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Delores Wiese reflects on teaching at Hancock Elementary school

The best teachers teach from the heart, not from the book. ~Author Unknown

Teaching from the heart came easy for former Hancock first grade teacher and principal Delores Wiese. Delores taught in Hancock from 1957 - 1984, giving hundreds of young boys and girls a good start on their education and future.

She is one of two former faculty members invited to speak at the All-School Reunion program on July 7 and will be sharing some of her experiences and impressions with the many Hancock alumni in attendance.

It was easy for her to recall the first year she taught in Hancock because it was also the year she was married. Delores was a Morris girl with the last name of Greiner who came to meet a young Hancock man, Ron Wiese, through friends and family. After graduating from Morris High School she went on to school in Moorhead. After completing a two year plus two quarter teaching degree, she got a job teaching first grade in Glenwood. Then in 1957 she was offered the first grade position in Hancock.

Thirty-six busy little first graders met her on her first day of school. It was a full classroom and she handled it with no assistance and no copy machine. The next year, with an even larger class, the first grade was split into two sections.

In those early years, phonics was stressed in teaching. Delores would carefully teach her children not only how to recognize and write a letter, but how to sound it out in combination with other letters. This led into reading and writing words.

The children started first grade with very little preparation. Kindergarten was held for about 6-8 weeks in the spring before first grade. The students started class with varying degrees of readiness, some were familiar with words and had been read to often, and others were new to the entire learning process.

"Children coming to school can be compared to gems" Delores explained. "Some are a bit polished and some are more rough. It is our job to teach them all."

Not only the class size and level of education was different in those early years, but also the system, buildings and attitudes. The Hancock school was in two buildings, an elementary and high school. Communicating between the two usually meant running from one to the other which was not always pleasant in bad weather.

The school office and gymnasium were located in the high school building and the cafeteria in the basement of the elementary building. There was a lot of traveling back and forth for students as well as the faculty and staff. Delores remembers fondly, school secretary, Millie Goll, visiting the classroom every morning, collecting money for lunch and chatting for a while.

Delores also encountered some different attitudes from parents, family, and friends when it came to a woman working full-time. She added that the women in those days had to work hard for equal pay. The men were considered the head of the household so were rewarded with better benefits.

"In some cases, I was looked down upon for working outside the home" she added. "Later women would come up to me and ask about working outside the home."

Whenever someone questioned her time away from her children, Kim and Troy, she would explain that it was not the quantity of time but quality of time spent with children that counted. Also, Ron shared much of the household tasks.

There was also some government legislation talk taking place during these years that was geared toward school districts combining into larger districts. She did a lot of letter writing while teaching in Hancock explaining that bigger was not always better. During this time, she was also taking college classes to get her four-year degree.

Eventually her job as first grade teacher worked into part time elementary principal. To add this license, she attended meetings and conferences which at first were primarily attended by women. Eventually the principal jobs began to switch to young men. She also worked as a part-time principal in Hancock and Cyrus for a few years.

In 1963, with the birth of her second child, Delores decided to stay home and raise her children. She managed to do this for a time but eventually was called back to work half days as elementary principal. Her love of working with children drew her back and soon she was asked to work in the library and eventually did Title I work in addition to the half time principal job.

When asked to share any fun stories, she simply laughed and said "I could write a book" but unfortunately, never wrote down the many great things the children would do or say. She added that the teachers had a lot of fun and did crazy things to each other.

"It was a great time to be in education," stated Wiese. "It was an exciting time for learning and people were reaching out and doing amazing things. I am thankful for the experience I had in Hancock."

One fun experience she did talk about were the early operettas and programs. Her first year of teaching, she had all the parents make a bunny suit for their first grader and the children then performed the bunny hop for them. The next year they did the Mexican hat dance. There were no music or physical education teachers then so the classroom teacher was responsible for any musical and physical education. The programs grew and were extremely fun and popular for all.

It is said that every successful person should thank a teacher. Hancock students have many teachers to thank but these same teachers also have a great appreciation for the students. Teachers like Delores Wiese, have come to realize that every child is open to learning; you just need to know what avenue to use to get there.