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Eva Hedberg, Teacher

Southwest School Third Grade Class, 1967. Teacher, Eva Hedberg.
Front Row: Robert Hansen, Steve Fairbrother, Larry Hale, Bobby Wilson, and Rodney Bishop
Second Row: Crystal ?, Mary Lynn Wilson, ?, Linda Stone, Robin Sugg, Donna Koch, Cheryl Hansen, and Tamra Krieger
Third Row: Jimmy Janak, Scott Wilkinson, Don Worthington, Eileen Ford, Susan ?, John Christiansen, and Brian Carrier
Fourth Row: Mrs. Hedberg, Jeri Keicher, Michelle Henscheid, Mary Brown, ?, Scott Banner, Mervin May, and Randy Parish
Thanks to Jeri Keicher Bosley for this information.
If anyone can identify add anything, or would like to make a comment, please email khedberg@pmt.org.

When Eva was born April 2, 1907, three professions were open to women: teacher, nurse, and secretary. But had Eva been born at a time when women could enter any field, she still would have chosen to be a teacher. She loved children, she loved books, and she delighted in helping children learn.

After receiving a two-year degree and teaching certificate from Brigham Young University, Eva taught school for a few years in Utah and Eastern Idaho. She did some substitute teaching after her marriage to Carl Hedberg, but her real career began in 1949 when her youngest child entered first grade. She taught third grade at Southwest School in Burley for the next twenty-three years.

“I taught during the good years,” Eva later said. Those were the years before drug problems in society and violence in schools. Education was valued and teachers were respected. Eva particularly liked teaching third grade, because, she said, the students were old enough to do things on their own, but still young enough to love their teachers.

Eva also believed that it was important that students be able to read when they left third grade. In fourth grade students were expected to use reading to learn other subjects. In those days there were no special education classes or resource rooms. Eva and the other classroom teachers worked with students of all abilities. Eva worked hard to help those students who were having difficulty reading. She saw many reading theories come and go during her years of teaching—from the “look-see” method to emphasis on phonics. Eva did not subscribe to any one teaching method. She took from various educational approaches those things she thought would be the most useful for the class as a whole and for the individual student. In those days educators talked about “slow” students rather than those with learning disabilities. Problems such as ADD and dyslexia had not been identified. Eva only knew that for some students translating squiggly lines on a page into words that made sense seemed to be an almost impossible task, and she worked hard to help those for whom this was a problem. She sometimes recommended to the parents that the child having difficulty repeat the third grade, particularly if the child was small and seemed immature.

Eva worried about students who had difficulty learning, and lamented in her diary about those who were discipline problems and difficult to handle. One year she had a student, who, no matter how hard she tried, remained surly and uncooperative. He appeared to hate school and hate her, and she did not know how to reach him. Eva had a lot of pain in her wrists that she attributed to arthritis. Then the difficult student told Eva his family was moving. The next day Eva’s “arthritis” had disappeared. She wrote about the instantaneous cure in her journal. “I’ve been taking extra vitamins and that might have cured it,” she wrote, “but I don’t think so.”

Eva tried to make sure that students were working to the best of their abilities. She spent a lot of time correcting papers, adding occasional comments such as “good work” or “much better” on some papers, but requiring students who were just guessing the answers to redo their work. Students who were capable of doing their work, but fooled around and did not get it done, had to stay in at recess.

For students who finished their school work quickly, Eva tried to find special things for them to do so they would not get bored and get into mischief. Sometimes she had them copy poetry for her. She allowed students who were good at art to display their drawings on the blackboard. Sometimes she had students do special errands. She sent one boy to the office asking him to find out why another student had been absent for several days. The boy returned with a puzzled look on his face. Eva asked him what he had found out.

“I think he has a stretched neck,” the boy replied.

Eva thought for a minute.“Does he have strep throat?” she asked.

“Yeah, that’s it,” the boy replied.

Eva read aloud to the class every day after they returned from their noon hour recess. They were tired then, and this gave them a chance to relax before tackling their afternoon work. Eva also loved sharing the children’s books that she enjoyed, especially the Mary Poppins series and the Laura Ingells Wilder books. Although she read them every year, she never tired of them and loved seeing the children’s delight.

Although the children also liked “Show and Tell”, when they could bring their treasures to show the class, occasionally there were unexpected problems. One boy brought a bottle of whiskey to school and told Eva he was going to use it for Show and Tell.

“Oh, no, you are not!” Eva replied.

She took the whiskey and put it in her desk drawer. She intended to give it back to him at the end of the school day, but forgot. Later she said that even if she had been deathly ill the next day she would have had to go to school. She’d hate to think that a substitute would find the whiskey and think the teacher was taking nips on the side.

Eva did special things for her school children to let each know how important each was. Some years she made up original Valentine poems for every student. Other years she wrote each student a letter, mentioning a talent or other good thing that she had observed. One year, when she was planning a trip to Europe in the summer, she made a list of the countries she would visit, had the students choose their favorite country from the list, and then sent each student a postcard from that country as she visited there. Years later many of these students, now adults, told Eva’s daughter that they still had and cherished those personal Valentines, letters and cards.

Eva liked to involve students in activities that would help them remember what they were learning. She bought a small churn, filled it with cream, and had the students take turns churning the cream into butter that they then ate on crackers. Her husband planted cotton seeds in his garden so the children could see what a cotton boll looked like. Sometimes, instead of bringing the plants to class, she took the children to her garden, which was close to the school, for a “cotton party”. She and the children collected “milkweed caterpillars” that they kept in jars, fed with milkweed leaves, and then watched while they formed cocoons. A few weeks later, when the cocoons turned from green to black, they carried them carefully outside to watch them hatch into a monarch butterflies.

Almost every year the students planned a surprise party for their teacher. Eva was not supposed to know about it, but she always did, as third graders were not good at keeping secrets. One year a girl whispered to Eva during recess, “Mrs. Hedberg, we’re giving you a surprise party, but don’t tell anybody.”

Somehow the students organizing the party heard that the girl had “told.” They cried and shouted at the girl, who also cried. Eva assured them that they could still have their surprise party, and she would make cupcakes. Her promise of cupcakes solved the problem, and everyone was happy. Eva brought cupcakes the next day—making sure, as she always did, that they were as identical as possible. She did not want the children feeling bad or arguing because the frosting on one cupcake was pink, while on another cupcake it was yellow.

Eva often invited special guests to talk to the children—people from foreign countries or those who had visited foreign countries, and people with special talents or professions. After each guest’s visit, the students wrote thank you letters. Eva corrected the spelling and punctuation on each note, had the student recopy it, and then sent the corrected copy to the guest. Sometimes she kept the original. One student began her note to a dentist: “Dear Dr. Brown, Thank you for your cavity show.”

Eva kept that note, along with an essay about the Pilgrims that another student wrote. After describing the hard winter in which many Pilgrims died, the student added, “But the next year they had food and babies.”

In the winter time Eva kept gloves, hats and scarfs on hand so that the students who lacked these items could go outside and play without getting cold. She and the other teachers made sure that all the children had sufficient clothing and school supplies. Other community members helped them with this, discretely supplying whatever a child needed.

In those days, mandatory retirement for teachers was age sixty-five. Eva retired in the spring of 1972. At first she substituted a little, but she found that substituting did not give the same satisfaction as having her own classroom where she could get to know her students. She gave up school teaching completely, filling her retirement years with other projects and activities.

Society and schools have changed a lot since Eva taught at Southwest. But one thing has not changed. There are still conscientious teachers like Eva who put in much more than their required time planning and working and worrying over how to help their students learn, using their own money to buy special things for their students and classrooms. And there are still children and young people, who thirty or forty or fifty years later will remember with fondness that special person in their lives who was their teacher.