A teacher who remembers
by Holly Davis
Barbara Tosh, 85, Valley Falls, is staying busy after retiring from teaching in 2012, but keeps the memories of her students close by in an album that dates back to 1947. The idea behind the photo album, Tosh said, was to keep track of all the students she’s taught.
“I like to keep things organized and had a lot of pictures of kids.” A knack for organization, pictures of former students, and a photo album were all she needed to begin her project.
After graduating from Washburn University, Tosh began teaching at Center School in Jefferson County for three years. Afterward, she and her husband, Donald, moved to Arrington where she taught school for two years.
She then taught at Valley Falls for two years, and Denison, Coal Creek, and District No. 6 in Atchison each for a year. She was a teacher at Nichols School for two years until it closed. Then she moved to Nortonville to teach second grade for nine years.She then settled back in Valley Falls after her son, Randy, graduated there in 1975.
“I tried to avoid teaching at a school that my son went to,” Tosh said. She did this to avoid embarrassment or favoritism. “He graduated spring of ’75 and I started teaching there in the fall.”
She has taught a variety of ages of students in public schools, a rural country schoolhouse, and even a trailer house. The largest class she taught had 36 students and she taught from first to eighth grade level, sometimes in the same classroom setting.
“I taught the kids whatever they needed,” she said. She retired from Valley Falls in 1992, but continued substitute teaching there until last year. “I miss the kids,” she said, “They’re great.”
Though students have come and gone, grown into adults, and even passed away, Tosh has had no problem with remembering names and faces thanks to her cherished photo album. She says it is amazing how many students she has been able to keep track of and enjoys hearing from them from time to time.
A former student in fact, Allen Gardiner, stopped by her house in Valley Falls to visit while he was in the area. Though she hardly recognized the tall man, it didn’t take long for the two to get acquainted once again.
Tosh surprised Gardiner with his elementary school picture and even pulled out two hankerchiefs he had given to her as a Christmas present in 1954 when he was about six years old. The hankies were handsewn by Gardiner’s mother who recently died and Tosh plans to return them to him at her memorial service coming up. Gardiner and Tosh still keep in touch by letter and he gets weekly updates from the Valley Falls Vindicator to stay in the know. “I’m looking forward to seeing him,” she said.
Tosh concludes that she wouldn’t change anything about her career choice. She said that she hardly had any discipline problems and the kids she taught were very respectful.
“I loved those kids. The youth enriched my life in lots of ways,” she said.
As for her photo album, she mentioned taking it to the historical society for the public to view. For now, however, she plans to renovate the outdated pages and says it still has too much sentimental value to part with it just yet.
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