America’s Wild West tamed by frontier schoolmarms

America’s Wild West was tamed in part due to the talented and dedicated women who served as frontier schoolteachers. The pioneering women who became teachers during this period of our nation’s history were indeed a special breed. At the turn of the century, females were expected to be dependent upon their husbands, fathers, or other male relatives. It was extremely unusual, and not at all encouraged, for a woman to support herself and function independently. Nevertheless, many intelligent and self-reliant women in search of personal freedom and adventure joined the Westward movement as schoolmarms.

The stereotype of a frontier schoolteacher was that of an unattractive spinster or a prim and proper young miss. In reality, she was often neither of those. Many of these ladies came from influential and affluent Eastern families. A few were filled with burning ambition, and others were seeking a better life, and perhaps some were seeking a husband of like mind. In general, though, they were dedicated practitioners of their profession. Despite primitive working conditions, uninviting classrooms, low wages, and overwork, these stalwart women introduced literacy, culture, and morality to the roughneck communities they served. A few of these teachers became missionaries, others became suffragettes, and one of them—Jeannette Rankin of Montana—even went on to become the first woman to be elected to the United States House of Representatives!

Our society owes these frontier schoolmarms a great debt. Read more about pioneering teachers in my book, Chalkboard Champions, available through amazon.com or Barnes and Noble. Click on the link to find out how to get a copy of the book. Enjoy!

Chalkboard Champions and Hurricane Harvey: Wading into Rising Waters

As empathetic Americans look for ways to help fellow citizens forced to cope with the devastation of Hurricane Harvey, Texas teachers are undoubtedly wondering what they can do to help ease the distress of their precious kids when they return to the classroom.

As usual when I hear news stories about storm damage, I am reminded of a book I read which tells the tale of a remarkable teacher who opened a school for New Orleans evacuees following Hurricane Katrina.

When surging flood waters from Hurricane Katrina forced thousands of families to flee from their homes, New Orleans residents had their minds more on survival than on whether their children would be missing school. But when a group of evacuee parents who landed in New Iberia, Louisiana, realized they would not be returning to their homes any time soon, they knew they had to find a strategy to help their children cope with their enforced and unexpected exile. They pooled their financial resources and hired a fellow refugee, teacher Paul Reynaud, to establish a one-room school for their children in an abandoned office building. The story furnishes valuable lessons for dealing with this latest example of nature’s fury.

The book is entitled Sugarcane Academy: How a New Orleans Teacher and His Storm-Struck Students Created a School to Remember.The author of this intriguing true story is journalist Michael Tisserand, and the volume was published in 2007 by Harcourt. You can find the book on amazon.com at the following link:

For other intriguing stories about remarkable teachers in America’s sometimes turbulent history, check out my book Chalkboard Champions. You will find it on the web site for Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Ten-year-old Dalton Sherman asks the question, “Do you believe in your students?”

As educators all over the country ready for another school year, we are undoubtedly contemplating our role as a teacher, advocate, and role model for our kids. Here is a keynote speech from a young man just ten years old who asks the question, “Do you believe in your students?” You’ve got to see this!

Colyn Fischer: Middle school music teacher and award-winning Scottish Fiddler

imgresThere are many examples of talented musicians who go on to become exemplary music educators. This is certainly true of Colyn C. Fischer, an award-winning violinist from Pennsylvania who now works as a middle school music teacher.

Colyn was born in 1977 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He began to play the violin at the tender age of three, concentrating on Scottish fiddling since the age of five. While just a teen, he studied under a number of notable American Scottish fiddlers, including John Turner and Bonnie Rideout, and several celebrated fiddlers from Scotland, including Ian Powie and Alasdair Hardy.

Following his graduation from Penn-Trafford High School in Harrison City, Pennsylvania, Colyn enrolled at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois. There he earned his bachelor’s degree in music performance in violin from Wheaton College in 1999. He completed the requirements for his teaching credential at Seton Hill University in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, in 2005.

In 1993, Colyn garnered the first-place title in the American National Scottish Fiddling Championship, Junior Division. In 2005 he won in the open category in Texas, a title which he captured again in 2006 in Ohio.

Colyn first taught music in grades three through eight in the Silver Valley Unified School District in California’s San Bernardino County. He worked there from 2006-2009. Currently, Colyn teaches orchestra at Central Middle School in the San Carlos School District located in San Francisco, California. He also teaches the annual Jink and Diddle School of Scottish Fiddling, and gives private violin and fiddle lessons.

Tidye Pickett: The Chicago school teacher who became the first African American woman to represent the US in the Olympics

tidyepickettThere are many examples throughout American history of talented educators who have also distinguished themselves in the field of sports. One such example is the remarkable Tidye Pickett.

Theodora Anne Pickett was born on November 13, 1914, in Chicago, Illinois. Known by everyone as Tidye, she was the second of two children born to Louis and Sarah Pickett.

As a teenager, Tidye took up running. She quickly established a reputation as a high school track star at her alma mater, Englewood High School in Chicago. She was one of two African American women selected to represent the United States women’s track team in the 1932 Olympic Games held in Los Angeles. She was scheduled to serve as part of an eight-woman relay team and as an alternate sprinter in the 80-meter hurdles, the broad jump, and the 100-meter sprint, but did not actually compete in those games. When the 1936 games rolled around, Tidye was again selected to represent the US. A foot injury prevented Tidye from medaling in those games; however, she did earn the distinction of being the first African American woman to compete in an Olympic Games.

Tidye earned her bachelor’s degree from Pestalozzi Froebel Teachers College in Chicago and her master’s degree in education from Northern Illlinois University in August, 1956. Following her college graduation, Tidye accepted a position as a teacher at Cottage Grove Elementary in East Chicago Heights. She taught there for just one year, and then the talented educator was promoted to the position of principal of Woodlawn School in the same district. She remained in that position for 23 years until her retirement in 1980. In recognition for her many years of distinguished service, the district renamed her school Tidy A. Pickett School.

This amazing chalkboard champion passed away on November 17, 1986, at the age of 72.