For her outstanding contributions as a third grade teacher, Esther is recognized on the Donors’ Wall of Fame by Allan and Sandi Miller of Lawrence, Kansas.
Esther trained as a teacher at McPerson College. Upon graduation in 1933, she began her teaching career in Reno County in a one-room country school. As was the case with so many one-room school teachers of her era, her career was interrupted by marriage and the birth of her son. She resumed her teaching profession duties in the 1950s at one of the nation’s premier country schools, The Santa Fe Trail School, located just south of the city of McPerson where the actual trail ran through the school property. One of her major teaching philosophies, “travel to get educated,” was polished at this school, as she sponsored many Eighth Grade Graduation Trips to Washington, DC and other nationally significant sites.
Esther was persuaded by the city school superintendent to take a position in McPherson as a third grade teacher at Washington Elementary School. From the time she first arrived, the principal at the school considered her the best teacher he had been privileged to lead. Esther’s energy to teach pervaded the entire teaching staff. Her ability to stimulate students to learn was enormous. Years later, many of her students recorded that their motivation to travel the world traced to Esther’s suggestion to look beyond their present environment and classroom to learn. This trait was not lost on her son, other relatives, and close friends, including myself.
When Esther found herself as the head of her family raising a small son and caring for her mother, she was the first woman elementary teacher to propose to her teachers’ organization, the school board, and superintendent that the current Kansas policy allowing for a two-tiered salary schedule, one for males, another for females, was unfair. This policy assumed that only men were “heads of households,” and needed he extra income. Esther campaigned diligently for the abolition of this most unfair policy. It not only caught her in the pocketbook, but offended her sense of right reasoning and action (especially since she assumed that school people had an obligation to set an example of fair play.) To me, this represents one of the first cases of a women’s movement in McPherson, even though, more likely, it was a one woman’s movement. There is no doubt in any educator’s mind in McPherson that Esther hastened the establishment of a single salary schedule for men and women in this central Kansas Town.
On a personal level, I owe my own career as an educator to this remarkable woman. Adams was correct in stating that one never knows where a good teacher’s influence ends.