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.

Jean Doerge: Chalkboard Champion and Member of the Louisiana House of Representatives

There are many examples of dedicated educators who have also served in political office. This is true of Jean McGlothlin Doerge, a high school business teacher who also served in the Louisiana House of Representatives.

Jean was born June 4, 1937, in Galbraith, a small town in Natchitoches Parish in Central Louisiana. After she graduated from Cloutierville High School, she enrolled in Northwestern State University (NSU) in Natchitoches. She completed the requirements for her bachelor’s degree in education in 1958. She also became a bride that year, having married fellow student Everett Doerge, also a teacher.

Jean accepted her first teaching assignment as a business teacher at Minden High School in Minden, Louisiana. The following year, she transferred to Arp Independent School in Arp, Texas, where she taught business courses. She also served as the adviser for the school’s newspaper, yearbook, and cheerleaders. At other schools in the following years, Jean taught girls’ physical education, coached the girls’ basketball team, and taught 9th and 10th grade Language Arts. Jean returned to Natchitoches for one year when her husband was hired to coach at Northwestern. At the end of the year, the couple moved back to Minden, where Jean returned to her post at Minden High as business teacher and adviser for the school’s Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA). She spent the next 28 years teaching there, during which time she earned a master’s degree from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.

As an educator, Jean was clearly an innovator. She was one of the first public school educators in Louisiana to implement computer technology and word processing instruction into her classes. Through the years, she served as instructor for summer classes and night courses at Northwest Technical College in Minden and nearby Homer. She also served on the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) as a secondary representative. Doerge retired in 1992 after 34 years of teaching.

In 1998, the former teacher was elected to serve the unexpired term of her husband, State Representative Dr. Everett Doerge, who had passed away earlier that year. She was re-elected in 2007, and served until 2012, when term limits prevented her continued service. As a legislator, Jean supported many education issues at all levels.

For her distinguished career as an educator, Jean has earned numerous prestigious awards. She has been named to the NSU College of Business Hall of Distinction, and she was the recipient of the Golden Rose Award and the Golden Apple Award presented by the Epsilon State of the Delta Kappa Gamma Society, which recognized her for noteworthy legislation impacting retired teachers’ benefits. She is a member of the FBLA Wall of Fame, and she been recognized by SACS for serving on their  commission from 1988-92.

Jean Doerge: truly a chalkboard champion.

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 Hero James Dallas: High school English teacher, veteran, businessman, and civic leader

James_A._Dallas_Sr.Many gifted educators make significant contributions to their local communities in addition to their dedication to their professions. Such is the case with James A. Dallas, a high school English teacher from Florida.

James A. Dallas was born in Monticello, Florida, on December 19, 1917, one of seven children born to parents Albert and Florida Dallas. Sadly, young Jimmie was orphaned before his twelfth birthday, so he was raised by his siblings. Following his high school graduation from Middletown High School in Hillsborough County in 1936, Jimmie enrolled first in Bethune-Cookman College and then in Florida A&M University. There he played trombone in the university’s marching, concert, and jazz bands. After he earned his degree at Florida A&M in 1941, Jimmie enrolled in the pharmacy program at Howard University. However, ten days after his admittance into the program, young James was drafted into the United States Army. Jimmie served his country as a First Sergeant in the 24th Infantry Division in Okinawa, Japan, from 1942-1946.

Once Jimmie earned his discharge from the army, he accepted a position as a teacher of English and public speaking at Dorsey High School in Miami, Florida. He later transferred to Blanch Ely High School and then Sunrise Middle School. “He was a good English teacher,” remembered former colleague James Crumpler. “The kids liked him. He related real well with them.” In  his fourth year of teaching career, Jimmie married fellow educator Margie Sweet. The union produced three children: Ronald, James II, and Michele.

During these years, Jimmie was active in the local chapter of the NAACP. He became a leader in the Elks Lodge, and became a founding member of the Young Men’s Progressive Association. In addition to teaching and civic activities, Jimmie was also a successful businessman. He owned two nightclubs which hosted many famous musicians of his day, including Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Charles, and Lionel Hampton. He also owned a local grocery store and a pest control business.

After a distinguished career spanning 36 years, James Dallas retired in 1982. This American hero and chalkboard champion passed away on April 9, 2004. He was 86 years old. To honor him, a street in Fort Lauderdale has been named after him.

Chicago’s Bob Boone: Innovative Teacher of Creative Writing

Boone-Coming-Up-Taller-Photo-300x274There are so many remarkable educators out there! One of the most amazing is Robert (Bob) Boone, a creative writing teacher and author who hails from Chicago, Illinois.

Bob grew up in Winnetka, Illinois. After his graduation from college, he attended Northwestern University’s School of Education and Social Policy, where he earned his doctorate degree in English Education 1975.

Bob launched his teaching career in 1964. He has taught in Staten Island, Germany, Highland Park, and Chicago. Throughout his long career, Bob has focused on developing the writing skills of students who frequently do not succeed in traditional educational settings. In 1977, the innovative educator established the Glencoe Study Center, where he still remains active. He has worked as a creative writing consultant at Hubbard High School in Chicago, the CYCLE Cabrini Green Social Service Agency, and as an ACT/SAT coordinator at Dunbar High School in Chicago.

In 1991, this talented educator founded Young Chicago Authors to provide opportunities for teen writers from Chicago. The program now serves over 5,000 young people each year. In 2009, this talented educator was honored at the White House by First Lady Michelle Obama, where he accepted an award from the Coming Up Taller Leadership Enhancement Conference. He is pictured here with the First Lady and Lacresia Birts, 18, a participant of the Young Chicago Authors program.

Bob has written several textbooks, a teaching memoir, a sports biography, and a book of short stories. In 2002, he was named Chicagoan of the Year by Chicago Magazine. Today, Bob lives in Glencoe, Illinois, with his wife of many years, Sue. They have three children and five grandchildren.

Bob Boone: a true chalkboard champion.