Park High School in Highland Park, Illinois. While there, he led his cross country students to the state championship. In 1967, Dick was hired to be a physical education professor at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri. There he coached several sports, including cross country, track, swimming, and golf. After a career spanning 29 years, he retired in 1996.

This chalkboard champion passed away from complications from diabetes at the age of 81 on July 16, 2007, in Jefferson City, Cole County, Missouri. For his outstanding achievements, Dick has earned many honors. He was inducted into the Missouri Track and Cross Country Coaches Hall of Fame (1976), the University of Missouri Hall of Fame (1991), the Missouri State Sports Hall of Fame (1993), and the National Sports Hall Of Fame in Washington, DC (1999).

To read more about this amazing educator and athlete, click on this link: Dick Ault Obituary.