Getting My First Teaching Job

Originally published Nov. 9, 1989.

By Zola Sample

I recall my first year teaching school. It was the fall of 1918 at North Keystone. The district was called Dry Lake.

In those days there was a large area, kinda sunken, where a large amount of water was formed between the hills. It stood the year around, forming a picturesque scene. There must have been an underground spring.

It provided a good place for boating, drinking water for livestock and other things for the folk who lived near the area. Also some fishing in summer and bathing. In winter it froze over and was a great place for ice skating and other amusements for youth.

I had gone to Edmond 10 weeks that summer to Teachers Normal to try for a third-grade teacher’s certificate. It was August and I was working in the hay in Creek Nation running a bull rake, helping Pa make hay.

I had passed the examination and had my teacher’s certificate ready to teach a school in Creek County. I had a school promised at Prairie View, but the school board turned me down. They claimed I was too small to handle the big boys.

You may know how disappointed I was when I went to get them to sign my contract. My first big disappointment concerning teaching jobs.

But I prayed over it as I had about many things. My payer was answered for the best. Mother had been trading at John Hubbard’s general store in North Keystone. She had been talking for weeks about me going to be a teacher. It paid off.

She had gotten acquainted with a lady, Mrs. Hildreth, the county judge’s wife. When she heard the school board had turned me down, she was greatly disappointed, as mother and I were.

She told us about an opening at Dry Lake. It was soon all arranged for me to take the team and hack, and we were on our way. By 2 o’clock mother and I were ready to take off to Keystone to find out about the primary teaching job.

I had taken a sponge bath, combed my long yellow hair and braided it in two braids and wound it around my head trying to make myself look like a dignified school teacher.

I borrowed a pink long dress from my pregnant sister-in-law, Girtha. It was two sizes too large (it was a maternity dress). I stuck my feet into my Sunday shoes and we climbed into the hack and drove, all fixed to sign my first teaching contract.

I know I must have been some sight that day, but I was enthused. I felt happy that I was going to try to get the job.

We arrived at Keystone and met the school board. They must have been anxious to close the deal for they soon explained the situation, not looking me over in such a shape I was in, a greenhorn country girl fresh from the hayfield.

I was soon signed up to teach the first four grades in the two-teacher Dry Lake school system. Ira Shafer was the principal. I met him and liked him right off the reel. He was a family man and friendly. Their folks knew my family.

I was to receive a salary of $85 a month. I could make five dollars extra if I would do the janitor work, which I took, making $90 a month for a seven-month term. I was on cloud 9.

I think mother and I trotted the little mule team about all the seven miles home, hurrying to relate the news to our family.

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