In the year 2020, when I was 90 years old: long after I had decided to end the telling of these stories, something occurred that made me want to add just one more. In the fall of that year, my mother was inducted into the Sherman County Hall of Honor. The person who nominated her was Linda Krafsic, who had once been Linda McNab. She was a third grade student of mother’s when mother was teaching in Wasco. Here is a copy of the speech that Linda gave at the induction ceremony at Sherman County High School in Moro:
Think about Mrs. Zevely’s career. One hundred years ago, Congress had just approved the 19th amendment giving women the right to vote. And here she was running the county schools. However, had she been married in 1919 instead of single, we might not be here honoring her because at that time, while there was no law against a married woman working in education, a married woman would only be hired if no one else applied.
A few more facts about those early years: Mrs. Zevely began teaching right out of high school, just by taking a teacher’s exam. When she became superintendent, the salary was $1,500 a year. In 1919, Sherman County had 30 schools and over 900 students. But that is just the tip of the iceberg in the life of this woman who influenced the lives of so many students.
Mrs. Zevely’s career in education spanned 50 years, with time out for raising her children. I was fortunate to have had her as my 3rd grade teacher at Wasco Grade School during the last year she taught, 1962-63.
In her classroom, teaching went beyond the three Rs. Mrs. Zevely brought in chicken eggs and an incubator and we watched chicks hatch. We had guest speakers come in and talk about the grange and its role in the county, as well as how some of the locations in the county received their names.
While introducing our class to the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, she brought in a butter churn and we students took turns making butter, just like Laura Ingalls would have done.
Her teaching also went beyond the four walls of the classroom. Our class took a field trip to Moro where we visited the Sherman County Journal office and observed Giles French printing the paper, followed by a tour of the county courthouse, with a stop at the courthouse jail. Sheriff Roberts jokingly locked our bus driver in the jail, and I remember worrying about who was going to drive us home. The sheriff eventually let my dad out of the jail.
Mrs. Zevely had each of us in her 3rd grade class keep a journal of Sherman County happenings during the 1962-63 school year. I still have my journal, and realize now it is a Sherman County history book. I wrote about a field trip our class took to Maryhill Museum on October 31. What is most significant about that field trip is that it was the last day the car ferry crossed the Columbia River because, and I quote, “November 1: The new bridge across the Columbia was opened at Biggs. This is the last link in highway 97 from Alaska to Central America.”
Her love for this county is apparent when I read the script for a school play we did at the end of the school year about the history of Sherman County, from the floods that formed this area to the Indians, trappers, explorers, and finally the settlers who began farming here.
Her greatest gift as an educator, however, was the way she made every child feel like they were the most important student to her. She treated each one of us with such kindness and gentleness, and made all of us feel special. She made sure every student had a party on their birthday in her classroom.
While I was growing up in Wasco, our family lived across the street from Mrs. Zevely. She welcomed all the neighborhood kids into her home, and she always had some “educational” project for us to work on, but it never seemed like homework. Even outside of the classroom, we were getting an education – but she made it seem like fun!
I remember a road trip with her and my sister, Gail, to Gordon Ridge to pick wildflowers. She parked the car and we started walking the ridge. Mrs. Zevely was wearing a dress and “sensible” shoes with clunky heels, which made it difficult for her walk across a cattle guard. She crawled across on her hands and knees. And she always had a camera with her. The first photos I ever took were with her boxy camera where the top popped up and you looked down into the top of the camera at your subject. And if any of your family members still has her cookie recipe with the cheerios in them, please share it with my brother Bo. He still talks about how good they were.
Many of her former students still live in the area and here is what some of them have to say about Mrs. Zevely:
- Sherry Kaseberg (1947 – 1949): “I loved my 5th and 6th grade teacher, Mrs. Zevely, a remarkable teacher with a generous heart. I am grateful that she inspired me with maps, books, art projects, field trips, and, perhaps her greatest gift, pen pals. Those of us living in town were twice blessed by after school instruction in leather tooling, wood burning and copper tooling at her house.”
- Cal McDermid (1959-60): “Mrs. Zevely woke the love of history and the love of literature that is still with me today in my work and in every book that I open.”
- Mike Macnab (1962-63): “The history of Sherman County made a lasting impression on me.” Mike, too, still has his Sherman County history journal. (Mike was also one of the inductees along with your mother)
- Bill O’Meara (1958-59): Bill remembers the Little House books as well as churning butter, but his class also made homemade cottage cheese. They received sand from around the world, and made maps with the sand in capsules attached to the map showing where it came from. As a second grader, Mrs. Zevely took Bill, his brother, Greg, and her grandson swimming at Cottonwood. Bill remembers being able to swim in only one direction – downriver. Greg had to jump in and bring him back.
- Jeanney McArthur: “It seems to me that Mrs. Zevely was gifted with extraordinary insight into the potential of her students. As my third grade teacher, she clearly recognized and encouraged my artistic ability and consequently inspired my life-long passion for art. I remain ever grateful for Mrs. Zevely’s early influence on the shape and direction of my life.”
And me: “Mrs. Zevely, the best teacher ever!”