Friday, June 11, 2010

If you can read this, thank a teacher - tribute to Miss Bess Bowen

I'm not even real sure how the memory of my first teacher, Miss Bess Bowen, popped into my head this afternoon. She was my teacher in kindergarten, first and second grade in the 1950s in a small rural school. Three grades were in one room.

I credit Miss Bowen with my love of learning and being able to spell and write and do math. You've heard of the book, "All I Need To Know I Learned in Kindergarten." In the case of Miss Bess Bowen, that was so true. She taught you, and she taught you well.

As a four year old starting in public school in the 1950s, I knew that Miss Bowen was a grandmotherly type, even though she had remained single all of her life. It was only by doing a little bit of online research that I learned that she was 72 years old when I first met her in kindergarten!

I admit to being a bit of a teacher's pet and recall her getting after my third/fourth grade teacher for not recognizing my intelligence and ability to the extent that Miss Bowen had! Ha! Well, that was how I felt at age eight. I had become very attached to Miss Bowen and it was hard for me to move on to a different (first year) teacher for third grade!

As I look over the census records showing Miss Bowen throughout her career, I recall such fond memories of her. The newspaper articles about her from the 1920s and 1930s tell of her work with her young pupils.

In 1916, she went home to Avoca, Iowa to spend the month of August with her parents and other family members. In 1922, she was awarded her teachers' certificate from the University of Nebraska.

In 1926, she and another delegate to the convention of the National Education Association left for Philadelphia before spending a week in Washington, D.C. and going on to New York City to take summer classes at Columbia University. By 1930, she was an officer in the state education association.

In 1937, her students gave some reviews concerning early pioneer life. The pony express, and the early school and home were compared with present day life. Oh! Wouldn't she enjoy sharing stories about our pioneer ancestors!

And in 1950, she served as a census enumerator! Why do I sense that her spirit is looking over my shoulder as I type this?!

Greenwood School, Greenwood, Nebraska - This school building housed grades K - 12 when Miss Bowen was my teacher. My Mom also attended this same school. My great-grandfather, Daniel Kelly, served on the school board (long before I was born!).

Miss Bowen kept in touch with me for many years after I was under her tutelage. She always wanted to know how my education was going. I remember reading in the newspaper that had she passed away - although I don't remember exactly when it was. To this day, when I look back over my education, I still feel that the foundation she provided during those first three years gave me what I needed to succeed in school and in life.

Do you have fond memories of a teacher from your past? If so, please leave a comment below.

note: references are from articles that appeared in the Lincoln Star, Lincoln, Nebraska, 1916 - 1950.


  1. Dear Miss Peterson, Thank you so much for posting about Miss Bess Bowen. I am not sure because I have not done the research yet but I actually think she is a long lost relative of mine. So this is a golden find for me. Thank you so much again for posting this beautiful tribute.

    1. Thank you so much for leaving a comment, Wendy. You will have to let me know if you connect her to your family!