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My Students Are My Monuments . . .
In Flatonia, Texas. back in 1896, two unfortunate events brought gloom into the W. A. Beckham home--two unfortunate events that were to mean good fortune for hundreds of children born during the several decades following.
Had not Mr. Beckham failed in his business and his wifes health become suddenly bad, 18-year-old Grace Beckham might never have taken up teaching to help support her family--and Miss Grace might never have existed in the way so many children have come to know and love her.
Last week end, more than five hundred former students and admirers share in presenting Miss Grace--Mrs. W. S. Shaver--an accumulated Appreciation Fund which had been started several months ago. It had begun as a way for the former students to express the gratitude they all felt for the difference Miss Grace had made in their lives; it had begun as a fund to help the venerable teacher and her step-granddaughter, Miss Mary Grant, get started on building that new home they had saved and planned for these many years.
More Important Now
At the hospital, it was found that Miss Grace had a malignant tumor which would require long and tedious treatment. The news shocked nd saddened her hundreds of friends--and her former students knew that the building fund, still being kept secret for the surprise, had suddenly acquired an even greater significance.
During her lifetime, Miss Grace had come face to face with many an adversity; she took this new development without flinching and without fear. She stood the operation well, and the trip home from the hospital hardly tired her. But when, the next day, she was presented with the appreciation fund--a check for $1493--the surprise, the overwhelming thought behind the gift, was almost too much. It was the first time she needed a sedative since going under the ether.
First Taught in 1896
When Grace Beckham was graduated from Flatonia High School as valedictorian, she was given her choice of scholarships to two universities. Instead, because her family needed the money, she sought employment in the only field then open to young women--teaching. Obtaining a temporary State Certificate, she taught her first classes at Robbins School in Bastrop County from 1896 to 1898. The next year she was principal of the two-teacher school at Elm Grove, the next year principal of the three-teacher Winchester school, and the following year was principal of Silsbee School in Hardin County, with two assistants. In those days, the trustees usually managed to pay their teachers for about the first four months--from there on they were on their own, and the principal often ended the school year alone.
"Miss Grace" first came to Weimar in 1901 to teach the 4th, 5th and 6th grades under Principal G. A. Moore. Her salary was $37.50 a month. Among her pupils that year wore Mannie'' Lauterstein, Henry Brasher, Willie Black (now Mrs. H. Brasher, Jr.,) Charles Ammann, Lula Gusman (now Mrs. Charlie Ammann), John Mozisek, Leona Insall (now Mrs. J. Hed Montgomery), Lillie Oncken (now Mrs. Berry Townsend), Lillie Gold (now Mrs. Frank Kahlich), Willie Williford, and Fritz Till, all of whom are living in Weimar now.
In 1905, "Miss Grace" took the State examination for her permanent teaching certificate, after having gone to school every summer to keep her temporary certificate valid. That examination covered 27 subjects. In later years she was to take courses at the University of Texas and St. Mary's College at San Antonio. Ironically, although she has attended enough classes to have earned more than one degree as they are awarded today, she never received one.
In 1907, Miss Grace was married to W. S. Shaver, who died in 1936.
The only interruption in her long teaching career came in 1914, when the deaths of Dr. and Mrs. L. H. Grant left their two tots, Mary and Lucien homeless. Mary, the younger, was less than two years old, Miss Grace quit teaching to care for Mr. Shavers grandchildren.
First in New Building
It was in 1917 when the new frame kindergarten building was erected to supplement the older Weimar brick school. Mary was four, and when Superintendent Mason asked Miss Grace to take over the kindergarten, she accepted. This time there were to be no more interruptions for more than thirty years. Most of that time she taught intermediate grades, and for the past several years the eighth grade has been her homeroom class, the students last grade before entering the departmentalized high school course of study. Somehow, while teaching the basic three Rs to her students, she managed to keep them crammed with knowledge of current events. Her class tuned in daily for the radio newscast and had a weekly discussion of national and worldwide events. She has instilled in all of her students a sense of responsibility as citizens that they can never forget.
Like a postman taking his holiday by going for a walk, Miss Grace for the past 48 years filled her Sundays as superintendent and teacher of the Methodist Church primary department, and loved every minute of it.
Won't Be the Same
When the doors of Weimar High School are flung open next fall, only the newest newcomers will not notice that the place isnt the same. The teacher who played such a big part in molding three generations of young lives will have a long-needed vacation.
What does she think of it all?
"There are monuments to me all over the world", she says. "Living monuments--the children I have had a small part in 'teaching to live", who have gone out and become good citizens and leaders. My job has been not only to teach the fundamentals--grammar, history, mathmetics[sic], and so on--but, what I consider more important, to develop character and good citizenship in every one of my children. Not a one of them has disappointed me. What more return could a teacher ask?
What more, indeed, could a teacher ask?
Weimar Mercury, June 3, 1949, pages 1 and 5
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