Six more honored in UNK’s One Room, One Teacher program

KEARNEY – Six rural school teachers were honored during the University of Nebraska at Kearney’s One Room, One Teacher ceremony Friday at UNK’s College of Education building.

The program started in 2012 to honor teachers who taught in one-room schools. More than $235,000 has been raised to help support student scholarships. To date, there have been 68 one-room teachers honored through this program.

“The One Room, One Teacher program honors the legacy of rural schoolteachers in Nebraska,” said Sheryl Feinstein, dean of UNK’s College of Education. “Many Nebraska residents attended one-room schools and are now our teachers, business owners, health care providers and community leaders. The rural school spirit lives on through the many scholarships awarded from this program.”

Approximately 100 people attended the ceremony Friday.

2018 One Room, One Teacher Honorees

Iris Kauffold Bicak
Iris Kauffold Bicak

Iris Kauffold Bicak embraced the opportunity to teach in 1942 at Rural School District #59, a one-room school known as The Hilly View School and began teaching there two months after her 18th birthday. Iris taught 14 students across all grades. The building had no electricity or running water, but it did have a pump organ. Iris played the organ and encouraged the students to sing. Iris completed her teaching certificate at Wayne State College in 1943. She taught at Creighton Elementary School for one year and Stanton Elementary for two years. From 1944-1946, Mrs. Bicak taught at Yorkfield Elementary in Elmhurst, Illinois. She received in 1950 a BFA in Music Education from Wayne State College. In 1951, Iris married Laddie Bicak, a classmate from Dodge, and after Laddie received his Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota, the couple and their children moved to Kearney in 1962.

Gwendolyn Brown Freeman grew up on a farm in Given, Iowa, in Mahaska County. She was one of five children. She graduated from Oskaloosa High School at the age of 19 and during high school she participated in the Normal Training program, which prepared her to be a teacher. Upon graduation she taught at Star Rural School located on a farm a few miles from Given. From 1926-29 she taught first through eighth grade in this one room schoolhouse. Gwen described teaching as some of the best days of her life, creating wonderful lifetime memories. Like many women of that era, she resigned her teaching post when she married her husband Harold Freeman. They became proud parents to four children and 10 grandchildren. Gwen always cherished and valued education.

Gwendolyn Brown Freeman
Gwendolyn Brown Freeman
Bertha Haug Hayman
Bertha Haug Hayman

Bertha Haug Hayman started her teaching career at age 16 at Buffalo County District 10, substitutingfive months for a teacher who was ill. She attended Peru Normal School, graduating in 1902. Bertha taught in Holdrege prior to her marriage in 1904. During the 1907-08 school year, she taught at Buffalo County District 22. When the family moved to Hall County, she taught at District 31. In 1914-15, she taught at Berwick School District 37. In 1919, she filled in for the principal at Shelton School. From 1920-28, Bertha taught at Buffalo Country District 8, a one-room school that was a quarter mile west of her home. She taught her daughter, Maxine Hayman Schroeder, during that time. During World War II, she renewed her certification by taking courses at Nebraska State Teachers College, and in 1945 she again taught at District 8. Her students included her nephew and niece, Doug and Carolyn Hayman. She taught at the Shelton School until 1951.

Nora VanPelt Lindner was born in Merrick County on a farm north of Archer in 1940. She attended a one-room, one-teacher school known as District #43 or “The Stove Poker School.” The school closed her senior year and she graduated from Palmer High School. In 1959, Nora enrolled at Nebraska State Teachers Colleges and earned her 40-hour certificate. She was hired to teach District #24, which was only six miles from her parents’ home. She went back to NSTC and earned her bachelor’s degree and went on to teach at Loveland, Colorado, where she met her husband. They moved back to Nebraska to farm and raise their family. Nora taught in Grand Island before staying home for 10 years to raise their children. She returned to teaching in Grand Island and earned her master’s degree at NSTC. A year after she retired from teaching in Grand Island for 24 years, Nora was hired to teach part time at Palmer and continued to substitute.

Dorothy Reiter Peterson
Dorothy Reiter Peterson
Nora VanPelt Lindner
Nora VanPelt Lindner

Dorothy Reiter Peterson taught in seven rural schools in Buffalo and Phelps Counties throughout the course of 19 years, culminating in 1961. Dorothy began her teaching career at age 17 in the one-room school house she attended as a child. She taught in a building with no electricity and no plumbing, and had to start the day by putting wood or coal in the stove. She raised the flag on the flagpole daily as well. If it snowed, it was her job to shovel. She cleaned the floors and the blackboards. She was responsible for multiple grades and multiple subjects, as well as music and the Christmas program. Former students described Dorothy as compassionate and a favorite teacher.

Maxine Hayman Schroeder was a 1935 graduate of Nebraska State Teachers College at Kearney. It was difficult to find a teaching job in 1935, so Maxine advertised in local papers for music students.  She soon had more than 40 students and drove to their homes for the lessons. In 1937, Maxine taught at Buffalo Country District 1, a one-room school that had 14 students. The building is now located at the Buffalo County Historical Society in Kearney. In 1938, she taught grades first through sixth at Hartman School, a two-room school in Buffalo County. Although she did not teach again in rural schools, as a talented pianist and organist she taught private music lessons for many years. Maxine married Fred M. Schroeder in 1941 and they had two sons. As a descendent of early settlers in Buffalo County, Maxine was active in the Buffalo County Historical Society and contributed to their Buffalo Tales publications. She served as a church organist for many years.

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