A note from Jack: I ran into a friend of mine at Wood’s Supermarket the other day, a man who was a classmate of mine many years ago at Washington School. His name is Paul Parker, and if you have read many of my stories his name may ring a bell with you. During our reminiscing Paul asked me why I haven’t written about a teacher who was a favorite of all those kids she taught years ago. The teacher was Mrs. VanHorn, and I told him I had actually written that story many years ago for my column that ran in the Sedalia Democrat in the late 1990s. I told him if I could find the column I would ask the editor to run it again. I have tweaked it a little.
When I read the letters section of the Democrat one day, and saw the nice things people were saying about the teachers who teach at Washington School now, it reminded me of some of the wonderful teachers I had while attending that same school in the ’40s. The teachers mentioned in the letters to the editor, are just like the ones who taught at Washington in those days. They were highly professional, and capable educators, and I can’t remember one that I didn’t like and respect. As it must be with most students however, there was a teacher that stands out in my mind more than the rest, and I know anyone who was fortunate enough to have known her as a teacher back then, will have no argument with this article.
The teacher’s name was Mrs. Van Horn, and I think of her often, as I am sure many of my classmates do when they think of Washington School. She was a wonderful teacher, but then so were many others at Washington School at that time. What made Mrs. Van Horn a favorite of Paul and me as well as the many other kids she taught all those years ago was her apparent love for all children. What made her unforgettable however was her story telling ability, which she used to keep the students of Washington School entertained whenever we were forced to stay in during recess or lunch hour due to rain, or other forms of inclement weather. She had a rare gift for bringing fun to those gloomy days as she would turn the gymnasium into a brier patch for Brer Rabbit, or a bridge for Billy Goat Gruff. I don’t believe anyone has ever made a story come alive any better, without props, or sound effects than she did. I think many of us secretly wished for rain sometimes just so we could hear more of her wonderful stories. Her love for children was obvious, and you would see her hugging a child in the hallway or classroom often if they needed one. I feel blessed to have known her as I know Paul and so many others do.
When Mrs Van Horn died, I felt a deep sense of loss even though I had not seen her for many years. I just hope she knew that many of us like myself, Paul and so many others who were lucky enough to have known her, as a teacher and story teller she would still be remembered after all these years.
— Jack Miller is a longtime Sedalia resident whose column will run in the Weekend edition of the Democrat.