Chalkboard Champion Eliza Mott: She founded a frontier school in her kitchen

6afce522c185bef1aa208a6dec7502e0One of the most celebrated pioneer teachers in Nevada history was Eliza Mott, a remarkable educator who is credited with founding the first school in Carson Valley, Nevada. In 1852, this enterprising pioneer wife and mother set up her school in her farmhouse kitchen. Her students sat on bare logs around a crude, wooden table. Armed with a couple of McGuffey Readers, a speller, and an arithmetic book, Eliza welcomed into her school boys and girls dressed in plaid shirts or gingham dresses and home-knit stockings. Some were barefoot and some were wearing rough shoes with hard leather soles. The students in Eliza’ s class ranged in age from five to eleven years in age. Some of the pupils were her own children, and some were her nieces and nephews. 

Eliza was born on January 13, 1829, in Toronto, Canada. Her family immigrated to Lee County, Iowa, in 1842, and it was there that the young Eliza developed her skills as a teacher. She excelled at academic subjects and vowed to make great strides in the field of education. At the age of 22, she met and fell in love with Israel Mott, and on April 10, 1850, the pair were married.

As soon as they were married, Israel and Eliza decided to go West . The fledgling pioneers set out in a Conestoga wagon pulled by two sturdy oxen. In early 1851 they landed in Salt Lake City, where they joined a Mormon wagon train and headed for California, one of a party of thirty families led by the famous frontiersman Kit Carson. When the caravan stopped to rest at Mormon Station in northern Nevada in July, 1851, Israel decided he liked the area so much he wanted to stay there. The couple homesteaded a 2,100-acre section of land along the Carson River route, and on this homestead Eliza established her school.

As more pioneer travelers established their farms in the area, the name of Mottsville was given to the settlement. It quickly became apparent that a school was needed. In addition to her teaching responsibilities, Eliza still had to run the farm. On an average day, the young pioneer woman would rise before dawn to care for her children, milk the cows, cook breakfast for her family and hired hands, prepare lunches for her students, and then complete her lesson plans. By fall, 1855, the Mottsville School had officially outgrown Eliza’s kitchen, and by the next year a schoolhouse was built in town. A schoolmaster was hired from the East, and Eliza resigned as the teacher to care for her family full-time.

This chalkboard champion will always be remembered fondly as the founder of the first school in Carson Valley, Nevada. 

Chalkboard Champion Fanny Barrier Williams: Teacher, Activist, Author, and Orator

12743675_10153478013117252_3150327098952225529_n[1]Throughout our country’s history, there have been many examples of talented and dedicated educators who have made a mark on society as a whole. On such example is Frances “Fanny” Barrier Williams, a 19th-century teacher and activist. 

Born on February 12, 1855, in Brockport, New York, to free parents, Fanny and her siblings attended the local public school. In 1870, Fanny became the first African American to graduate from the State Normal School in Brockport. When the Civil War was over, this energetic educator accepted a teaching position in the south to help educate newly freed slaves. 

In 1893, when she was 38 years old, Fanny moved north to the city of Chicago, a city which experienced a boom when it hosted the World’s Fair. When Fanny and other black women leaders protested their exclusion from the fair’s planning, this leading-edge teacher was appointed to gather exhibits for the women’s hall. She was also selected to give two speeches during the fair. In her speeches, Fanny argued to a predominantly white audience that African American women were eager and ready for education and to learn new skills. Fanny’s speeches were so well received that she soon became a popular author and orator.

Once the fair was over, Fanny helped form the National League of Colored Women in 1896. She also donated her energy to assist other African American women when they migrated to northern states.

Fannie Willimas dedicated her whole life to aiding and uplifting those in need, improving inter-racial relations, and working for justice for all. This remarkable chalkboard champion passed away of natural causes on March 4, 1944. She is buried at High Street Cemetery in Brockport, New York.

Roberta Flack: Public School Teacher and Grammy Award Winning Music icon

imagesMany people have heard of the Grammy Award-winning songwriter and singer Roberta Flack, whose best-known songs are “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” “Killing Me Softly With His Song,” and “Where Is the Love?” But did you know that this famous jazz, folk, and R&B icon was once a public school teacher?

Roberta Cleopatra Flack was born February 10, 1937, in Black Mountain, North Carolina, although she was raised in Arlington, Virginia. Her mother was a church organist, so Roberta grew up in a musical household. At the age of nine, Roberta began to study classical piano, and by the time she was fifteen, she had won a music scholarship to Howard University. She completed her undergraduate work and her student teaching as the first African American student teacher at an all-white school near Chevy Chase, Maryland. Then Roberta accepted a position teaching music and English in Farmville, North Carolina, a gig which paid her only $2,800 per year. She also taught junior high school in Washington, DC, and at the same time she took side jobs as a night club singer. It was there that she was discovered and signed to a contract for Atlanta Records. The rest, as they say, is music business history.

In recent years, Roberta’s contribution to education came when she founded an after-school music program entitled “The Roberta Flack School of Music” to provide free music education to underprivileged students in the Bronx, New York City. 

Roberta Flack: Truly a Chalkboard Champion.