Wright ends 44-year teaching career

Posted 6/3/99

When Norma Wright walked out the doors of Kalona Elementary yesterday, it signaled the end of a te…

By Mary Marek

When Norma Wright walked out the doors of Kalona Elementary yesterday, it …

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Wright ends 44-year teaching career


When Norma Wright walked out the doors of Kalona Elementary yesterday, it signaled the end of a te…

By Mary Marek

When Norma Wright walked out the doors of Kalona Elementary yesterday, it signaled the end of a teaching career that began in Keokuk 44 years ago. It ended a 31-year career of teaching in the Kalona Elementary School. And, although both parents were teachers (her father taught agriculture and her mother, elementary education), teaching wasn’t even Wright’s goal when she entered college in Boulder, Colorado, almost 50 years ago.

Even though she worked as a substitute elementary teacher during her high school years in Belle Plaine, she was aiming for a career in social work when she began her college education. But after a year in Boulder, she came back to Iowa and transferred to what was then Iowa State Teacher’s College in Ames, going year-round and earning her teaching degree in three years.

Wright’s first teaching job was in Keokuk in 1955. After marrying Earl Wright in 1956, the couple moved to Ames, where she taught until the birth of their first child.

“In those days, a woman with a child younger than nine months wasn’t allowed to teach,” Wright recalled.

Over the next 30 years, except for breaks when each of her children were born, Wright taught in public schools in Ballard, Kelley, Omaha, Libertyville and Fairfield, before moving to Kalona in the late ‘60s so her husband could attend law school in Iowa City.

Since then, Wright says, “I have taught in every section of the Kalona Elementary School. My first year here, I taught a third grade class in one of the old white school houses that were set up behind the original building.

“Then I taught sixth grade in the metal temporary buildings. I taught fourth grade many years in the addition, which housed the gym/cafeteria.

“This year was my first and last in the final addition to the school, again teaching fourth.”

Wright has seen many changes over the years, but said she thinks, “the greatest change has to do with technology. Having access to a computer and Internet has been a boon as far as finding the most recent information in our science and social studies research, as well as having computer programs available for children to practice many skills.”

As much as she appreciates the new technology, she goes on to note that, “The children are far more comfortable with the computers than I am, but I am learning!”

Technology isn’t the only thing that has changed in Wright’s classrooms over the years. She also observed that “today’s fourth graders are yesterdays sixth graders”, referring to the fact that children today seem to grow up much faster than children in the ‘50s and ‘60s.

What will she miss after retirement? “I’ll miss being in the classroom and working with kids, planning units and activities that correlate with what they’re learning.” She won’t miss the paperwork.

She’ll also miss working with student teachers in the elementary school. “I have had the privilege of working with eight student teachers while at Kalona,” she said. “Two of them, Barb Brenneman and Beth Swantz, teach at Kalona Elementary. Barb Gingerich teaches in a nearby district.

“This last year was exciting because Mrs. Swantz and I were able to do many activities and lessons with both fourth grades working together, since the rooms have a folding door which gave us a large open space in which to work.”

Now that she’s leaving the classroom behind, Wright plans to, “hang loose and get to know my new grandchild,” that her daughter, Donna King of Williamsburg, is expecting in July. She also plans to travel to Ithaca, New York in June to spend some time with her son, Robert, who works for Cornell University as a dining room supervisor in the Statler Hotel.

Later, she will spend time visiting with daughter, Katie Burns, and her family who live on a ranch near Akron, Colorado.

Wright’s other children are Sharon Wright, who is a social worker in Waterloo, and Linda Ogden, a court reporter in Davenport. Wright notes that both daughters chose careers she had considered before deciding to become a teacher.

In addition to classroom work, Wright has been busy as a member in the National Education Association, Iowa State Education Association and Mid-Prairie Education Association. She served on many committees and as president and secretary of the MPEA as well as on the superintendent’s advisory committee for several years.

A member of Kalona’s United Christian and Baptist Church, she taught Sunday School, served as organist, church moderator and president of Women’s Fellowship. She also belongs to P.E.O., a philanthropic educational organization for women.

As she approached the end of her teaching career, Wright said, “Teaching has always been more ‘fun’ than work for me. The closer I come to my final day, the more I know just how much I will miss working with both the children and the great people of Kalona Elementary and Mid-Prairie.”

They’ll miss you, too, Mrs. Wright.