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As It Was: One-room School Gets Two Teachers with Doctorates

Having two teachers with doctorates teaching at a one-room school is unusual, but it happened in 1910 at the West Side School located between Central Point and Jacksonville, Ore.

Newlywed PhDs Elizabeth and George Rebec left distinguished teaching careers at Vassar and the University of Michigan to buy an orchard across Old Stage Road from the West Side School. Needing regular cash, they shared the teaching job at the school.

It opened whole new worlds for the 20 farm children at the school. They learned about Europe from the Rebecs’ personal experiences, and George read the Iliad and the Odyssey to them. One student reported he “read poetry to us by the mile.”

The Rebecs had good European paintings, Persian rugs and a huge library they shared with their pupils.

The Rebecs left the orchards the next year, moving to the University of Oregon where George became Dean of the Graduate School in 1920.

Just a year after his experience with West Side School’s rural children, George gave a talk to Oregon teachers, telling them that in preparing youth for life the teacher must bring knowledge into practical service.

Sources: Ludwig, June. A History of West Side School, 1909-1976. Medford, Ore.: West Side School Parent-Teacher Club, 1976. 5-6. Print; "All Around Oregon." Ashland Daily Tidings 10 Sept. 1912: 6. Web. 11 May 2015. <http://oregonnews.uoregon.edu/lccn/sn85042399/1912-09-30/ed-1/seq-6/ocr.txt>.

Alice Mullaly is a graduate of Oregon State and Stanford University, and taught mathematics for 42 years in high schools in Nyack, New York; Mill Valley, California; and Hedrick Junior High School in Medford. Alice has been an Southern Oregon Historical Society volunteer for nearly 30 years, the source of many of her “As It Was” stories.