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I knew I wanted teaching as my profession

Posted By: Joan Duea


My first experience at Price Laboratory School took place when I was assigned to Ms. Gillouly’s first grade for a participation experience during the end of my sophomore year at Iowa State Teachers College. I couldn’t believe how different this classroom was from the classrooms I had been in as a student. The teacher was working with small groups, yet the rest of the students seemed to know what they were to be doing. I spent time correcting worksheets, building bulletin boards and sometimes answering questions. I loved to just watch the interactions among students and the teacher. I knew I wanted teaching as my profession.

The following semester of undergraduate school I had to select where I wanted to be assigned for student teaching. It was frequently stated by upper classmen, “Don’t go to the lab school. The students there are hard to handle, there isn’t a given curriculum, you are constantly watched by other ISTC students and teachers are also visiting the classrooms.” I found each of those comments the kind of challenge I was looking for during student teaching. So my second experience at MPLS was student teaching with Dr. Koehring.

A few years later while teaching at Linn Mar School in Marion, IA, the principal called me to his office and told me there was a position open at the Iowa State Teachers College Lab School. He highly recommended that I go interview for the job. When I arrived at the school, I was met by Max Hosier and Betts Ann Roth. After a short interview period, I met Ross Nielsen and was offered the job. So began the greatest challenge and the best learning experience in my professional life.

Winston Churchill once stated, “Success isn’t final, failure isn’t fatal…” Those words became my philosophy. Teaching and learning meshed together and I quickly learned that being a faculty member of this school meant placing my students first, creating curriculum to meet their needs, and adopting new teaching strategies! Most days I spent as much time learning as teaching. This is mainly because all of my colleagues were so willing to share ideas and there were many opportunities to find ways to work together.

As a new faculty member, I was assigned to two curriculum committees --- mathematics and science. These committees met regularly and created the curriculum we taught. I was energized by my fellow faculty members and given the responsibility to try new ideas with students. If what we were doing in our classrooms was being done in regular public school classrooms, we weren’t pushing ahead into the future!!

Over my 32 years of teaching at ISTC/SCI/UNI, I spent 24 years at MPLS. During that time it was my privilege to:

  • teach over 1000 students ranging in age from 6 years old to 14 years old,

  • supervise over 100 student teachers,

  • provide a classroom for visiting college classes,

  • introduce about 400 undergraduate participants to the teaching profession and,

  • present workshops to over 7500 fellow teachers.

The entire faculty contributed to my professional career of learning including elementary to high school faculty, principals and other administrative leaders, and college/university faculty. Impossible to name everyone but you know who you are.

Do you remember…

  • the manufacturing of products in the Unit III classrooms?

  • the tree at the center of the unit, the fall decorations including stalks of corn and in the spring the pond and deck table and chairs?

  • the pheasant that flew into the third grade classroom window one fall?

  • the catching and killing of flies in the math classroom?

  • the experimental “math tub” program?

  • the spelling program with everyone having his/her own list of words?

  • pulling cards in junior high to write a computer program?

  • Friday afternoon Song Fests….”We welcome you….” and

  • one beep for a fire drill, three beeps for a tornado drill?

One memory I will never forget is when there was snow on the ground and the school received a bomb-scare telephone call. (If you were one of my students, you were in the swimming pool when you heard the fire drill sound.) Without even towels, the students got out of the pool, lined up, marched out the pool door and outside to the back of the school. As soon as the high school students saw the class coming out barefoot and without clothes, they rushed to pick everyone up, wrapping coats and huddling around all to keep them as warm as possible. Within minutes, faculty were backing up cars into the area and loading the students inside. Finally, the class was taken to a home and within minutes, delicious cocoa and cookies were served. You see why I remember this --- it summarizes the true spirit of MPLS/NUHS!

I loved working with the faculty, students, and parents of this remarkable school. I especially enjoyed writing curriculum with such impressive faculty. My first publication came when Guy Wagner came into my classroom within the first few weeks of fall and asked if I would like to work with other faculty and have the book published by Reader’s Digest. During the final years of teaching, there were curriculum packages including math problem solving units, elementary science units, and Unit III social studies units. All lessons were written for PLS students, taught by several teachers, rewritten, and finally published for other schools to use.

To this day, even in retirement, I still like to try new things. AND I know the process of living includes remembering that “Success is not final, failure is not fatal…”


Joan Duea Elementary Classroom Teacher

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