For her outstanding contributions as an elementary teacher, Geraldine is recognized on the Donors’ Wall of Fame by her grand-daughter, Carol Peters, of Maxwell, Texas.
Geraldine Isabel Smith Hawkins is my paternal step-grandmother. When I started the fourth grade in 1955, Mrs. Hawkins was my substitute teacher until our regular teacher was hired after about six weeks. Grandma Hawkins was a strict, rule-oriented teacher who was not popular with my friends. My brother also remembers having her as a substitute on several occasions at State Road Elementary School in Ashtabula, Ohio.
Geraldine Hawkins graduated from an Ohio Normal School at age twenty in 1916, during World War I, prepared to teach elementary school. Sometime around 1920, she met and married my grandfather who had a one-year old son (my dad). His wife died in 1918, during the influenza epidemic. Geraldine raised my father, Leonard Hawkins, who graduated from high school at age sixteen and entered the workforce in 1934, during the height of the Great Depression.
The only record I have of my grandmother’s teaching career is that she taught full-time in the Conneaut and Ashtabula School Districts in northeast Ohio probably from 1916-1920, and perhaps again in the 1930s and 1940s. One of the schools is Rowe Elementary School in East Conneaut , Ohio. I believe that by the 1950s, she was serving the Ashtabula School District as a substitute teacher and probably resigned about 1961.
Without a conscious awareness, Mars. Hawkins undoubtedly influenced my entering the teaching profession. I have many memories of playing in her basement as a child and helping her with the old wringer washing machine. As a teacher during the Great Depression, she must have helped many young people during a time of great difficulty in America when families were struggling to survive. Certainly, many of her students later saw action in both the European and Pacific fronts during World War II. She was responsible for instilling in them the discipline needed to fight and win that war of democracy.
For all her accomplishments as an Ohio teacher, I am proud of Geraldine Hawkins. Though I know little about her full-time teaching career, I will always remember my fourth grade year with my grandmother as my substitute teacher.
I will always be grateful for the young teacher, who, at age twenty-four, fell in love with a man and his motherless infant son and raised him as her own so he could become my father.