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.

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.


Paul Zindel: High school chemistry teacher and celebrated author

Many fine educators distinguish themselves in other fields. Such is the case with Paul Zindel, a high school chemistry teacher who is also a celebrated author and playwright.

Paul was born on May 15, 1936 in Tottenville, on Staten Island in New York. His father was a policeman, and his mother was a nurse. When Paul was still a child, his father abandoned his family, and his mother struggled to support the family alone. It was, by his own account, a difficult childhood.

Upon his high school graduation, Paul enrolled in Wagner College on Staten Island. Although he majored in chemistry, he took a creative writing course from celebrated playwright Edward Albee. Albee encouraged and nurtured Paul’s writing talent.

After Paul earned his college degree, he accepted a position as a technical writer for Allied Chemical. He was employed there for six months, but did not enjoy the work. Pursuing a passion for helping young people, Paul decided to go into teaching. For the next ten years, he taught chemistry and physics at Tottenville High School.

While still teaching, Paul wrote the book he is probably most famous for, The Pigman (1968). It was so successful that in 1969 he left teaching to write full-time. “I felt I could do more for teenagers by writing for them,” Paul once explained. “I started reading some young adult books, and what I saw in most of them had no connection to the teenagers I knew. I thought I knew what kids would want in a book, so I made a list and followed it,” he continued. “I try to show teens they aren’t alone. I believe I must convince my readers that I am on their side; I know it’s a continuous battle to get through the years between twelve and twenty — an abrasive time. And so I write always from their own point of view,” he concluded.

Paul’s other signature work includes The Effect of Gamma Rays on the Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds, which received an Obie Award in 1970 for best American play. He garnered a Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1971.

Sadly, Paul contracted lung cancer and passed away on March 27, 2003. He is interred in Moravian Cemetery in Staten Island.

To learn more about this extraordinary educator and author, visit his website at www.paulzindel.com.

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.

Carol Jago: A Truly Remarkable Educator

CAJ48344Here is a truly remarkable chalkboard champion: Carol Ann Jago.

Carol was born in the Chicago area to Italian parents, John Crosetto and Mary Giacchino. Her father was from Turin and her mother came from Sicily. After her high school graduation, Carol was educated at st. Louis University and the University of California, Sana Barbara, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in English in 1973. She earned her master’s degree in education from the University of Southern California the following year.

After her college graduation, Carol worked for 32 years as a junior high school and high school English teacher in the Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District. She has also served as a content advisor for the Advanced Placement Literature test and also on the English Advisory Committee. Formerly, she was the president of the National Council of Teachers of English and an editor for the journal for the California Association of Teachers of English. She has worked as the director of UCLA’s California Reading and Literature Project. She’s also been engaged as an educational consultant and a motivational speaker, and she has published numerous books. 

Carol Jago is truly an extraordinary educator.