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As her vision to preserve the District 70 rural one-room schoolhouse and it’s memories continue, Gloria Christansen has taken the time to set up workshops to gain other’s perspectives on their past experiences.
At the most recent workshop in Neligh, Christansen partnered with Doctor Barb Black, a professor at Wayne State College, to sit down with individuals to learn more about their personal experiences. Among those attending were Bill and Pam Kuester, Laverne Hauptmann, Judy Eggerling, and George and Ruth Strasler. Their hopes are to capture moments from individuals in a certain time span to have on display for generations to come.
“The years I’d like to focus on are the 1940s and 50s, and the 60s, 70s, and 80s when I taught. There seems to be a gap in the history books from the pioneers but we don’t have the era of us being captured. So, the time to save the school and capture stories is here, it’s now,” said Christiansen.
At the workshop, they discussed the importance of a one-room schoolhouse and how the pace has changed yet today. Doctor Black explained how the challenge for today’s education is higher and the pace is so much different.
She stated, “The challenge for today in education is that we are trying to educate more and more people at a higher and higher level for functional literacy that has ever been done in the history of the world. And that is our challenge. Where in the 1900s, when these schools were in action, you could just do basic reading, writing, and arithmetic and you were ready to go. Well that isn’t true to be successful in our world today. So, that is our challenge.”
Another observation that was brought to light was how different teachers are today. During the 88 years that the District 70 school was functional, it saw over 60 teachers. Christiansen explained that most of the contracts at the beginning were three months due to the conditions. Not only was this time span surprising, but the ages of these teachers was something that is unheard of today. At the Elgin workshop, they heard a teaching experience from Maxine Uhrenholt. She shared that she started high school at the age of 12 and by the time she was 16, she was teaching her own 1st grade class.
Christiansen stated, “It was not unusual at the time for a teacher to go straight out of high school to teaching. Many even lied that they were 16 so that they could begin teaching earlier.”
At the workshops, they have collected memories based off of questions on a typical school day, favorite memories, major events, subject covered, personal opinions, and so much more. They have been able to provide workshops in Oakdale, Elgin, Clearwater, Neligh and are hosting one at Orchard on November 1st in the Rex Theater, beginning at 1 p.m.
Progress of the schoolhouse is in place with the digging of the basement donated by Sargent Irrigation, Klabenes Construction, Dustin Tinsley, and Jeremy McConnell. Plans to move the schoolhouse are set for the middle of November.
If you are interested in donating to this vision, contact Gloria Christiansen at (402) 929-0330. The need to preserved the schoolhouse is very important to many who lived in that era, and every donation is appreciated.