Jane Lawson in her kindergarten days.
Jane Lawson in her kindergarten days.
Monday, August 13, 2012

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” was asked often of me as a child. My response was, “An artist, an author, and a teacher.” At the time, I wasn’t able to pick just one career. I wanted to be all three.

Toward the end of high school I had to decide on a college and a major. I selected the University of Iowa because it was far enough from home to make me feel independent. Iowa City was a whole new world for me to explore. I especially liked the diversity I saw when my mom and I visited the campus. After meeting with the adviser I decided upon a double major in journalism and mass communications and studio art. I figured maybe I could do something involving advertising.

For two years I immersed myself in journalism and art. I enjoyed both sets of classes. I was selected by my journalism professor to write for the North Liberty Leader and wrote a few stories for their local newspaper.

The summer after my sophomore year I headed to Spirit Lake to be a counselor at Camp Foster YMCA. I spent my summers there as a child from the time I was in early elementary to junior high school.

Toward the end of my 10-week stint as a camp counselor, I called my mom, Ann Wilson, and said, “I think I want to change my major.” She guessed, “To education?” She was right and was happy with my decision as she had been an elementary teacher in her younger years. My uncle, Jim Wilson, was also pleased with my decision. He sailed me a letter telling he was proud I was now an education major.

Thankfully due to the Des Moines Area Community College credits I completed during the summer of my junior and senior years of high school, I wasn’t too far behind even with a double major and major change. I kept my studio art major in case I wanted to teach art and was on track to student teach.

My student-teaching experience was arranged by former sixth-grade Fairview teacher, Cheryl Greiman VanOverbeck, now Cheryl Henkenius. At the time she was principal at Beaver Creek Elementary School in Johnston. Cheryl selected a teacher from her staff to be my cooperating teacher. Although Cheryl wasn’t my sixth-grade teacher when I was at Fairview it will still nice to be around her cheerful face for a semester.

Cheryl, now principal at Timber Ridge Elementary in Johnston, was one of my customers on my longtime paper route in Carroll. I delivered newspapers from the time I was in third grade until the start of my sophomore year in high school. When I would drop off her newspaper, I envisioned her checking papers in the evening and I always hoped she was home so I could say hello. One year she left me a little Christmas gift that made me feel very special.

After student teaching and graduating from college, I had my heart set on becoming a classroom teacher, just like the ones I admired so much at Fairview Elementary. However, my first job offer was one of an ELL (English Language Learners) teacher, so I took it.

As it turned out, being an ELL teacher is a perfect fit for me. I enjoy teaching small groups of children from different cultures and learning about their families and traditions.

After writing about Anne Poland, longtime guidance counselor at Fairview Elementary, and her sister, Mary Halbur, in June, fond memories of my seven years at Fairview came flooding back to me. Fairview is the place where I grew the most. I decided to contact those who inspired me to become a teacher and asked them to submit their favorite family recipes.

This story is about my early elementary years at Fairview and is the first in a series of three.

Kindergarten — Mrs. Staiert

I can still picture the pencil can my mom made for me to take to kindergarten. It was a soup can covered in red, quilted, floral material. She glued coordinating rick rack along the top and bottom of the can. We were asked to bring jumbo-sized crayons to fill our can, and I can still hear the “clink” of those crayons as I dropped them into the can.

I was in afternoon kindergarten, which meant after I ate lunch (usually Campbell’s chicken noodle soup) while watching “Betty Lou and the Magic Window” on TV. Then I ran across the street to catch the bus driven by Barb Gifford.

Each of the kindergarten teachers had a class color. Mrs. Staiert’s was yellow. I recall watching intently as she sat on her chair leading the calendar helper of the day.

My favorite part of the day was when all the kindergartners gathered in the sunken carpeted area in the middle of the pod. Miss Brady played the piano, and we all sang along. My favorite was the song about the colors of the rainbow.

At Christmastime, Mrs. Staiert asked us all to bring an ornament from home to hang on our class tree.

Scalloped Oysters
Linda Staiert

Linda’s mom made this dish at Thanksgiving and Christmas as a very special treat. Linda said no one has been able to make the dish exactly like her mom, as a lot of love was added each time she made it. Linda still makes the dish today, and she always thinks of her mom and the wonderful things she passed on to her. Linda’s family looks forward to this holiday treat each year.

1 quart oysters
3 eggs, beaten
1 pint half & half
2 sleeves of saltine crackers, finely ground
Combine eggs and ½ of the half & half. Add oysters and crackers. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add remaining half & half. Mixture should be mushy. Preheat oven and bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes.

First Grade — Mrs. Chambers

First grade meant learning to read and practicing my handwriting. It was fun to have Mrs. Chambers as my teacher, as she had a son, Bill, the same age as me. Mrs. Chambers handed out “super stars” at the end of the day to students who did a good job and followed directions. I collected many super stars and took each one home to hang on my closet door.

At the end of the school year my mom and I made a cake to take to Mrs. Chambers and her family. It was a cake in the shape of a T-shirt and on it was written, “Super Star Teacher.” I was very proud of the star I drew with icing on the cake, and I was even more proud to present it to Mrs. Chambers at her front door.

White Cookies
Kay Chambers

Kay received this recipe from Esther Chambers Halverson soon after they moved to Carroll in 1974. It’s a favorite of her three sons, Bill, John and Matt. Kay recalls the boys helping her roll out the dough and frosting the cookies. It became a challenge to see which boy could put the most frosting on his cookies.

Now the cookies are loved by Kay and Don’s seven grandchildren. Kay bakes these cookies for every holiday and varies the shape of the cookie cutter.

1 cup sugar
1 cup butter, softened
2 eggs, beaten
2 or 3 tablespoons milk
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
Mix together all ingredients. Chill dough well. Roll out dough onto floured surface. Roll thin for a crisper cookie. Preheat oven and bake at 375 degrees for 5 minutes or a bit longer for a thicker cookie. Do not overbake.

Mexican Salsa
Kay Chambers

One summer at the Iowa State Fair, Kay watched a demonstration for a salsa machine. The machine came with three recipes for salsa. Kay tweaked the Mexican version and came up with one her family prefers. In the summer Kay makes a batch for her husband, Don, once a week. Don likes his salsa very spicy, but if the boys are home, Kay also makes a less-spicy version so everyone is happy and she generally doubles or triples the recipe so the salsa lasts a few days.

2 tomatoes, red and firm (Romas are best)
½ onion, any kind
2 cloves garlic, chopped
¼ green bell pepper (I add more pepper, any color of bell pepper or banana peppers, mild or hot)
1 tablespoon cilantro (optional, I omit as my family doesn’t like cilantro)
1 jalapeno, or as many as you like! (Husband Don says Kay has never added too many jalapenos)
salt to taste, garlic salt if you prefer
½ cup lime or lemon juice

Chop all ingredients either in food processor or by hand. Kay’s family prefers chunky salsa, so she does most of it by hand. Mix together all ingredients. Serve with your favorite chips.

*Kay’s Note: Add as much or as little of anything this recipe as you prefer — you can’t have too many tomatoes.

Second Grade — Miss Hanson

Miss Hanson was a kind and patient teacher. She had been my older brother, Tom’s second-grade teacher too. He loved having Miss Hanson as his teacher and so did I.

In second grade, we were called to Miss Hanson’s reading table by groups to read aloud. We were also divided up by spelling levels and traveled to Mrs. Mosman or Mrs. Ruch’s rooms to take our spelling tests. Going to another classroom made me feel like “a big kid” compared to the first-graders in our pod.

Spinach Salad
Kathy Hanson

Kathy grew up in Nebraska, and she and her parents spent the holidays in Omaha with family. Her aunt, Alpha Tamisiea, always made her spinach salad and cheese pudding. The tradition still continues as no family dinner is complete without both dishes as they were served at Easter dinner this year.

2 packages of fresh spinach, washed and patted dry
1/2 jar pickled beets, drained and diced
3-4 hardboiled eggs, diced
1 green onion, chopped
1 teaspoon Beau Monde seasoning
1/2 pound bacon, fried and crumbled
Toss ingredients together and then add half of a pint jar of Marzetti’s Cole Slaw dressing.