Friday, May 10, 2013

Sepia Saturday: Those Who Can


Sepia Saturday challenges bloggers to share family history through old photographs.





This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt featuring a chemistry classroom is right on target for Teacher Appreciation Week here in the United States.  Coming from a family of teachers, I’ve always disliked the old expression, “Those who can, Do.  Those that can’t, Teach.”  However, I was happy when some smart person added, “And those who can’t teach, teach teachers.”  OH YES! – you have to have sat through education courses and dealt with administrators to appreciate that brilliant declaration. 

I have written HERE and HERE about my great aunt Violetta Davis Ryan, mostly about her education at the Harrisonburg Normal School (now James Madison University – Go Dukes!).  So today, it’s about Violetta, the teacher.

Violetta Davis Ryan's school pictures
Some school pictures from Violetta's days teaching at Pleasant Hill School

Likely following her graduation from college, she lived at home in Shenandoah, Virginia and taught at a nearby elementary school.  However, in 1930 she began a long teaching career at Pleasant Hill School in Harrisonburg, Rockingham County. 

Originally the school was a typical one-room frame building used for community meetings, but in 1875 local citizens decided to convert it into a school.  Fifteen years later they added a second room and then a third room in 1907.  By 1916, the school population had grown such that a new building was necessary.

The original Pleasant Hill School
photo courtesy of Rockingham County Public Schools


Land was purchased across the street for the construction of a fine brick building.  The Pleasant Hill School operated from 1917 until 1963, and Violetta spent 28 years there.

Pleasant Hill School, Harrisonburg, VA
Pleasant Hill School, Harrisonburg, VA
photo courtesy of Rockingham County Public Schools


The school was used as a training facility for education majors at Madison College (formerly the Normal School and now James Madison University – Go Dukes!).  Violetta supervised countless student teachers.  Because of that role, she was considered part of the faculty at the college.  Her official title was Supervisor of Junior High. 

Violetta Davis Ryan at Madison College graduation
Violetta is second from the left.
That's her husband Dick Ryan
along with some of her graduating student teachers.


In 2004, I received a lovely email from one of Violetta’s former students:

Just wanted you to know that your Great Aunt Mrs. Ryan was the Principal and my 7th Grade Teacher at the old Pleasant Hill Elementary School in the years of 1943-44.  I started there in the 2nd Grade and remember her well.

Further, she used to give me jobs cleaning her house back when I was young, since our family lived on the farm east of Harrisonburg, now the home of the new James Madison University! 

Just thought I would let you know!

[Name withheld for privacy]
Harrisonburg, VA


Sixty years later and he still had fond memories of his seventh grade teacher.  

And that is why those who CAN, TEACH – the hope of making a difference. 

Source:

Huffman, Larry.  History of Rockingham County Public Schools.  Rep.  Rockingham County Public Schools, 2001.  Web.   8 May 2013.  http://www.rockingham.k12.va.us/rcps_history/rcpshistory.html


Your assignment is to visit as many Sepia Saturday participants as you can.  So run along now.  Don’t be tardy.


42 comments:

  1. How nice that one of her students took the time to write you.

    ReplyDelete
  2. It is unusual and interesting to see similar pictures of Violetta through the years grouped together like that.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have more school pictures but they aren't dated.

      Delete
  3. She must have made quite an impression for him/her to have such fond memories of her and to have taken the time to write to you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. She must have! She amassed a lot of friends over the years.

      Delete
  4. I loved seeing the progression of her photos as well as the schools. I thought it was so interesting that you received that letter from one of her students. How did he find you? Was it from a post on Sepia Saturday?
    Nancy

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No, he contacted me through my website on Geocities "back in the day" before blogging came to be.

      Delete
  5. A lovely story and I too found the series of photographs particularly fascinating. I just wish I had something similar for my own aunt, also a teacher, but it did not seem to be the custom to keep this kind of record.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I didn't keep any of my own teacher photos either.

      Delete
  6. When I think back I remember two types of teacher - those who inspired you and those whose names you have forgotten who could not inspire anyone. Violetta would have been in the first group, obviously.

    ReplyDelete
  7. A smart teacher who gets the pupils to do her housework !!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. HA -- yes, Violetta gave new meaning to "homework."

      Delete
  8. What a great email—and what fun to see the pictures of Violetta!

    Have a happy weekend. ☺

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, it was great opening that email to find a message from someone who thought enough of Violetta to write me. I'm glad I saved it.

      Delete
  9. How fun to have that series of photographs of your Aunt Violetta. She is just beautiful, even more so when older, I think. She looks so happy in every one of the photographs.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. She was a happy person. She had a great laugh too. (My favorite picture is the hairdo in 48-49.)

      Delete
  10. This is another perfect post, Wendy. I think we all can see a favorite teacher in your Aunt's photo timeline. And teaching teachers was a special skill that probably left a grain of her experience that is still part of some teachers somewhere today.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm sitting here thinking about how my teaching style and standards were influenced by some of my favorite teachers. We could have a deep philosophical discussion on how teachers impart something that resembles DNA.

      Delete
  11. That comment has always riled me too. Good teachers are hard to find and when they're good they are GREAT!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So true. Teaching is not an 8-3:00/9 months job.

      Delete
  12. I agree with the comments above. I really like the photos over the years too. The 1946 is my favourite.

    You shouldn't "judge a book by its cover" but Violetta looks to have a very calm and caring nature, to be very serious and to the point but easily amused?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Maybe YOU are one of Violetta's former students??? Indeed Violetta fit well in a man's world talking easily about world affairs, politics, business, but she loved a good joke and enjoyed the antics of children although she never had any of her own.

      Delete
  13. Violetta has the intelligent and engaging face of a good teacher. I don't think we ever forget the good ones! I know I remember some of them quite well even though I can't remember what I did yesterday.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Violeta really aged well, her last school photo looks just like her first, maybe with greyish hair. Yes the old time teachers are remembered fondly, I know the ones that made big impressions on me and were significant in my life too from elementary through high school. A good look at the teaching times of that area. I think "normal" was a common reference to colleges that educated teachers, I have found that here and in PA too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, "normal" was related to the word "norms" meaning standards.

      Delete
  15. I never liked those quotes either. Some teachers just have a way of bringing out the best in students, and what a wonderful thing to receive that letter!

    ReplyDelete
  16. Violetta was a teacher and a learner of people. She could ask the most insightful questions and have people talking for hours. She was a listener and a good adviser. I am so thankful she was our great aunt. Think of how advanced her thinking was! She made all of us what we are today.

    Favorite Violetta quote in her later years: "Getting old is HELL" I guess the teacher in her felt we were old enough to hear the word hell.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. She was forward-thinking, that's for sure.

      Delete
  17. How lucky you were to have your Aunt Violetta as a Teacher Role Model. I so love the progression of the school pictures. I have every year I taught and had teacher pictures made. The kids were always so funny when it came my turn to sit for a picture. Great memories...thanks!!!

    Sue CollectInTexasGal
    Mother's Day Tribute to Ancestor Grandmothers

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There were many years that I didn't even get a picture taken. I don't recall ever buying them when I did.

      Delete
  18. Wendy, this is all so cool. To be there 28 years; and being such an important part of the community ... and she aged beautifully as a bonus.

    What a wonderful post.

    Hugs,

    Kathy M.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Her hair turned grey fairly early, but it was white white white when I knew her. Thick hair too.

      Delete
  19. What a fitting tribute to your great aunt, Wendy! And how interesting to see her yearbook picture from all those subsequent years. She certainly left a legacy in her many students over the span of a long--and hopefully rewarding--career.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm certain many students never forgot her.

      Delete
  20. Teachers definitely play an important role in all of our lives.
    I remember some fondly, others, not so fondly.
    But I remember them.
    Glad that Violetta was among those one remembers fondly!!
    :)~
    HUGZ

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I remember most of my teachers for one reason or another. I usually liked my teachers, but looking back, I now realize which ones were not so good and why.

      Delete
  21. That's a charming series of portraits from your great aunt Violetta's School Days. She seems to have brought out the same smile for the photographer each year.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Interesting observation. I bet I do the same thing when ordered to smile for the camera - bring out a forced smile.

      Delete