by Warren Thomas - Daily Republic Letters to the Editor

Recently, The Daily Republic listed Bobby Reindl as one of two current Longfellow male elementary teachers. The pie graph showed that there are four other lower-level men in the district.

Males breaking into the female elementary instructors’ domain has been going on in Mitchell for quite some time — 67 years in fact. I was the unknowing pioneer the summer of 1950 when Superintendent Lloyd Uecker hired me to teacher Longfellow sixth grade. I can remember most of those 28 students.

I was a 21-year-old college graduate. Principal Ardith Van Tassel had recently replaced Gertie Belle Rogers, who had become curriculum supervisor for the four elementary buildings. Joe Quintal was not only high school head football and basketball coach, but elementary PE instructor also. What he lacked in height, he compensated with a commanding bark heard in nearby classrooms.

My contract was $2,200 for that 1950-51 year. No surrounding district offered as high a beginning salary to go along with a uniquely modern trend. That novelty meant that elementary and secondary teachers were paid the same for identical preparation.

Rogers was tall, slender, kindly and professional. Visiting my sixth grade classroom twice that first year, her only remembered comment for classroom improvement was that I should add a tail to the letter “s” when I wrote on the blackboard. Cursive writing was standard and penmanship was stressed. In that same era, L.B. “Bud” Williams was Mitchell’s highly respected mayor.

Uncle Sam interrupted my second year in September 1951. After teaching three weeks, I was drafted into the Korean War. At the front line in Korea, I was highly grateful for letters from Principal Van Tassel, fourth grade teacher Kathryn Bordewyk, kindergarten teacher Phyllis Cole and others.

I have enjoyed the quite insignificant notoriety since 1950 of being the first male elementary teacher in Mitchell Public Schools.

Warren Thomas