My Life in School

By Agnes Hesseldahl Sharp

I started school in District 120, Faribault County when I was five. It was a one room school. The desks were not of the sizes to accommodate different sized children. Some were double seats. My desk was one of those. My seatmate was Newell Whitehurst who must have been in the eighth grade. My feet dangled many inches from the floor. The first afternoon, I fell asleep. My teacher was Millie Christensen, who later married Dr. Claire Krosch of Blue Earth. I went to this school until I graduated the 8th grade.

I have many fond memories of this school. I remember one stormy morning when Papa carried me to school on his shoulders. I believe this was the same building my parents went to school (at). At least it was in the same spot.

I have told of some of the activities at this school. Basket socials were popular, and were held after a school program. It was a money-raising event, as well as a chance for neighbors to socialize. The social I remember took place during World War I. Mama made a beautiful battleship from cardboard. It was grey and silver, and even had "guns" on deck. There were made from clothespins. The top lifted off, and the base was filled with luscious food - sandwiches, pickles, cake, cookies, and even slices of pie. Eddie Hunt, a bachelor, bought mine for six dollars. I'll bet he was disappointed to find my name on it. Maybe not, Mom was an excellent cook.

I started my freshman year at Elmore High School in 1923. I stayed with Grandma and Grandpa Hesseldahl. Lillie, Evelyn and Joseph lived there, too. I slept with Lillie and Evelyn. Frank and Donald Snyder came there every day for dinner. My folks moved to Winnebago on March 11, 1924 - Lester's birthday. One weekend I got to ride the train from Elmore to Winnebago. It cost 20 cents. A thrill!

The next three years, I went to high school in Winnebago. In the fall and spring, I drove a buggy everyday. It was six-1/2 miles to town. I kept the horse in Ogburn's barn, across from Parker College (Baptist Home now). Then I walked the rest of the way, at least one mile. The first winter I stayed with Dr. Thoreson and family. I babysat the two little girls and helped with dishes and such. Papa still had to pay ten dollars a month. The other winters I stayed with Loren Harman's, next to the Methodist Church. She charged two dollars a week. Gladys Jacobsen stayed there too.

I graduated in 1927, and I had been accepted for teacher training at the Blue Earth School. Class size was limited to fourteen, so I felt fortunate to be chosen. Marian Drake was the instructor, and there was no one who could have given us better preparation.

Jobs were scarce, but I was hired in the Brush Creek (Podunk) school for 80 dollars a month for the eight month term. I stayed at Amundsen's and Olsen's for 14 dollars a month. The next year was '29 and '30. I taught in Dist. 120 again, home a year, then one year in the Peter's school by Elmore. The next three years I taught grades 1, 2, 3, and 4 in Guckeen. We had the De Leon children, who had come from Mexico. Joe and Martha were in the first grade but spoke little English. I also had Hector, Andrew and Alfred. One day Alfred sprained his foot badly, so I carried him into the house. He was seven. Later he became the national wrestling champion in his weight class. That is my claim to fame.

After Guckeen, I went to Dist. 19, the school north of Immanuel Church. I stayed there five years, until the district was consolidated with the Blue Earth System. I became a first grade teacher there.

During this time I started taking classes to complete my two year certificate. One summer, Alice (probably Alice Hesseldahl, the wife of cousin Conrad, and a lifelong teacher in the Elmore schools, Ed.) and I drove to summer school in Albert Lea. Then, there were night classes and summer sessions at Mankato until I got my B.S. in elementary education, in 1956. Jerry was a student there, too.

My superintendent in Blue Earth, A. L. Nelson, convinced me that I would be qualified to teach the class for the educable mentally retarded. In 1958 it became mandatory for the district to provide classes for these children. At this time, the class had been in existence in Blue Earth for one year. So, Mr. Nelson got permission from the State Dept. and the Mankato State U, which allowed me to teach while I took classes in that field. He even convinced them that student teaching should be waived.

My first class had ages ranging from six to sixteen - all grade levels. There were sixteen in the class. Since it was a new program, there were no materials that were specifically geared for their needs. As a result, we had to use leftover books and workbooks. But it worked out. We had happy times, with lots of love.

I was working toward my M.S. in this discipline, through night classes and summer school. For my thesis, I did a study of my class. The main thrust was to show achievement according to mental age instead of their chronological age. I passed my orals and received my M.S. in 1965.

What a thrill to get that hood! But most of all, it was to have my parents, Jerry, Ellie, and Mark, and all the rest of my family there. Harold came from Long Prairie. I am eternally grateful to each one of them for the help they gave me, and for taking care of Jerry when I was in summer school. It took twenty years, but we made it! Thank you, Jerry!

In 1965, I moved to Stillwater where I taught in special education until 1975, when I retired. The staff of Lily Lake had a luncheon and party for me at the Lowell Inn. They had invited my entire family and I didn't know it. It was most wonderful.

Since 1975 I have enjoyed every day of retirement. It took a while to get used to the fact that I didn't belong to a group anymore. But I'm flexible. I adjusted, after I quit waking up at six a.m. every morning.

I taught for 35 years, so, for most of the time from ages five to sixty-five, I was in a classroom. I have a comfortable retirement income for which I bless Mama and Papa every day of my life. Their sacrifices, during the Depression, made it possible for me to take that first step in my education - Teacher Training in Blue Earth. (One of Anchor's favorite sayings was "Put your money into your head, not on your back." Ed.)

In 1982, I moved to Springfield, MO to be near Jerry and Ellie. It was a strange feeling to see all your possessions loaded into a moving van, and there you stood in an empty apartment.

My only regret is that I didn't make the move sooner, so that I could have been there while Mark was in school.