Things are much different today than when Margaret Wilson started teaching almost 50 years ago.
Back then there were no computers in schools; there was no such thing as pre-school or kindergarten. A pack of 12 pencils would set you back 39 cents and the case to go with it only cost 49 cents.
Along the way she touched hundreds of lives and still relishes time spent in school.
Times Observer photo by Brian Collins
Then and Now...
Margaret Wilson volunteers her time at St. Joseph’s School. Almost 50 years after teaching her first class, she still makes a daily impact on students’ lives in Warren County. Wilson is pictured with Iris Kiehl as they read “Biscuit Finds a Friend” together.
In the early 1960s, Wilson began teaching at a Catholic school in Washington, D.C. At the time, she did not yet have a degree in teaching, something she still laughs about today. "I had 45 students in the second grade. When they were sitting down at their desks, it didn't look like so many, but when they'd line up down the hall to go to the bathroom, I'd see this long line," she recalled, laughing.
After obtaining a degree in Elementary Education from George Washington University in 1964, Wilson began teaching the first grade in Montgomery County, Md. Even at that time, class sizes had begun to shrink from 45 to 35. "Discipline was difficult," said Wilson, "there weren't special education classes just yet, so there were kids with behavioral problems that you just had to deal with."
In 1968, Wilson decided it was time to specialize and earned her Master's Degree from the Perkins School for the Blind thanks to a scholarship she received.
She has never looked back.
From 1971-1972, Wilson taught third grade at Sheffield before moving to South Street School where she spent the next six years.
More than 40 years later, she can still be found volunteering at St. Joseph's School. Almost 50 years has passed from the time she first began teaching, and Wilson has noted many of the changes over the years.
For one, the second grade class is almost one-third the size of the first class she ever took on. Students in first and second grade already know the alphabet, have started to read and have the basics down. This is in contrast to the fact that most of the students Wilson had her first year were starting from scratch.
"They would learn reading, math, writing, religion, and spelling," she recalled. Now, most students are expected to have a basic knowledge of these subjects upon entering grade school.
"Not only do the students these days read, but they are tested daily in the computer lab on their comprehension" - a stark comparison to the 1960s. "We hoped they were comprehending then, but we didn't have anything to test them with," Wilson added.
Today, Wilson, 85, can most likely be found in the library at St. Joseph's helping the students with their reading. Despite retiring 23 years ago, her love for teaching has kept her coming back for the past seven years, first as a substitute, now as a volunteer.
"It's hard to compare now to back then because the class sizes are so much smaller, but it was definitely different," concluded Wilson.