Historic rural schoolhouse comes alive during Teacher’s Tea

Rural school teachers were drawn to the historic rural schoolhouse, located at the Morrison County Fairgrounds in Little Falls, for a Teachers’ Tea, Tuesday. The house, filled with memories of the rural schoolhouse days, was also full of reminiscing and fun during the event. Pictured are four 1953 teacher training classmates (from left): Wanda McNeal of Iron, Minn.,  who taught in South Dakota, North Dakota and Minnesota; Irene Lashinski of Bowlus, who taught for 14 years in Martin, Stearns and Morrison counties; Iris Surma of St. Cloud, who taught for a year and Cecelia Posch of Little Falls, who taught for four years before taking time off to raise her nine children. McNeal is showing a painting of a rural schoolhouse given to her by a lady who found it in Texas.

Rural school teachers were drawn to the historic rural schoolhouse, located at the Morrison County Fairgrounds in Little Falls, for a Teachers’ Tea, Tuesday. The house, filled with memories of the rural schoolhouse days, was also full of reminiscing and fun during the event. Pictured are four 1953 teacher training classmates (from left): Wanda McNeal of Iron, Minn., who taught in South Dakota, North Dakota and Minnesota; Irene Lashinski of Bowlus, who taught for 14 years in Martin, Stearns and Morrison counties; Iris Surma of St. Cloud, who taught for a year and Cecelia Posch of Little Falls, who taught for four years before taking time off to raise her nine children. McNeal is showing a painting of a rural schoolhouse given to her by a lady who found it in Texas.

Rural school teachers were welcomed at the eighth annual Teacher’s Tea Tuesday, June 24.

The sun was shining and the breeze kept the flag flying on the grounds as 37 teachers gathered at the historic rural schoolhouse on the Morrison County Fairgrounds in Little Falls.

Guests came from far and wide, with eight of the 12 remaining members of the 1952-53 graduates of the local Teachers Training Department present.

Those graduates able to attend included Phyllis Gablenz of Little Falls, Adella (Del) Kapsner of Hillman, Irene Lashinski of Bowlus, Cecelia Posch of Little Falls and Rosemarie Starr of Hillman, Patricia Dutcher of Tenstrike, Wanda McNeal of Iron and Iris Surma of St. Cloud. This class is believed to be the last class of the teacher training institution.

Those present joined in the Pledge of Allegiance, the singing of “God Bless America” just as they would have at the beginning of class long ago. Irene Lashinski celebrated her 80th birthday to a rousing “Happy Birthday.”

Rosemary Mischke, Pierz, was the youngest teacher present at age 76. Clarice Pfefferle of Long Prairie took honors as the eldest, as she will soon celebrate her 102nd birthday. Wennifred Harrison of Little Falls, who recently celebrated her 96th birthday, has attended nearly all of the rural school reunions and teacher’s teas held since 2003.

Several guests had taught for 40 years, one for 41, but Jeanette Janson of Pierz spent 42 years teaching, 28 of those years in a rural school.

Ceva Monti happened to be visiting family and friends in Minnesota and when she learned of the tea, came from Monticello to join in. She now lives in LaMoore, Calif.

Dorothy Lindquist, one of the organizers of the event, said many of the teachers were graduates of the Little Falls Teacher’s Training Department, often referred to as a Normal Training Department, because it prepared young men and women to teach the subjects youngsters normally needed to know.

Brainerd, Crosby-Ironton and Staples also had such teaching departments.

“Young women and men, with a graduation certificate in hand, could enroll in a rigorous, fast-paced nine-month program to prepare them to be working in a country school by the time they were 19 years of age, perhaps had not quite reached 19, and likely teaching an eighth-grade student a very few years younger than themselves,” said Lindquist.

She said conversations brought out a lot of reminiscent stories of years of teaching.

Lindquist said if the group’s years of teaching in a rural school were multiplied by the number of rural schools just in Morrison County (151), the number of rural area children touched by these 37 teachers would be “phenomenal.”

“Now, times that by the 87 counties in Minnesota — just think of the mind-boggling number of students given an opportunity for an education in an era when it could not have happened in any other way, thanks to those who chose to be a country school teacher,” said Lindquist.

The teachers enjoyed violin music provided by 11-year-old James Thompson of Brainerd, whose rendition of “Edelweiss” brought tears to some of the teachers’ eyes.

A birthday cake arranged for Irene Lashinski, was made by one of her first-grade students in an Upsala area rural school, Mary (Ripplinger) Sowada of Holdingford. Irene’s husband, Gene, pulled off the surprise.

“How neat was that,” said Lindquist.

up arrow