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Ida Mae Runyard's
Teaching Experience

as told to and
reported by her daughter

Editor's Notes:

Ida Mae Runyard was born on a farm in Salem, Wisconsin on December 9, 1900. Her parents were John Robert and Alma (nee Little) Runyard. Because they wanted their children to have a good education, they purchased the farm across the road from Emmons School, a mile south of Antioch, Illinois.

Ida was about 9 years old at the time but her schooling had been on an irregular basis so the teacher taught her as much as possible the first year and then put her in the 3rd grade the following year. She later got typhoid fever and missed several months of school but still managed, by eighth grade, to pass the required test to enter high school. A new high school was being built in Antioch so for the first school months in 1915, she attended school in the building that is currently the Antioch Historical Society on the grounds of the Antioch Grade School. The whole high school occupied just the top floor of the building. In April, the students were transferred to the new Antioch High School, where she graduated in 1919.

As a senior, she took extra subjects to prepare her for the pursuit of a teaching certificate. In the early 1900's, it was possible to teach school without a college degree by passing a proficiency test leading to a "teaching certificate". On Sundays, she didn't do anything except study. Since no one was usually at home (that was a day to go "visiting"), she would walk from the kitchen, through the dining room, the living room, the pantry and back to the kitchen reading aloud. In physiology, she had to trace a ham sandwich through the digestive tract and a drop of blood through the circulatory system in addition to naming all the bones and muscles in the body.

On school days, she walked back and forth between high school and the farm (about 1 1/2 miles); occasionally a neighbor would come by and give her a ride. When she got home she had chores to do such as washing the milk cans, feeding the chickens, helping with supper, washing dishes, etc. There wasn't a lot of time for studying after the chores were finished.

She took the certification exam in Waukegan, in March, 1919. When Mr. Adams, the high school superintendent, gave her her grades and saw the '99' in physiology, he said, "Why, Ida, I think instead of teaching school, you should study to be a doctor." But she didn't pass history or geography; always her two easiest subjects. It was because the tests were mostly about current events such as World War I. She remembers that one of the questions was about the Dardenells, which she knew nothing about. Current events were not easily available to her as her family had no radio or newspapers at home. But to this day, history is her favorite subject and her favorite books are biographies and other history books.

Ida's parents bought their first car, a Ford, in 1914. When she was ready to graduate from high school, her father stopped by the school to pick her up to take her to Waukegan to buy a graduation dress. A storm came up and before they could put the top up on the car, it started to pour and they both got soaked. Her father said they called it a "one man top" because that was all it was supposed to take to put it up, but Ida said it was more like a "one man, two women top". It was really difficult to put it up with the wind blowing and rain coming down.

After graduation, she went to DeKalb Normal School for 6 weeks to prepare to take the teacher certification test. If she had passed all the subjects on the exam she took previously in Waukegan, then she would not have had to go to DeKalb. The exam was held for two days in Sycamore, IL, a short distance from DeKalb. Ida remembers the day of the test as an extremely hot day and the motion of the streetcar that they took made many of the students quite ill. It was difficult to take the tests under those conditions and Ida had no confidence that she had passed the tests.

When she returned home, she learned that a Mr. White had asked for her to come and teach at Hockaday School. It was located just east of Millburn, close to the Millburn Cemetery. Her father told him that she didn't have her teaching certificate yet. Mr. White said that that didn't matter, that they knew her family and knew they were hard workers, and they needed a teacher.

Once Ida learned that she had passed the teacher's exam, her father took her to Mr. White's to discuss teaching at Hockaday. Mr. White wasn't home so they went to see Mr. Jamieson, the local blacksmith. He asked Mother how much salary she wanted. She replied that she wasn't sure...how much were they willing to pay? (She had already discussed salary with Anita Hucker, who had taught at Hockaday the previous year. Anita received $50 a month and had told Ida to ask for $55.) Mr. Jamieson said "Would you come for $60?" She was just 18 years old and that sounded like a lot of money, so she accepted immediately. The school board forwarded this information to Mr. Simpson's office, as required. However, Mr. Simpson, the county superintendent of schools, did not want her to teach...he wanted all of the teachers to have a college degree, not just a certificate.

Before school started, Mr. Simpson held a teacher's institute in Waukegan that lasted six days. Ida found a place to stay for the week with some of her neighbor's relatives. On the last day of the institute, as they were filing out, Mr. Simpson pulled Ida aside and said, "Miss Runyard, I received notification from the Hockaday School Board that they have hired you to teach for eight months for $60 per month. You go back and tell them that they have to have nine months of school, not eight. They can pay you $50 a month and at the end of the year give you a bonus of $30 which will total the $480 that your contract calls for." She decided she wasn't going to tell them what he said regarding the pay...she would just tell them that Mr. Simpson said that they had to have nine months of school. When her Dad came to take her home, they stopped in Millburn to tell Mr. Jamieson what Mr. Simpson had said regarding nine months of school. Mr. Jamieson thought that was odd since the previous year they had less than 8 months due to many different problems and Mr. Simpson hadn't said anything. So some members of the board went to see Mr. Simpson. Of course, he told them what he had previously told Ida....that they should spread the same salary over nine months time.

When the board returned, they told Ida what Mr. Simpson had told them about working another month but at the same wages she would get for 8 months. Since this was her first job, she had no experience negotiating a salary but replied: "you said you would pay me $60 a month and that is what I want". They brought her a new contract and after looking quickly at "9 months" and "$60/month", she started to sign it. Mr. Jamieson stopped her and told her to always read anything thoroughly....never to sign until she had read all of the fine print. She said she had read all she wanted to know and Mr. Jamieson acknowledged that the board was very pleased that she was coming to Millburn to teach.

The first morning of school, she went to a local home to get her school supplies. She wasn't sure what to expect but was still shocked to learn that the only "supplies" consisted of a box of chalk and a broom. Books were just scraps, no textbooks as we know them now. The blackboard was just that...a board painted black. There were seven or eight students the first day. The second day brought a couple more students. A few weeks later, the people at Newport School kicked out their teacher and asked Ida to teach their kids. She said it would take time away from the kids she was hired to teach so they would have to get permission from the school board. The man from Newport came back in about an hour and said Mr. White said it would be all right. So the next day she had three more kids.

Ida originally lived with one of the local families but there was so much chaos and stress in that family that Dr. Jamieson asked her to come live with them. They had a daughter, Doris, who was unable to attend school and was being tutored at home. Ida taught her in return for room and board.

Each Friday afternoon, Ida's father took her home for the weekend. The roads were not very good so in bad weather if there was snow, he used a bobsled instead of the car.

The school had two front doors, boys entered through one door and the girls used the other. The students had individual desks but used benches at the front of the room during group reading lessons. School started at 9:00 a.m., lunch was at noon when the kids ate what they had brought from home, and then they were dismissed at 4:00 p.m. Some of the students that Ida remembers teaching are Jessie Ann Strang, Kenneth Denman, Richard Martin, and Clifford Hook.

There were a couple of other local schools who wanted to consolidate with Hockaday...Dodge and Grubb, so five more kids came in early Spring. Some of the kids from these other schools had a reputation of being pretty tough. It was going to be a challenge to teach them as they knew she was a new teacher. The first day, when the toughest one came in the door, his lunch box flew open and everything fell out. Ida got down and picked up the food, cleaned it off and showed him where to sit. He ended up being the nicest, most cooperative student. One of her memories is about some of the kids who were so dirty that they had lice. They went home and said they got it from the teacher.

Near the end of the year she had a total of 25 students, so the board raised her wages to $75 a month for April and May. One of the new students was 17, she was only 18, but when he asked her how old she was, she said "Oh, 46!" He went home and told his family that his teacher was 46. His family was shocked because they thought she looked so young. The boy insisted that that was what she said. Ida was afraid that if he knew she was only a year older, he would be harder to manage.

Leslie Bonner, the Denmans, Clarence Bonner, Mr. White, and Mr. Jamieson were on the school board. The 1919-1920 school year was the last for Hockaday School. In September, 1920, the children entered the new Millburn School, built on Highway 45, just south of the village.

In the Spring, Mr. White asked her to teach at Oakland School....he was also on the board there. When he asked her to put in an application, she didn't know how to write one as she had no experience. Then Paul Ferris came to see her and asked her to come teach at Emmons School...right across the road from her parents' home. She didn't think she should teach the neighbors' kids....she also didn't think they would want to pay $110 a month, the amount that Oakland had quoted, but they said they would. She thought how nice it would be to live across the road from the school as she had to start a fire each morning. If she were right across the road, she could go back home and clean up for school. Also at night she could clean after the kids had gone home. So she taught at Emmons for 5 years. She said she would have taught longer but a neighbor thought she should teach cheaper since she was living at home. She asked him if her Dad should have to keep the teacher? When he didn't know how to answer that, she suggested that she would come stay with him for part of the year and he could keep the teacher.