When Nemaha Valley Superintendent of Schools Jack D. Moles and other
educators got together last year to decide which Cook, Neb., elders
would be honored at a town celebration in April, 85-year-old substitute
teacher Ruth Weber immediately came to mind.
"She was one of the first ones chosen," Mr. Moles said.
The honor meant hearing her life retold in spoken word and song by schoolchildren whose parents and grandparents Ms. Weber also taught.
She is certified to substitute in all K-12 subjects, and when called upon, she does so with a love born of 38 years of teaching. "I like people and I like children," Ms. Weber said. "I'm happiest when I'm in the classroom."
Ms. Weber first began teaching full time in 1931. She took a few years off to have her two sons, but returned to the classroom during World War II. She taught for 27 years at Tecumseh Elementary School, in the nearby Tecumseh district, with 17 of those years spent in 1st grade and 10 in special education.
Now with 11 years of substitute teaching behind her, Ms. Weber says she has never had any of the classroom discipline problems that tend to come with the territory.
"I'm teaching some of them third- or fourth-generation," she said. "Their grandparents and their parents know me, and they know me, so I think they respect me."
Ms. Weber says she substitutes approximately 50 days a year. Her husband died 20 years ago, but Ms. Weber still lives in the house they shared.
She credits her staying power to "the grace of God, good health, discipline, a very, very, supportive family, and a wonderful community."
When asked whether she has any plans to retire, Ms. Weber said that, given good health, she'll keep teaching as long as schools keep calling. And Mr. Moles, for one, will.
"I don't see her giving it up any time soon," he said.
—Darcia Harris Bowman
Vol. 19, Issue 19, Page 3Published in Print: January 19, 2000, as Take Note