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McDermott, Lorraine Nugent (Teacher)


Posted By: Linda Ziemann, volunteer (email)
Date: 9/22/2015 at 13:51:08

Plymouth County Country Schools

by Lorraine Nugent McDermott

I, Lorraine Nugent McDermott feel privileged to have begun my teaching career in the rural schools of Plymouth county. It was both a rewarding and challenging experience.

I began teaching with only one year of college educational training but the experience and enthusiasm I gained from teaching was a far better education. Later I enrolled in night and summer classes and received my BA from Westmar and a MA from Morningside.

My first rural school, Henry #8 in 1946, had a coal-burning stove. As my Dad had stoked the stove at home this was a new and challenging task for me. On Monday winter mornings, I’m sure it was as cold or colder than the outside temperature. I managed to get the school fairly warm before the students arrived. In later schools, Elkhorn #5 and #9 we did have oil burning stoves. What an improvement! Of course the outdoor toilets were prevalent at this time but we did have electricity. Water was brought in from a near-by farm. We all brought our pail lunches but at times we could place jars of soup, etc. on the stove. At one school, one day a week a different parent would provide a hot dish. Oh how we enjoyed this during those wintry days!

The curriculum was decided by the county superintendent, Christine Petersen. She was an outstanding educator and exemplified as so. When she came to your school to evaluate you, you were a bit concerned. She complimented and criticized where needed. Books and supplies could be purchased at our town pharmacy.

There was a revolving packet of library books and records that were rotated every six weeks. Certain songs and games were designated to be taught each six weeks period. A follow-up record was kept and sent to the superintendent’s office.

Each fall before school began the Plymouth County teachers met at the Court House where Miss Petersen presided. Much information was given at this time.

The teacher was to preside at all recesses and join in the activities. Fun was had by all! I think this helped to eliminate discipline problems too. I was most fortunate in not having any serious discipline problems.

Yes, it would have been beneficial to have more reference and library books, and even games for winter recesses. I read a chapter from a good book each day. Children did not have TV, video games and other modern distractions, so I believe they were more conducive to learning.

As many schools had all nine grades (K-8th) it kept a teacher very busy scheduling classes and activities. Many of the older students helped the younger ones. I was pleased that my eighth graders did well on their pre-freshman exams.

Christmas programs were both a challenge and a highlight of the year. The children performed well in plays, songs, and poems. Parents provided lunch afterwards and sometimes we were awarded by Santa’s presence.

At one of my schools one morning I was alone in the school and heard a loud noise above the ceiling and in the walls. I placed a chair on my desk and climbed up to the ceiling door. Here I saw a happy family of raccoons. I don’t think they’d come to learn!

We planted trees, observed nature, did projects and, as soil conservation was becoming quite prevalent, we observed and studied ways to conserve our soil.

At another school we were plagued with so many mice we had a family mouse-trap contest. We certainly lessened the mouse population that winter.

Once my school was broken into and the record player was stolen. That truly gave me an eerie feeling!

All of my school secretaries and parents were very accommodating, grateful and helpful. At some schools we would have a social gathering at the end of the year.

When the present teacher bids for a free planning period, I think, “Wouldn’t that have been a welcoming gift to the rural school teacher”.

I sincerely tried to do my best as a rural school teacher and I truly enjoyed the children and teaching them.

After teaching in the rural schools, I taught thirty-seven years in the kindergarten classroom at Kingsley-Pierson schools. I still volunteer and substitute occasionally.

As for the future of my rural school students, I sincerely hope they have found happiness and success in their lives. I am both friends to many of them and I have taught both some of their children and grandchildren at K-P.

~Lorraine Nugent McDermott taught Elkhorn No. 5, 8 & 9 and Henry No. 8 spanning the years 1946-1954

Volunteer Tutor Is At Home in Classroom
Woman Taught Kindergarten in K-P for 37 years
By Judy Hayworth, Sioux City Journal correspondent

KINGSLEY, Iowa -- It was Lorraine McDermott's "day off" from volunteer tutoring, but where was she? At school -- volunteering with kindergarten roundup eye testing. She led each child gently by the shoulder to the marked line, then walked to the eye chart and began.

In the 61 years since she completed her college education, McDermott has been an educator -- as a teacher, substitute teacher and volunteer tutor.

For more than 15 years since her retirement as Kingsley-Pierson Community School kindergarten teacher of 37 years, McDermott has been a volunteer tutor serving second- and third-graders. Four mornings per week, she and one or two students sit at a desk, heads bent over work given by teachers.

"I do not know what I would have done without Lorraine volunteering all these years. She has touched countless third-graders' lives with her patience and gentle firmness while helping with work," says Sandy Krieg, a third-grade teacher. "Sometimes she does flash card drills of the math facts; sometimes helps with a particular skill that students are having trouble with. Whatever I ask her to do, she does it with a smile."

Career Begins in Rural School

After graduating from Union High School in 1945, McDermott attended Western Union College, the predecessor to Westmar in Le Mars. After one year she was asked to teach at a country school, Henry No. 8 in Henry Township, east of Kingsley.

"Teaching that first year gave me more education than I had received the year at college," McDermott says.

That year she lived with her parents, Arthur and Etta Nugent. A typical school day began early as she started the fire with cobs and coal so the building would be warm before children arrived.

"On Monday mornings, the school would be as cold as it was outside. Water left there over the weekend was frozen. I had to do all of the cleaning and bring the water in. There were only outdoor toilets. The teacher was outside at every recess," she recalls.

McDermott acknowledges there were few library books, but the school did receive a different set of books and records every six weeks, a rotation established among county schools.

Despite limitations, McDermott said she believes students received a good education.

"Younger students were helped with their reading by the older children who were good students," she says. "Our texts were very good, and we had a good curriculum set up by our county superintendent. I feel students valued an education more then than many do today. Parents were very accommodating, and siblings encouraged one another. It was a demanding but wonderful experience."

McDermott taught all nine grades (K-8) a few of the five years she was in the rural school. In those first years, she earned about $100 per month for nine months.

In 1947, she married Leo McDermott, and in 1954 began teaching at Kingsley. Later, she earned her B.A. from Westmar College and a master's degree from Morningside.

Sixteen years after she retired she continues to teach by volunteering.

"I know I would have been grateful for someone to work with some of my kindergartners who were having trouble learning the alphabet or other difficulties," McDermott says. "I'm glad to see the students correct or complete class work they have been working on and the improvement I see in their reading over a year's time. Any kind of improvement I truly appreciate."


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