Teacher Sarah Wu and her “Fed Up With Lunch” Campaign

Those of us who work in public schools have long been aware that school lunches are, shall we say, less than appetizing. I’m sure the cafeteria personnel do the best they can with the resources they are given, but the truth is none of us eats a school-prepared lunch unless we are incredibly desperate. And I, for one, was almost never that desperate. But one educator who became determined to do what she could to call attention to the school lunch problem was Sarah Wu, teacher and a speech pathologist working at Haugan Elementary School in Chicago, Illinois.

One day, Sarah didn’t have enough time before going to work to pack her own lunch. After purchasing a lunch from her school’s cafeteria, she was shocked to see what was being served to the students. To spotlight the problem, every school day during 2010, the determined educator bought a cafeteria lunch, took it back to her classroom, snapped a photo of it, and wrote about it on her online blog. Sarah posted her observations on Fedupwithlunch.com using the pseudonym Mrs. Q. She kept her identity a closely-guarded secret because she was afraid she might get fired if school officials knew she was the one behind the blog. Eventually, her blog attracted thousands of readers, many of whom shared her concern about the quality of school lunches. In 2011, Sarah published a book about her project. The book was entitled “Fed Up with Lunch: The School Lunch Project: How One Anonymous Teacher Survived a Year of School Lunches” (Chronicle, $22.95).

Sarah’s year-long school lunch project was completed years ago, but she continues to write blog posts about food policy, school issues, and personal health. Occasionally she still posts photos and observations of the lunches served each day at her school. To learn more about this gutsy chalkboard champion, read this story published in 2011 in the Chicago Tribune: School Lunch Blogger “Mrs. Q”.

Melissa Salguero garners 2018 Grammy Music Educator Award

Here’s a truly inspirational story about elementary music teacher Melissa Salguero, who has just been honored as the winner of the 2018 Grammy Music Educator Award. Melissa inaugurated her career as an educator in south Florida before transferring to the Bronx to teach at PS 48. The students at PS 48 are among the poorest in the city, with most kids coming from a home that has an annual income of less than $25,000 per year and a homeless student population of 22%. When Melissa first started teaching at the school, there was no school song, no instruments, and no school mascot. Nevertheless, she rolled up her sleeves and dedicated her abundant talent and energy to re-launch a music program that had been disbanded 30 years ago. “I feel I was born to teach at this school,” says Melissa. For more, watch this video of this amazing chalkboard champion as she is interviewed by Michelle Miller of CBS news.

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.

Elementary school teacher and award-winning journalist Esther Hansen Clark


“In an era of afternoon ten-cent newspapers and all-male newsrooms, Esther Clark, a former elementary school teacher who years later would dodge bullets in Vietnam, established her credentials in Arizona as a versatile and fearless reporter.” So says biographer Carol Cain Hughes about chalkboard champion and journalist Esther Hansen Clark.

Esther Hansen was born on September 9, 1910, in Denver, Colorado. As a young girl, she attended Manual Training High School. Upon her graduation, she enrolled in Greeley College, where future teachers were trained. This institution is now known as the University of Northern Colorado. Once her education there was completed, Esther accepted a position an an elementary school teacher in southeastern Colorado. In 1936 Esther married Frank Clark, and nine years later the couple moved to Phoenix, Arizona.

In Phoenix, Esther became employed as a journalist for the Phoenix Gazette, a post she held for nearly 30 years. During her tenure there, she published news stories about current events in Arizona, including dispatches detailing the Civil Rights Freedom Concert, American Indian affairs, military news, and the conflict in the Middle East. “Some of her achievements read like daredevil stunts,” says Hughes. “She was the first newswoman to fly in a T-33, a B-47 Stratojet bomber, and an F-100 Super Sabre jet that cracked the sonic barrier.” Other difficult assignments included simulating bailing out of a jet at 43,000 feet and traveling to Panama with the US Army to participate in rigorous jungle warfare training. But it was her 1966 stint as one of the first women reporters embedded on the front lines in the war-torn jungles of Viet Nam that have earned her the greatest acclaim. For her pioneering work in the field of journalism, Esther was profiled by Time magazine. She also garnered the coveted Dickey Chapelle Award in 1941. She was recognized with the Marine Corps League Awards for Notable Contributions to the Marine Corps and the Nation in 1971. Actor John Wayne was similarly honored that year.

Esther retired from the Gazette in 1973, and in 1986 she returned to her home state of Colorado. She passed away on August 1, 1990, in Grand Junction, Colorado. She was 79 years old.

For more about this amazing educator and journalist, you can read Hughes’ more detailed account in Skirting Traditions: Arizona Women Writers and Journalists 1912-2012.


Chalkboard Champion Josephine Heard: Teacher and Poet

Many talented educators often become celebrated authors. Such is the case with Josephine Delphine Henderson Heard, an early 19th century schoolteacher who taught in Mayesville, South Carolina.

Josephine was born in Salisbury, North Carolina, on October 11, 1861, just after the outbreak of the Civil War. Her parents, Lafayette and Annie Henderson, were slaves. After the war was won and the Emancipation achieved, the Hendersons worked hard to ensure a quality education for their daughter. Josephine, who could read by the age of five, started school in Charlotte, North Carolina, and was later enrolled in historically black Scotia Seminary in nearby Concord. To earn her college degree, she attended college at Bethany Institute in upstate New York. Upon graduation, Josephine accepted her first teaching position at the elementary school located in Mayesville, South Carolina.

In 1882, when the young educator was 21, she married William Henry Heard from Georgia, also a teacher and a former slave. Later William became a prominent minister in the AME Church. The pair traveled the world together, including Liberia, as part of his work for the church.

In addition to being a dedicated teacher, Josephine was also a gifted poet. In 1890, she published her book Morning Glories, a collection of 72 poems. Her book is currently in the public domain, and can be accessed online through the Hathi Trust at Morning Glories. Although Josephine passed away in Philadelphia in 1921, her spirit lives on in her poetry. To learn more about this amazing teacher, click on this link: AAWW Biographies.