Teacher, Teacher – Part 1

The teaching staff at Lower Gwelo

The teaching staff at Lower Gwelo

October 13 – Close to half my life was spent working with kids in one way or another. After teaching in Pittsburgh, PA for my first three years after graduation, I was given the opportunity teaching at Lower Gwelo Mission in what was then Southern Rhodesia, Africa (now known as Zimbabwe). After three years teaching there, I moved to the school for mission children in the area, and for what turned out to be a really good reason as things turned out.

Proof we're at Lower Gwelo

Proof we’re at Lower Gwelo

Dale, who had grown up in Africa where his parents were missionaries from Michigan and Ohio, lived about twenty miles from Lower Gwelo where his dad was my principal. Somehow Dale and I became acquainted, and he decided that twenty miles wasn’t too far for him to drive his motorcycle to visit me. Rain or shine, three times each week, he came out to visit. When friendship grew into a loving relationship, we were married, and I was transferred from the mission to Rhobecon School with his parents being the teachers there.

Back from Africa, and expecting our first child, I decided that it was much more important to stay home teaching our kids from books and games, and yes (but much more important), teaching them about God. When David was going in to seventh grade, and sister Biz, would be in fifth, I was unexpectedly asked to teach part time at the church school they attended. That was a real shocker, because I had never given the idea a thought; never dreaming of going back to teaching before they were in ninth grade and would be sent off to boarding school.

After a real struggle, I gave in to my love of teaching, and accepted the position in about 1970. So many anecdotes come back to me from those years, mostly centering on how much I loved those kids, and how glad I was to note that they (mostly!) returned that love. At first there were two full-time teachers and the two more part time. Later, there were just two full time, with my taking over Grades 1-4, and then later, all eight grades.

At the mayor's office

At the mayor’s office

We studied hard, but played just as hard. Hiking, playing baseball, sled riding down the school hill, and eating lunch outside in the woods were always fun. We had many field trips to go along with history and geography. We visited the mayor of Erie, PA many times, and took part in a discussion before the city council. The kids enjoyed several visits to the local TV station where they spoke and recited.

Holiday programs, along with those at the closing of the school, brought not only family members, but those from around the area. From year to year, the audience would be pleasantly surprised at how many songs and Bible verses the kids recited. Notes or books not allowed, all from memory! Several times during the year we had pizza parties at a local pizza place because the kids had read so many library books. (They had to tell all about the contents of the book, too, so I knew they had read them from cover to cover. Of course, that was in the day before computers, so there was no other way!) – CHRIS

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