It isn’t every day that I get inducted into the Delaware City Schools Hall of Fame, but since I did last week, I want to write about some of the things I had planned to say.
I was told I would have to give a speech that could last only five minutes. So, I sat down and started writing about my favorite teachers during my years in the Delaware City School District. I got carried away and I didn’t stop writing until I had written about all my favorite teachers in both elementary and high school. Of those, I chose four of the best ones and planned to use them in the speech. So, I had my daughter time me, and I started in. Just as I finished the first one, she told me that my five minutes were up. No way could I only talk about one, but my five minutes were up. Rules are rules, so I decided I would choose just Mr. Conger of my fifth and sixth grades at East School. The school is now called “Conger Elementary” because it was named for him long after I had left to go on to Willis High School.
I had several reasons to choose Mr. Conger. First was because he was nice all the time. And it helped to get to know him since he was my part-time teacher in the fifth and then again in the sixth grade. Nothing else comes to mind about the fifth grade, except he seemed to be always just talking to us. I remember him talking about the pictures of presidents that were on the wall. And also, it is important to let you know that he also had us memorize the western states.
So, the next year, when the sixth grade came, I was prepared for something in class one day. He asked if there was anyone in the room who remembers memorizing the western states, north to south and east to west. And when he asked that question, my hand went up in the air. (I didn’t know that no one else had raised their hand.) So, I remembered him saying, “Kay, stand up.” So, I did, but my heart was pounding. I was going to have to prove that I had a right to put my hand up in the air. Then he told me to name the states in question. So, I said “Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, Washington, Oregon, California.” When I finished, Mr. Conger said the nicest things about my being able to do that. It was something about how great it was that after one whole year, I was able to recite all those states. I wonder what he would have thought if he knew I have remembered them after 74 years, since that happened in 1948.
The next teacher I wrote about was Mr. Felts, the Willis High School math teacher. He was so good that I wanted to become a high school math teacher just like him.
The reason I liked his class so much was because the answers were in the back of the book, and he gave open-book tests!! How good can it get?? When I did my homework, I knew it was right because I had checked it in the back of the book. If my answer was wrong, I worked on the problem until I got the correct answer. And as for open-book tests, he always said that in life you can look up the answer to any problem you have. You just have to know where to look. The example I like to use is that if you need to know how much air to put in the tire of your car, just open the driver’s side door and it will be pasted in the edge of the opening.
When I ran for the office of Delaware County recorder, I was out campaigning and went to his house. (That was in 1988 when I had been out of high school for 34 years.) When I knocked on his door, his wife answered and he saw me and said, “Come on in, Kay.” Getting to speak to him as an adult, I asked him why I ever took all those classes of algebra, geometry, and trigonometry? I had never used any of them. He said, “Those classes taught you to think.” He added, “You must have thought a lot about running for office before you filed, didn’t you?” Yes, I did. He was right. I thought a lot about running before I actually did. Thinking about it must have helped because I won and spent four terms as Delaware County recorder before I retired.
I am glad to have the opportunity to write about two of my favorite teachers in the Delaware City School District. Maybe in the future I can write about another one, for instance, Mrs. Hearn.
Kay E. Conklin is a retired Delaware County recorder who served four terms. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a degree in sociology and anthropology.