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1878-1969Martha Swan was a school teacher for many years in the Minonk area. She taught at the Grant country grade school 2 miles west of Minonk and also at the Minonk elementary school on the west side. The following text is a tribute to Miss Swan by one of her former pupils, Joan (Johnson) Schneider.
My first school teacher, taught at the Minonk West Side School, along with Gertrude Beal and Marie Ryan, which completed the entire staff for the first five grades of my formal education. What I most remember was some of her first words of wisdom when I was introduced to the Dick and Jane reader. Quote Miss Swan, "First I will teach you to read and then you will read to learn." Quite a mouthful for a six year old to absorb, but as the years went by I found out what she meant.
I was taught phonics math reading and the "Blessed" palmer method writing. On yes, last of all I can never forget those flash cards. Then came music, Miss Swan introduced me to the bird whistle and tambourine and Miss Martha at the piano. The space outside the classrooms was our stage for the many plays and public speaking contests that Miss Swan presented and directed, was held.
These years I attended west side school were the height of the depression and one more thing I remember were the closets in Martha Swan’s classroom filled with all sizes of clothing. She was successful in her contacts to find people and stores to donate also, school books, pencils, tablets with mittens and stocking caps mixed in, all in labeled boxes. These were given out to ones in need.
Now came the meals. Martha had her contacts for meals. Various ones in Minonk were on a list to call for lunch for those she felt were not getting enough to eat. My mother was one on the list she would call and say, "Dorothy I am sending some children home with Malora and Joan for lunch so make an extra large pot of chili today." Enough said.
Then came the day that forever remains in my mind. I was ten years old when Miss Swan called me to the hall to put her arms around me and say, "Malora has gone to Heaven this morning." I am not sure in my mind, as it was fuzzy; but soon I was in her car going home.
Two years passed in Miss Swan’s classroom when my report card said I would now be going to third grade. That day I came home crying and my mother asked me "What has happened?" I promptly told her I had passed my grades and had to go on to the next grade and why did I have to do this. I liked my desk, I liked my room, and above all I liked my teacher, Miss Swan, and did not want to move on.
Miss Martha Swan a devout Presbyterian served her church as a member, Sunday school teacher and Elder. I was in her Sunday school class and because of this was able to go to summer camp at Lake Bloomington, The Passion Play, Picnics, Christmas and Children’s Day Pageants. No one left behind. She was the one who purchased our Sunday school pins each year for perfect attendance.
Martha lived on the farm her family owned where they farmed and also raised turkeys. When they arrived at my parents’ home on Thanksgiving and Christmas they were oven ready. For those who could not pay for them they were never left out. We were all guaranteed a fine day. Miss Swan also set up a scholarship she funded for those who went on to further their education.
Miss Swan born 1878-1969 continued her giving and caring life style and was recognized for her achievements for her 50 years of teaching. Truly a fine lady!
By Joan (Johnson) Schneider