Many moons ago I attended country schools.
Going through some old pictures, I came across this one. It was taken at Richwood’s School, Henry County, Iowa, circa 1950-something.
Fifteen students and in the middle, our petite teacher, Mrs. Beryl Rich. She was tiny, but what a dynamo! What she lacked in size she made up for with good teaching skills, great classroom management, and kindness that made a shy country girl believe in herself. I’m the one top-left, peaking around fellow classmate, Delores Hinkle. Brother Stan, is grinning ear-to-ear with mischief, left of Mrs. Rich.
I mentioned Mrs. Rich in my introduction to my book, Corn Rose, published last year. She was such an inspiration to me in so many ways. I never once considered her size a handicap. She was larger than life to me—her encouragement and direction gave me the incentive to go beyond what was expected of me. It’s probably one of the reasons I became a teacher and writer.
We were all just country kids. As you can tell by our dress, none of us could boast of privileged backgrounds or breeding. Products of Middle America, hardworking stock, many of our parents held little more than an elementary education. By today’s standards we would have been eligible for all sorts of subsidy programs and assistance. Funny…we didn’t know we were underprivileged. It was a simpler time and place where we played, studied, and learned in a small space, from a larger than life woman.
Our classroom was shared by all eight grades. There was little interference from school administrators or requirements to meet certain standards, but yet we achieved and failed as all students do! There were no excuses or blame for our behavior or report cards. Like a family of ducklings, we followed the trail our teacher laid before us.
As I looked at the photograph, and the youthful faces looking back, I wondered what became of my fellow classmates. Each one with a story to tell, a story of hope, disappointment, joy, loss, and dreams met or unfulfilled. But each one knows they shared a unique experience and that they were once loved by a dedicated educator.
Thank you Mrs. Rich! You are remembered and loved.
Your faithful sixth grader,
Karen Ross Epp
PS..If you’re in the picture or know someone in it, I would love to hear from you.