Miss Jesse Bradshaw was a pioneer in education, a great teacher and a special human being.
A woman with dark, piercing eyes and a mop of curly brown hair, Miss Jesse Bradshaw came to Monticello in 1925 to teach first grade. She would become a teaching legend for almost three decades, an institution of pure professionalism, dedication and caring.
With her repetitive teaching method, she drilled students with flash cards: ABC’s, phonics (c-a-t CAT, r-a-t RAT), reading (Dick and Jane), basic math and penmanship in “Big Chief” notebooks with chubby black pencils for little hands and fingers.
She was known as a no-nonsense disciplinarian with ruler in hand over outstretched palms for boys. A rap or piercing look would restore order for misbehaving or not performing up to her standards. There were no favorites and no student was left behind.
She was there through 15 years of trying times during the Great Depression and World War II, a stabilizing influence for children who may need extra care beyond teaching.
Miss Bradshaw always came early and stayed late, tireless in her efforts to tutor, help children with hygiene and grooming, listen to stories, wipe a tear, encourage, loan pennies for candy, and share lunch.
The annual May Day walk to South Creek was the highlight of the year for first graders. Even though there had been music with Marie Ogden on the piano, a rhythm band, dancing, plays, and a circus for the community; bringing lunch and going for a hike was a wonderful end to first grade.
Every flower, bug, bird, cloud or animal became another lesson. Miss Bradshaw couldn’t stop teaching, and “her children” didn’t stop learning.
Up in Cache Valley, she had two nephews who heard stories about Monticello and the great students, parents and people in the little town at the base of Blue Mountain.
Finally, nephew Dale Maughan came down to teach and coach. Then nephew Ken Maughan came to teach sixth grade and became an administrator, even as principal over Miss Bradshaw! They stayed to raise their families and became beloved by the community.
Miss Bradshaw retired in 1953 after 27 years of teaching. A special recognition tea was held in her honor, showing the debt of gratitude felt by many in the community.
She died in Logan in 1968. A movement was started to name the elementary school after her, but it remained Monticello Elementary School.
Nancy Barton Bradford summed it up best during the Monticello Centennial in 1988 when she said, “I felt like we should have proclaimed a ‘Miss Bradshaw Day’ in Monticello and celebrated our good fortune.”
That same year, Francis Hansen Hoopes, who was in that 1925 first grade class, said, “A memorable example of a woman of great character and commitment, she was truly exceptional!”
Having been a teacher myself for 30 years, teaching a variety of subjects, advising student organizations and student government, being active in politics, interviewing volunteers for the Olympics, as a Career Counselor in the Navy Reserves, and working with senior citizens in the VISA program; I have come to the conclusion that the key element for success in any field is to be a good reader.
I must confess that I wet my pants in first grade. I asked to go to the restroom, but was told to sit down. As everyone knows, you don’t tug on Superman’s cape, you don’t spit into the wind, and you don’t ask Miss Bradshaw twice!!
I quote other former students on their first grade experiences:
“I was afraid-terrified of her reputation.”
“We helped our kids learn to read by sounding out words.”
“She shook the hell out of me, but I deserved it and learned.”
“She was mean.”
“She explained to me about playing fair and not to fib,”
“She taught all twelve members of our family!!”
“Grade school was a very happy time for me, starting with first grade.”
“I was an observer and learned what NOT to do.”
“She taught me to speak English.”
“I got spanked over her knee for being mean to other kids.”
Three students said they got “stood” on the chalk tray with their nose against the board, to spell, pronounce, or sound out a word.”
“My love for reading carried over to my teaching elementary children.”
Over and and over: “WE COULD ALL READ!!”
“Too bad we never let her know how much she touched our lives in so many areas.”
Special thanks to San Juan Record, Terri Winder, Tom Evans, Annette Peterson, Claudia Martin, and others for helping.