This week, the old Monticello Elementary School building will be torn down to reveal a beautiful new school.
The new school has been built immediately behind the old. It has been mostly hidden from view until this week.
Can I depart from my usual Sportshorts article to wax somewhat personal this week?
Way back in 1959, I saw the most unusual parade I’d ever laid my eyes on in my nearly five years of life.
I stood transfixed that day 56 years ago on the lawn in front of Ruel Randall’s house on 100 North in Monticello gazing as a parade went by.
It was a long line of students, kindergarten through sixth graders, carrying books or chairs as they excitedly trudged up the street from the venerable 36-year-old elementary/high school that used to exist at what is now Veteran’s Park. They were packing their belongings to the brand spanking new elementary school at the corner of 200 West and 200 North.
My older brother, Doug, was one of those paraders, as were other cousins, friends and acquaintances.
I watched the move to the new school with boundless fascination and unlimited enthusiasm and anticipation. I was just one year away from a summer of kindergarten followed by a year in first grade with my aunt, Laverda Jensen, as my teacher,
I repeated a similar but shorter nostalgic walk a hundred times or so just this past week, moving from the now 55-year-old Monticello Elementary School to another brand spanking new school just 55 paces away.
As I did so, I reflected on the nearly 40 years I have called Monticello Elementary School home.
The first six years as a student of MES were filled with names like Laverda Jensen, Gwen Nelson, Nina Hyde, LaVar Abrams, Helen Parry, and Bert Odette. My lineup of teachers hold an esteemed place in my soul and all are deceased, except for Bert Odette. Also there in my memories are principals Ron Ellertson and Dale Maughan and my own mom as school secretary.
As I trekked back and forth with load after load to the new building this week, my thoughts returned to those teachers and principals. I was one of their more memorable students ever at Monticello Elementary School, at least in my mind.
Mrs. Jensen taught me to read in that first grade classroom, which was Mrs. Pehrson’s fifth grade room this year.
I still set the dining table the way Mrs. Nelson taught us second graders in the classroom that is now the upper grade computer room.
I still remember Mrs. Hyde in the third grade, pulling on George Morey’s ear one day in what is now Mrs. Black’s sixth grade.
One day, the gigantic Mr. Abrams ominously sneaked back into the classroom, yardstick in hand, and broke it on the tender hind-end of an unaware Mark Blanck.
Mark had taken the opportunity, as he always did when Mr. Abrams left the room, to stand on his desk and do the twist.
I doubt Mrs. Young has ever broken a yardstick on a students hind-end, or anything close, even though she taught in the same room before it was torn down last year.
And I put my head down on my desk and cried my eyes out in Mrs. Parry’s room, now Mrs. Randall’s, as she read Where the Red Fern Grows.
Mr. Odette’s room was torn down last year too, to make room for the new school, but I can still hear him instructing me to bring some sandpaper to my last day in that school so I could sand off my name I had just carved on my wooden chair.
Mr. Maughan would dress in his sweats every day to help us with our tumbling. It was my favorite activity in grade school. As he would lay on the mat with his knees up, we would run and jump, putting our hands on his knees and then doing a flip onto our feet as he gently helped us over with a hand on our backs.
The last 34 years have been spent as a teacher at the school, with 27 years in the sixth grade and the last seven in the third grade. So many students, so many teachers, so many stories, so many memories.
Mrs. Jensen and Mrs. Nelson were still teaching at the school when I started teaching there in 1980. Bert Odette was my elementary supervisor on the district level.
I’ve had six principals in those 34 years, the first being the late Ken Maughan, Dale’s brother.
Ken’s only job-related query when I had my interview for an open sixth grade position at the school was, “All my men teachers are clean shaven.”
It wasn’t actually a question, and it was the only beard I’ve ever had before or since.
“Me, too,” I smiled and immediately had the job.
Five principals later, the building will soon be torn down beginning this week. Two of the principals were sixth grade students of mine, including the current principal, Julie Bunker Holt, granddaughter of Laverda.
There have been as many as 38 students in my classroom over the years and as few as 16. I still remember at least the last names of nearly all of them.
Thousands of students overall have attended MES. Most have gone on to greater things, hard-working, self-reliant, contributing citizens, happy and satisfied.
Some have passed on, but their memories live on. Many students spring from former students, including 10 of my 21 students this year.
Through it all, the one constant has been Monticello Elementary School.
Thirty four years ago, Principal Ken Maughan, in his unflappable way, passed to me a sure knowledge and expectation of excellence and love of learning that I found actually permeated throughout every aspect of Monticello Elementary School.
It is an expectation that is still infused in the very walls and fabric of the old building and inscribed in the new as well. The buildings, old and new, now stand as monuments of the value, power and results of education at MES.
Would you please share your memories of MES? For those who are interested, MES is attempting to record and keep the stories of the school.
Go to San Juan Record Facebook page and complete the questionnaire that is there and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.