Image provided by: University of Nebraska-Lincoln Libraries, Lincoln, NE
About The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current | View Entire Issue (Dec. 14, 1984)
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Twelve child-sized winter coats hang
from block metal hooks in the cloak
room. An old, red-painted park bench
leans against the wall. In the next room,
muffled voices and soli giggles inter
rupt the steady hum of the automatic
Inside the room are 12 school-aged
children sitting in their metal and for
mica desks, studying diligently. Their
teacher, Denise Gem, sits casually at a
table near her front desk, instructing
" Colorful drawings and scrawled essays
line the walls of the warm, peaceful,
tangerine-painted room. An American
flag that 12 soprano voices sing
"America the Beautiful" to every day
hangs above a walnut, ivory-keyed
Nothing seems exceptional about
Baker School No. 18. It has all the
elements of a typical school. Nothing
seems exceptional about it . . . except it
is a one-room schooihouse.
Today is like most days in this Otoe
County school seven miles west of
Nebraska City. Groups of students,
according to their grade, take their
homework to Qem to be graded. Use
others sit quietly finding other things to
do. A bock from the old, vanished
bookshelves, homework for the next
day or a crayon drawing usually keep
the children busy.
Clem has been teaching at Baker
School for one year. She says that whe
never she is busy instructing a student,
she never has to worry that other child
ren are wasting time. They talk and
giggle, but they always work on some
thing, she said. They always seem to be
alert to her next move, Clem rarely has
to raise her voice.
"They're really good kids ... for the
most part, I don't have to get after
them," the 26-year-old teacher said.
Sixth-grader David Kasbohm, 11,
and second-grader Nathan Heng, 9, sit
quietly in a corner rehearsing their
lines for a Christmas play. During the
dialogue, they helpfully correct each
other on lines the other missed.
At the sound of Clem's soft com
mands, the boys scamper to their desks
and give her their homework for the
The one-room,' one-teacher close
ness is the main reason for the stu
dents' discipline, Clem said, wfoo is
assisted by part-day helper, Dee John
sen. From kindergarten to eighth grade,
children are encouraged to be inde
pendent and think for themselves.
Although she has a good relationship
with her students, Clem said her
emphasis on independence sometimes
They will have questions they want
answered, she said, but they know she
will refuse to answer them. Eventually,
they work out the problems them
selves, she said.
"I believe education should foster
independence and the ability to think
for oneself," she said.
Clem said students also are fully
aware of the threats or promises she
They know I'll carry them through,"
she said. The usual punishment: can
celled morning recess for students who
fail to complete their homework.
At 13, Susan Griepenstroh is the old
est student at Baker school. She said
Clem doles out a stiff penalty by cancel
ling a student's recess.
"If your homework is not done, you
have to stay in class for recess until you
have it done," the eighth-grader said.
Sometimes students with the same
homework must stay inside together so
they can help the other who is having
Midmorning recess arrives with gay
hysteria. Throwing on their coats, the
children immediately bolt for the door
with their collection of toys.
They burst through the doors of the
114-year-old, white-painted school
house. Boys carry automatic toy rifles
and play their version of television's
science fiction series "V." Girls clamber
on the paint-worn teeter-totter and
slide. Qem, chaperoning, joins in a
game of volleyball or football.
The children sound a chorus of
dismayed groans as recess ends all too
soon. Back inside the schoolroom,
white, mushroom print curtains flutter
and a brass Casablanca fan spins slowly.
Clem sits at her table giving students
the individual care she says is an advan
tage. "The children get more personal
ized attention," she said. However,
Clem admits that being the only teacher
does have its disadvantages.
"Sometimes I find myself short
changing them on certain schoolwork
because I run out of time," she said.
Clem said she enjoys giving personal
attention to the students because it
allows her to see the students develop.
"I like to teach the older students
because I can relate to them," she said.
But the biggest thrill, she said, comes
from teaching kindergarteners.
"With kindergarteners, their eyes
brighten ... I can really see them
learn," she said
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Clockwise from top: Teacher
Denise Clem reprimands sec
ond grader Nathan Ileng over
some mistakes in his home
work. Chris B&ndo, a 9-year-cM
fourth grader, looks out
over his reading book during
a study break. Seventh grader
Dde Oils watches a fcctbl
sail over his head during
recess at the one-mom school
house. The school's 12-desk
Photos by Jod Ssrtorc
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