‘Teaching was for me’

From our January 2013 issue

By Viola Larson – Melfort, Sask.

I was brought into this world on June 28, 1933, by a midwife in the Brockington, Sask. district. I attended North Star School No. 1844 from Grades 1 to 8 and then Kinistino School for Grades 9 to 12.

Following graduation, I attended Saskatoon Normal School in 1952 and graduated from Saskatchewan Teachers’ College the following spring. All my early years, I wanted to be a teacher. My one and only sister sibling, who was eight years my junior, and I played school by the hour. In later years I reminded my sister of the wonderful “home schooling” she had prior to entering school.

Following graduation from SNS/STC came the real teacher testing. Late one evening came a phone call from the school inspector of the Kinistino School Unit saying he had a school he thought I might be interested in teaching at. He went on to explain that there were 9 grades, 28 students, and a very supportive community of parents.

I accepted and in the fall of 1953 started my 3-year stint in the Iranistan School District northeast of Birch Hills. They were good years, with well-behaved students, hard workers, and very supportive parents.

What did we have at Iranistan School? The usual for country schools in the ‘50s, we had a schoolhouse with limited books and resources (travelling book boxes), a barn, an icehouse, privileged with indoor septic toilets, a crock for drinking water, a sand table, and hectograph pads.

Recesses and noonhours were spent in a variety of games such as softball, soccer, tag games, steal sticks, prisoner’s base, red rover, circle games of all descriptions, and Norwegian ball, when there were only a few players.

My dear parents supported this fledgling teacher that first year. My father, a carpenter, built a stage for our Christmas program and my mother sewed the blue-denim curtains for the stage. My sister, a pianist, came and accompanied us all for our singing. It was a family affair!

Christmas programs, Valentine’s parties, field days, picnics, ball games, and pie socials were yearly high points. I remember hearing “they tied the teacher to the flagpole,” mice in the school, pie socials and bachelors bidding on the teacher’s pie, Monday mornings 50-below zero and no heat in the school since Friday, and a homemade Valentine saying, “I will work my heart out for you.” They all did! I received a yearly salary of $1,900.

From Iranistan it was into the Kinistino School, teaching Grades three and four for 30 years. That many years with the same age level was wonderful.

In the mid-1960s it was my privilege to be Supervisory Assistant and librarian for the Kinistino School Division. There was a real thrust to put libraries into the schools. I learned much from this experience with equipping libraries, testing, and remedial reading. I missed my students. You can’t talk to books, so I returned to the classroom. I don’t remember writing a resume, filling out a job application or going for an interview.

I retired after 35 years of teaching on June 30, 1988. I can honestly say, I enjoyed my first year, my 35th year, and all 33 in-between. Teaching was for me!

I also remember jelly pad copies, cranking out copies, pushing the button for copies, radio school broadcasts, films from Regina, filmstrips in the library, inspectors, superintendents, directors of education, school units, and school divisions.

How privileged I was to do all my teaching in the Kinistino School Division, a division with a keen interest and concern for the betterment of its students and teachers.

At my 70th birthday celebration, I was pleasantly surprised and touched to have former students and many teacher colleagues in attendance.

Next year, 2013, marks 60 years since over 300 graduated from Normal School Teachers’ College in Saskatoon and I started teaching that fall in 1953.