Chalkboard Champion Ruth Clausen was also an honored conservationist

There are many examples of fine educators who have made significant achievements in the political realm. One such educator was Ruth Chickering Clausen, an English teacher from Wisconsin who was appointed by President Jimmy Carter to serve in the US Department of Energy. Ruth was born in 1922 in Bruce, Rusk County, Wisconsin. After her 1938 graduation from high school in Eau Clair at the age of 15, Ruth enrolled at the University of Wisconsin in Eau Claire. She graduated in 1945 with a degree in secondary education. At about that time, Ruth married her husband, Donald Clusen, a teacher at the state reformatory. The couple settled in Green Bay, and Ruth accepted a teaching position as an instructor of English and speech. In Green Bay, Ruth joined the League of Women Voters, serving as their environmental chairperson for eight years. She served as the League’s national president from 1974-1978. During this time, Ruth organized the first voter-sponsored presidential debates between candidates Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford, the first nationally televised presidential debates since 1960. Her performance during these debates made Ruth so recognizable that she was once spoofed by Lily Tomlin in an episode of Saturday Night Live. Following the election, President Carter appointed Ruth the Assistant Secretary of Energy for the Environment in the US Department of Energy. During this time, she ensured the passage of the 1974 Safe Drinking Water Act. From 1978-1981, Ruth was selected to be a member of the US delegation to the first United Nations Conference on Women in Mexico City. After leaving government service, Ruth returned to the field of education, serving on the Board of Regents for the University of Wisconsin from 1983-1992. For her impressive achievements, Ruth was named Woman of the Year by the Ladies Home Journal in 1977. In 1978, she was honored as the International Conservationist of the Year by the National Wildlife Federation. She has also been inducted into the Wisconsin Conservation Hall of Fame in 2001. This chalkboard champion passed away on March 14, 2005, in Bellevue, Wisconsin, from complications from Alzheimer’s. She was 82 years old. She is interred in Manitowoc, Wisconsin.

Chalkboard Champion Denis Driscoll also served in Congress

There are many instances of talented educators who have also served in political positions. Teacher Denis Joseph Driscoll, a Congressman from New York, is a fine example.

Denis was born in North Lawrence, New York, on March 27, 1871. As a youth, he was enrolled in public schools. He then attended Lawrenceville Academy and then State Teachers College in Potsdam, New York. Upon his college graduation, Denis accepted a position to teach school in Potsdam, where he worked from 1888-1889. He relocated to St. Marys, New York, where he taught from 1890-1891. Denis then served as the Principal of Public Schools in St. Marys, from 1892-1897.

In addition to teaching school, Denis studied law. He passed the bar in 1898. The same day, this patriotic educator enlisted as a private in the Sixteenth Regiment of the Pennsylvania National Guard. He then served in the Spanish American War. When his enlistment expired, Denis campaigned for Congress on the Democratic ticket, and was elected. He served there from 1935-1937. But this dedicated educator’s commitment to the field had not been forgotten. He served as President of the St. Marys School Board from 1911-1936.

Denis passed away on January 18, 1958, at the age of 86. He is interred in St. Marys Catholic Cemetery in St. Marys, New York.

To read more about this chalkboard champion, click on this link to the Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress.

Jerilyn Britz: The high school teacher and celebrated pro golfer

Many times successful classroom teachers also distinguish themselves as gifted athletes. This is the case with Jerilyn Britz, a Minnesota educator who is also a two-time winner on the tour of the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA).

Jerilyn was born on January 1, 1943, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Minnesota State University in Mankato, and her master’s degree from the University of New Mexico.

Following her college graduation, Jerilyn taught physical education at a high school in St. Anthony Village in Ramsey County for five years. She also taught at the college level for three years.

Jerilyn started playing golf at the age of 17 on a tiny nine-hole course in Luverne, Minneapolis. By the time she turned 30, she decided to leave the teaching profession and become a professional golfer. Astonishingly, Jerilyn qualified for the LPGA Tour on her first attempt. She garnered first place at the US Women’s Open in 1979. The following year she captured the title at the Mary Kay Classic held in Texas. Jerilyn also placed second in the LPGA Championship in 1981. She retired from golf in 1999.

For her achievements on the golf course, Jerilyn has been inducted into the Minnesota State Maverick Athletic Hall of Fame, she has been named a member of the Mankato State College Athletic Hall of Fame, and she has been inducted into the Rock County Historical Society Hall of Fame.

Gift Chalkboard Champions and Chalkboard Heroes this season!

When contemplating just the right holiday present to buy for your friends and family, consider gifting copies of Chalkboard Champions and Chalkboard Heroes. Each volume is packed with inspirational stories about remarkable educators in American history, and the historical implications of their pioneering work. These books make great gifts for individuals in the teaching profession and those aspiring to become teachers some day. They are also appealing to history buffs and social scientists.

Among the captivating stories in Chalkboard Champions is the story of Charlotte Forten Grimke, an African American born into freedom who volunteered to teach emancipated slaves as the Civil War raged around her. Read the eyewitness account of the Wounded Knee massacre through the eyes of teacher Elaine Goodale Eastman, and educator Mary Tsukamoto, imprisoned in a WWII Japanese internment camp. Read about Mississippi Freedom Summer teacher Sandra Adickes who, together with her students, defied Jim Crow laws to integrate the Hattiesburg Public Library. Marvel at the pioneering work of Anne Sullivan Macy, the teacher of Helen Keller, the efforts of teacher Clara Comstock to find homes for thousands of Orphan Train riders, and the dedication of Jaime Escalante, the East LA educator who proved to that inner city Latino youths could successfully meet the demands of a rigorous curriculum.

In Chalkboard Heroes, read about dedicated educators who were heroes both inside and outside of the classroom, including WWI veteran Henry Alvin Cameron and Civil War veteran Francis Wayland Parker. Learn about teachers who were social reformers such as Dolores Huerta, Civil Rights activist Robert Parris Moses, suffragist Carrie Chapman Catt, and Native American rights advocate Zitkala-Sa, all of whom put themselves at risk to fight for improved conditions for disenfranchised citizens. Discover brave pioneers who took great risks to blaze a trail for others to follow such as Christa McAuliffe, the first teacher in space; Willa Brown Chappell, the aviatrix who taught Tuskegee airmen to fly; Etta Schureman Jones, the Alaskan teacher who was interned in a POW camp in Japan during WWII; and Olive Mann Isbell, who established the first English school in California while the Mexican american War raged around her.

All these remarkable stories and more can be shared with someone you know this season.