Two area teachers — Coralee Thornburg, Utica, and Barbara Ewing, St. Francis — were inducted into the Kansas Teachers’ Hall of Fame earlier this month.
They join the more than 390 educators inducted since the hall opened in Dodge City in 1977
Inductees must meet high standards of outstanding teaching or administration, be involved in their community and have 25 years or more service in Kansas.
Both Thornburg and Ewing said the honor was unexpected.
“I was so surprised and so happy to have that happen,” Ewing said.
Born and raised in St. Francis, Ewing taught more than 400 students during her career in St. Francis, Bird City, McDonald and Cheyenne County country schools.
Thornburg’s career began in 1957 in Healy where she taught first grade with a provisional certificate. She later earned her bachelor’s degree from Fort Hays State University in elementary education.
The late Elouise Miller, former Lincoln Elementary School teacher, was Thornburg’s first master teacher.
“She was so great, and she gave me so much confidence and said this is where you belong,” Thornburg said. “I went out and taught, and I just loved every minute of it.”
Thornburg also taught in Arnold and Utica, where she spent most of her career teaching kindergarten for half a day, and Title I reading after she earned her master’s degree.
She especially liked teaching kindergartners because “they’re fresh in school. It’s new to them. If you respect them, they respect you. It was just a delightful thing. To this day I see kids that I’ve had, and they’ll put their arms around me.”
Thornburg taught second generations and in some cases, third, at Utica where she taught a mother, son, grandson and uncle.
She also taught a teachers’ education class at Fort Hays State University on Saturdays for eight years.
“That was really fun because it was adults and much different than what I was used to,” Thornburg said.
She received a letter from a woman who had taken the class and saw Thornburg’s name 25 years later in a Nebraska newspaper where her daughter lives.
The former student wrote she uses what she learned in class. Ewing left teaching in 1984 but prefers to say she’s recycled rather than retired.
At nearly 95 years old, Ewing still likes to keep busy writing as a member of the Rough Writers, reading and volunteering at the senior center.
She’s attended nearly every alumni reunion since she graduated from St. Francis High School in 1939.
“I go because of my students,” she said.