Don Rominger, Jr. 

Memories Of Teaching At New Hope School

Series: New Hope School | Story 1

September 5, 2019

When the 1961 spring session at Oklahoma Baptist University ended, I found that I could take just 15 more credits and graduate in three years. However, since OBU allowed a maximum of only nine credits for its eight-week summer school, I had to find a way to complete my college work in order to find a teaching job. I persuaded them to allow me to take ten credit hours then found a three credit hour “correspondence” course at the University of Oklahoma and two hours in Oklahoma School Law at East Central State College to complete my teacher ed curriculum.

I sailed through my OBU courses by Aug. 1 and passed School Law with little difficulty. However, my OU professor proved slow in grading and returning my papers. Then went on vacation! August plodded forward with neither a degree nor a job.

My former Tecumseh Superintendent Ralph Spencer had offered me a position teaching grades 1-8 in a two room school at New Hope, four miles northwest of Tecumseh, but I did not qualify for an elementary certificate, so that was out.

With time running out I unsuccessfully interviewed for the football and basketball coaching job at the small town of Davenport and as a last gasp I also logged an interview for teaching, and coaching basketball, at Lacey, a high school of 33 students in the wheat lands of Kingfisher County. I would have had to room in the basement of one of the school patrons, so I hesitated until the job went to someone else

So in mid August, I finally called Mr. Spencer to learn if New Hope could conceivably use me. Mr. Spencer promised to help me acquire a temporary elementary certificate, and on Aug. 20 I signed a contract for teaching all subjects in grades 5 through 8 for a salary of $3,400. I also agreed to drive the small school bus for $25 monthly.

I had less than a week to prepare for my teaching responsibilities, and in addition by the first day of classes on Aug. 25, my OU instructor still hadn’t graded my final examination. I wasn’t certified to teach school! My first warrant was to be issued on Sept. 20, but I could not be paid.

I had already traded my 1951 Chevrolet with a leaky transmission for a new 1961 Ford Falcon with a standard three speed for $2,268, plus tag and tax,financed over three years. With a new car payment, I would have been in difficult straits.

As typical for a 21 year old, I hadn’t worried about such trivial details.

From Aug. 25 onward, I was working for nothing. Finally, on Sept. 15 I was notified that my OU grade had been recorded. I hand carried my transcript to the State Department of Education the following Monday and was issued my teaching certificates on the 19th in time for my first warrant to be paid on the 20th of September.

Oklahoma at statehood had been home to nearly 5,000 one and two room schools. But as rural Oklahoma passed away during the dust bowl and WW II, so did the country school house. By 1961 only 12 (two had formerly had high schools) of these schools remained in Pottawatomie County, and one of them was New Hope Dependent District No. 41.

I am the last surviving teacher at New Hope School.

(This is Part 1 of a series. Watch for the next installment soon.)


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