Tribute to my first-grade teacher, Francelle Calkins

I believe 1946 was her first year of teaching at Washington Elementary Grade School in Auburn. She was young, beautiful, and helped make the transition of being away from the security of home and my mom and dad less threatening. Mrs. Francelle Calkins was learning how to handle the challenges that come to teachers. She was full of compassion and common sense.

I can remember not being very good at drawing circles, squares and rectangles, probably because of not having been able to attend Kindergarten very often. She very patiently helped me learn how to draw and recognize what these shapes were.

My younger brother, Patrick, had her as his first grade teacher the following year. Many years later

Mrs. Calkins shared an experience she had with him. Patrick had quite an imagination, and was also a little mischievous. Each day, when he came to school, he would tell her how he had escaped some danger. The day when a bear had chased him down the driveway just before he got on the school bus must have put him “over the top”. Mrs. Calkins decided this boy needed a few minutes of quiet time. There was an old fashioned large coat closet in the class room. This is where she had Patrick go for some uninterrupted quiet time. Except, that at the end of the school day, after all of the children had gone home, as she opened the coat closet for her coat, there was Patrick, fast asleep!

Regardless of the consequences, Mrs. Calkins knew what had to be done. As she told Mr. Ray, our Principal, what had happened, he amazingly understood. He asked her to drive Patrick home and explain to our mom and dad why he had missed the school bus. On the way home, Patrick was almost certain that mom and dad would not hold this against Mrs. Calkins, and he might even be in trouble with them. So, as they approached the long driveway, Patrick assured her that she could just drop him off and he would tell his parents why he was late. Sometime later, when the parent-teacher conference was held, Mrs. Calkins apologized to our mom for the embarrassing experience that had happened. Turns out, she didn’t know anything about it. Life on the farm kept our parents very busy all day, so it’s not surprising they hadn’t noticed Patrick was late that day.

Patrick and I had the great blessing and privilege of reuniting with Mrs. Calkins for three years before she passed on earlier this year. She had a full, eventful life of 99 years!

She attended our family reunion in Packwood, a class reunion of mine where she knew almost everyone there. During this time we discovered we had much in common. And, of course, I got to hear all of the highlights of a very eventful career.

She and her son Pete shared their family home together; loving and supporting each other.

The little town of Auburn will never be the same without teachers like Francelle Calkins, but it is a better place because of her.

Linda Mueller Arndt