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Jeanie Saldeen Crosby and Margaret Douglas Saldeen Endowed Scholarship in Elementary Education

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Crosby pic

Frank and Jeanie Crosby

I decided to create a scholarship to honor my mother, Margaret Douglas Saldeen, who was my first teacher and also the reason that I became a teacher. My mother began her teaching career in the rural school district of Gratiot County, Michigan in the 1940’s. She graduated from Central Michigan University with a teaching certificate after 2 years of schooling (my how things have changed). She lived at home on the farm with her parents and began teaching in a one room school house where she taught all grades K-8. She loved her work and put in many long hours to see that all the children learned and that they also enjoyed it. She taught all grade levels and all subjects including music and art. She would arrive early in the morning to put the wood or coal in the stove to start the fire to heat the room, which was especially important during the winter!! At the end of the day she had to do everything to close it down, including any cleaning. However I’m pretty sure she had the children help with the cleaning duties. When I asked her how she was able to teach all the subjects to all the children she explained that the older children always helped teach the younger ones, under her guidance of course. She knew each child’s family very well and that helped her in many ways, including discipline. She was responsible for all social events at the school as well. One year she had her younger brother dress up as Santa Claus. He came to school very early with her and hid by the stove for several hours as he waited for the Christmas Party. He told her later that he about cooked in his Santa costume, and in the future he would just come in time for the party.

In June of 1945 she married my father just before he went into the Army Air Corps for WWII. Since he was going away into the service soon after they married, she continued to live at home and teach, as he was stationed all over the country. However my father found out that it was possible for her to join him on these bases, so he sent her a letter that has become famous in our family. Basically he asked her which was more important to her, the teaching contract or the marriage contract. Because it was wartime and no one was ever sure they would come home alive, my mother finished that fall semester and then joined him wherever he was stationed in the United States. There was always the possibility that he would be sent overseas and then she would have come home and continued teaching. As it turned out my Father was never sent overseas and so she was able to be with him most of the time until the war was over.

After the war my dad finished his Agricultural Engineering degree at Michigan State and took a job in Battle Creek, Michigan. Three years later I was born. My mother became a full time mom and housewife. We moved to Beverly Hills, MI when I was in first grade. By the time I was in fourth grade my mom was a substitute teacher for the Birmingham Public Schools. She never was a full time teacher again as she was too involved in bringing me up and many other family activities. She was my Brownie leader, and was always helpful with homework and encouraging me to practice my music. However, she continued to teach her whole life. She was active in many church activities both with youth and women’s circles. She tutored her niece’s children in Florida when all 3 boys were having trouble in school. After my parents moved to Henry Ford Village in Dearborn, she taught square dancing and ran the dances there for many years. She taught me many card games as I was growing up and many family members learned them from her as well. She was a lifelong learner and a lifelong teacher and a great role model for me in so many ways. My mother was an active and vibrant person who loved life and her family.

She would be so proud to know that there is a Scholarship in her honor. When she was in college money was very scarce in her family as she was one of 8 children. She came home to Ithaca on the weekends so she could work at the local Kroger store to help earn money for her tuition. Various family members helped her with whatever they could so that she could earn her teaching certificate. I know that she considered teaching as a way to help children become all that they could be. This scholarship will hopefully help someone else achieve their dream of becoming a teacher so that they can help the children of the future.

As I grew up hearing many stories from my mother about her experiences when she was a teacher they inspired in me the desire to be a teacher as well. Also our family came to many homecoming and other events at MSU as my dad, my uncle, and several cousins were MSU Alumni. So by the time I was in my senior year of high school I knew I wanted to be a teacher and I wanted to go to MSU. My mother felt that I should at least look at another college so we went to visit Central Michigan for a day. At the end of that day I had satisfied her wish that I look at another school and I said now I know I want to go to MSU!! So I enrolled as an Elementary Education major and began my freshman year. Sometime during that year I thought that it was not a good idea to become a teacher just because of the influence of my mother so I dropped out of Education and became No Preference. I took some time to decide what I wanted to do with my life. It didn’t take me long to realize that I wanted to be a teacher, not just because my mother was one, but because I was genuinely interested myself. So I came back to Education, a decision I have never regretted. In my senior year at MSU I was accepted into a program that allowed me to teach on an American Air Force Base in England. That was the opportunity of a lifetime and began my interest in global education.

After I graduated I immediately began work on my Masters and also got a temporary teaching job for the last 10 weeks of the school year in Okemos, MI. Although I had done very well in my student teaching experience, I was not prepared to take over a 4th grade classroom where discipline had gone out the window. It was then I learned the importance of a supportive principal and school counselor, and some very valuable lessons on classroom management. At the end of that school year I married and move to the Flint, MI area where I taught K for 3 ½ years. Finally we were able to move back to the East Lansing area, and I was hired to teach 4th grade in the East Lansing Public Schools where I taught for 26 happy years. I taught at Central Elementary School, which is now the MSU early childhood center, MacDonald Middle School for one year, and finally Pinecrest Elementary School. I retired from East Lansing Public Schools in 2001 with 30 years of teaching. My husband and I moved to Illinois where I taught one year in a public school and then finished my teaching career with 9 years at Roosevelt University teaching in their College of Education. I retired in 2011 from Roosevelt and have been happily enjoying my retirement. I am very proud to serve on the MSU College of Education Alumni Board.

As I think back on my teaching career I realize that I have been very fortunate to have a career that was both rewarding and enjoyable. I know that I have helped many students in my years of teaching, both at an elementary and at the University level. I feel that I have changed many lives for the better. Teaching is a career that is both a great responsibility and a great privilege. As I enter this new phase of my life I find that I want to help others to become teachers. My parents were not wealthy, nor are my husband and I. Yet through hard work and savings we are now in a position to help others. As I considered the criteria for this scholarship I pondered the areas that are important to me. Rural Education is important because of my mother and my father who was an agricultural engineer. Global education is important to me because of my own experiences. I am married to a man who is African American and so helping minorities achieve their goals is important to me. I love teaching math and so the STEM areas of teaching are important to me. In short I began to realize that I had a lot of areas in teaching that were important to me. Yet mostly I just wanted to help anyone who had the passion to become a great teacher, no matter what area of expertise they were interested in, and who could benefit from my help.

So, to each scholarship winner, I hope this has let you know a little bit about Margaret and Jeanie. My hope for you is that you find your teaching career as meaningful and enjoyable as did my mother and I. My mother and father are both gone now, my mother passed away in 2007 and my father in 2012. But speaking for them and for my husband and myself, congratulations on being selected for this scholarship. I look forward to meeting you and getting to know you both now and in the future. I hope that you will touch the lives of the children you teach in a positive way, and I hope that your life is enriched by all the experiences you will have in your career.

My best to you,

Jeanie Saldeen Crosby

The following is an excerpt that my mother, Margaret Douglas Saldeen, wrote about her early experiences in teaching in a country school. I have included this excerpt so that you might understand how much my mother loved her profession of teaching.

Jeanie and Mom

A Country School Teacher by Margaret Saldeen

In June 1938 I had completed a 2 year course at Central State Teachers College (now CMU), and had my Certificate to start teaching in a one room country school. I had no car so my father offered to drive me to see what was available.

My first encounter was at a big old fashioned farm-house, the home of a rural school director. The teacher was supposed to live with them and walk the one and a half miles to school. The house was dreary…heavy dark wood, narrow windows, etc. My heart sank!! (Our house was always bright and cheery).

My father saw my dismay and on the way to the next director, he made me an offer. He would sell me his car at payments of $50.00 a month, and I could stay at home with free room and board. I loved my home and this was the best offer I could ever have.

Jeanie Saldeen Crosby and her mom, Margaret Douglas Saldeen

The next director, at the Wheeler School, was very direct. They’d had no discipline and many problems at school. So, “Could I spank them?” My father quickly said, as if the question was ridiculous, “Of course she can.” (He said this as he knew I felt there were better ways than spanking to discipline). His answer was, “OK, you can have the job, but you must get through every page of those textbooks- no half or three quarters as they had done before”. I was to get $80.00 a month to do the janitor work. I had close to 30 wonderful students, including several gentle hardworking Mexican migrant children for a couple of months. There were no discipline problems and they finished their textbooks with my 8th graders testing higher than the town students.

It took a lot of planning to cover all 9 grades. They learned not only their subjects, but how to treat others, good manners etc. When one class was in session the others would be reading, writing or studying quietly at their seats until their class was called. One year I had a little handicapped boy in a wheelchair. His older sister took care of his physical needs. He showed so much joy at learning the action words etc. The other children learned to appreciate their own abilities and were kind and helpful. It was much like the Mainstream program we have today, a win-win situation.

A rural school teacher had to plan monthly PTA meetings. The students put on plays, recited poetry etc. had a Box Social or an outside speaker. One Christmas I hired my brother to be Santa Claus. He had to come out of a make believe fireplace on the cue “Down thru the Chimney with good St. Nick” He had to hide behind that fireplace in my red snowsuit for 2 hours. He came out on cue but I’m sure he was the reddest-faced, hottest Santa anyone had ever seen.

For two years we had a Mrs. Miles from MSU who helped us with our Music and Art. Once a year we had a County Music Program at the Ithaca Gymnasium. I was chosen to lead it. There were 500 4th thru 8th graders in front of me and their parents behind me. I thought they did well. The next summer I attended Summer School and took a Music course as I was working towards my Degree. I asked the Prof. for some help on conducting. She found I was not only leading with my hand but was keeping time with my feet and considerable fanny motion. She laughed and taught me to lead without entertaining all those fathers!!!!!! In music we made a Rhythm Band which was a great pride to them. Their Art work kept the windows and walls decorated.

A rural teacher also had to lead or find leaders for both Boys and Girls 4H Clubs. Our Clubs won prizes at the County Fair. Our 7th and 8th graders entered an Essay Contest and won a set of Britannica encyclopedias for the school.

Most of our students had never been out of our County so with a couple of other teachers we organized a 3 bus trip to GreenField Village in Dearborn, MI. It was a great thrill for them. Later we did a Sugar Mill trip, a Hay ride at a nearby farm and a Bobsled ride.

A couple times a year on lovely warm days we’d take our pads and pencils outside, look up at the sky and put our dreams on paper. I wish there were more space so I could share some of our fun experiences with you. These were great kids.

Criteria for Jeanie Saldeen Crosby and Margaret Douglas Saldeen Endowed Scholarship in Elementary Education

Recipients shall be undergraduate or post B.A. internship (fifth) year students enrolled in the College of Education pursuing elementary teacher certification. Recipients shall be selected on a basis of financial need, with financial need being determined by the Federal Government according to its policies and procedures. Recipients shall not have received any other scholarship awards.

Give Now to Jeanie Saldeen Crosby and Margaret Douglas Saldeen Endowed Scholarship in Elementary Education

Jeanie and Parents

Jeanie and her parents, Margaret and Bill Saldeen