By Anna Jauhola
A 65-year difference separates the teaching careers of a Lancaster grandmother and granddaughter, but they both harbor similar goals of fostering strong students through quality education.
Vada Gatheridge is beginning her first year as the second grade teacher at Lancaster School in the same classroom in which she was a second grader and her grandmother, Harriet Sanner, began her teaching career. She spent three years teaching third grade in 1952, 1953 and 1954. She also taught one year of Headstart in the 1960s.
“This addition was brand new the first year I was here,” Sanner said of the second grade classroom. “I was in the church basement for six weeks. When I got here, the carpenters were still in the first and second grade rooms. It was quite a while before they finished, but the school knew I was getting so tired of having these big tables and chairs, so they let us come back.”
Gatheridge does not have carpenters to deal with, but the week before school started, she had a small chaos of her own as she set up her classroom for the first time. She had piles of goodies and decorations to one side and was excited to set up the tables for her 11 students.
Gatheridge attended Lancaster School and graduated in 2013. She then attended the University of North Dakota and graduated in 2017 with degrees in elementary and early childhood education. She student taught second grade at Tri-County School in Karlstad and taught one year in Pembina. She also substitute taught at Lancaster for about five months. When the second grade position opened up in Lancaster at the end of last year, she didn’t hesitate to apply.
Gatheridge lives in Lake Bronson with her husband, Zach, who also attended Lancaster School. Her parents, Owen and Shelly Westerberg, farm near Lake Bronson. So, her roots run deep in Kittson County and she’s excited to be teaching in her home school and particularly finds pride in teaching the same position her grandmother did so many years ago.
Sanner finds the same pride in her granddaughter’s new role.
“Oh, I think it’s really neat,” Sanner said, beaming at Gatheridge as they visited in their classroom. “I couldn’t believe it would happen like that.”
Sanner said the biggest change is seeing tables in the classroom instead of desks, and the size of the class. Sanner had approximately 40 students in her grade, likely due to one country school and the Orleans school closing in 1951. Gatheridge has 11 students in her class. Sanner also noted that as a teacher, she was responsible for her students from the time they arrived at school until the time they went home. Whereas teachers today have a respite when their classes go to gym, music, recess and other special classes.
As Gatheridge and Sanner visited in their classroom about differences, they discussed how educational and classroom tools has changed.
“And what is this?” Sanner asked, pointing to a large screen on the wall. “A computer? A television?”
“It’s an interactive board, Grandma,” Gatheridge said. “You can project things on there and move things around.”
“Ohhh,” Sanner said.
Grandmother and granddaughter also compared notes on their own educations. While Gatheridge spent four and a half years in college, Sanner took two years and one summer to receive her degree.
As she begins her career teaching at Lancaster, Gatheridge said she is most looking forward to watching the kids grow through the years. She knows many of them either through knowing their parents or from having babysat them. A few impending challenges in her first year include getting used to the schedule and how things operate.
“It’s even changed so much from when I was here,” Gatheridge said. “We used to take AR (Accelerated Reader) tests up in the library and now they take tests in the classroom on their Chromebooks. I didn’t know that, so I probably would have been sending kids upstairs to take tests.”
Despite the changes, Gatheridge said she is excited to be in her new role and that she shares the same title her grandmother once held in the same room in their home community. Sanner feels the same way, noting that she enjoys the fact many of her students still live in the area.
“They kids are really nice and you don’t ever forget them,” Sanner said of her students. “I can still keep track of them. When you have them for nine months, they’re kind of part yours.”
“And they love you!” Gatheridge said.
The duo agrees, although the physical building has changed quite a bit over the years, the environment at Lancaster School has remained the same – warm and inviting.
“It’s just a great place, I think,” Sanner said.
“I think everybody is friendly,” Gatheridge said. “It’s fun to be back where I went to school.”
By Anna Jauhola