The Magazine of the University of Minnesota Duluth

Volume 15 • Number 1 • Winter 1998


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The education program at UMD is rich with history. Current UMD students and their teachers have an abundance of interesting events and projects to share. The halls of the Duluth Normal School and the Duluth State Teachers College were full of important stories. There isn't enough space to do them all justice. Looking back at over 100 years of teacher education, three stories come to the forefront: two alumni who taught in one-room schoolhouses, the new lab school for UMD, and the legacy of a leader in educational psychology.

One Room, One Teacher, and Eight Grades

Elvira Svard's Excelsior School Classroom (Left) and
Bohlin and Svard visiting a one-room schoolhouse near Two Harbors (Right)

Two Duluth State Teachers College graduates, Dagny Svard Bohlin and her sister Elvira Svard, attended and then taught in one-room schoolhouses during a time when hundreds of them dotted the rural Minnesota landscape.

Their memories of the one-room schoolhouse experience are vivid. It was a time when parents had tremendous respect for the teacher and for learning. They remember Christmas pageants and spring picnics that involved the entire community. There was the walk to school early in the morning to light the wood stove and haul drinking water to the Red Wing stoneware jug. Hot lunch meant jars of soup heating in a water pan on the stove. The children carried their lunches in metal Karo corn syrup pails. Colorful maps were raised and lowered behind the large globe on the teacher's desk. The first graders started with the book, The Little Red Hen. Students practiced reading, grammar and writing at desks screwed down to the floor.

Bohlin remembers one father who brought his children and the neighbor children to school in a horse-drawn caboose -- a small house built on top of a sled. Svard remembers children who brought a note from home so they would be allowed to skate on the Red River.

In the Red River Valley, during the Depression and the years that followed, no one went hungry. They may not have had money to buy a lot of things, but, living on the farm, there was always food. Transportation was often difficult and both Bohlin and Svard, just girls in their late teens and early twenties, were often lonely and homesick.

In love with teaching and learning, Bohlin and Svard traveled to Duluth to take more education classes. They both wanted to earn four-year degrees at the Duluth State Teachers College and return to western Minnesota.

But both of their paths took a turn. Dagny met her husband-to-be, Gust Bohlin, that first summer in Duluth. One year later, in 1942, they were married and Gust was on assignment in World War II. During the next three and a half years Bohlin only saw her husband twice. Her wedding presents stayed packed in boxes.

Svard, who first taught in the one-room Excelsior school, and then taught first grade   for seven years in Milaca, attended DSTC for one year to finish her bachelor of science degree in elementary education. She was tempted by a Two Harbors teaching job and she moved north instead of back home.

Like so many other Duluth college students, the war shaped Dagny Bohlin's life. She was able to stay in Duluth and pursue both a bachelor's and a master's degree. The day before classes began in 1943, the phone rang at 5 p.m. The superintendent of the Duluth schools, faced with an emergency vacancy, called to offer Bohlin a job teaching fifth grade at Lowell School. The faculty at DSTC had chosen Bohlin for their recommendation. That year and the one following, she took evening college classes and taught grade school during the day.

Bohlin stayed in close contact with DSTC and UMD as she continued her teaching career. After teaching in several Duluth elementary schools, she took on a new assignment -- she became the supervisor of student teachers as well as director of one of the reading centers. Her last assignment was as a reading curriculum specialist and director of the Teacher Resource Center.

Svard taught first grade in the Two Harbors Lake Superior School District. She retired from the Minnehaha School the same year the school retired. It was razed and replaced by a middle school building.

This last year, these two sisters, Dagny Bohlin and Elvira Svard, joined the UMD Presidents Club. Their entire lives have been filled with the faces of students and the joy of learning. Now that they don't spend their days in the classroom, their gifts to UMD do the work for them. Their generosity will help dozens of students pursue an education at UMD.

Their experience in one-room schoolhouses was long ago but the images of snow, floods, wheat, "Dick and Jane," and The Golden Book of 100 Favorite Songs still stay with them today. From the one-room schoolhouse to high-tech classroom, Dagny Bohlin and Elvira Svard have made a difference in education.

Dagny Bohlin saved her husband's report card from the Vega Township Distrikt 31 School



Formed in 1900 to educate students and prospective teachers, the Duluth Laboratory School provided students with an outstanding education from top practitioners who were also master teachers.

The idea of a lab school providing   individualized learning was not new. An educational pioneer, Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi, established a model school for needy boys and girls in 1774 on a farm in Switzerland. In 1896 the Dewey School, conceived by the world-famous educator John Dewey, was founded in Chicago. It was truly a laboratory from its inception     -- an experimental school where his theories of education could be put into practice, tested, and scientifically evaluated.

The Duluth Normal School and the Duluth State Teachers College, like these educational pioneers, were striving for excellence in education and they wanted   to put educational theory into practice.

Dagny Bohlin did her student teaching assignment in the lab school in the late 1940s. "The Laboratory School was a beautiful building nestled in the valley," she said. "Student teaching was easy for me because I taught so much before." Bohlin taught in a one-room schoolhouse before coming to DSTC but she sharpened her teaching skills under the direction of faculty member Taimi Ranta.

Taimi Ranta followed Laboratory School teachers Olive Horne, Virginia Willcuts, Helen Urquhart and Mabel Banning, the sister of the writer Margaret Calkin Banning. Ranta, like the women teachers who came before her, concentrated on providing an individualized learning experience for each child.

Aune Fadum, who taught second grade in the lab school in the mid 1960s, said the attention to the individual student continued in her classroom. Observers from the educational methods class from the "upper campus" regularly attended her classes to watch how lesson plans translated into the classroom experience. Every quarter, each lab school teacher also had a practice teacher.

There were about 20 students in each class and there were always children on the waiting list. Fadum said that quality of the education was high. "We weren't trying to be exceptionally different, we just wanted to give the best education that was possible." They were assisted by a librarian, a physical education teacher, a music teacher and an art teacher, each with their own room or facility.

Fadum had a specialty that she developed in the Laboratory School and still   practices today. She teaches reading and storytelling using puppets. "Puppetry teaches children to adopt a new persona," she said. "It is a highly developed art   form that brings out a child's talent for role playing and even public speaking." Fadum, now retired, visits Duluth's Rockridge Elementary School regularly to work with first-grade students.

Fadum said it was a blow to the community when they closed the school. "It was a model teaching facility and it allowed students to blossom." The lab school    was closed in 1966 as UMD put less emphasis on teacher training and more emphasis on science and the liberal arts. The Laboratory School building became the first home for the School of Medicine.

Inside a classroom in the Duluth State Teachers College Laboratory School

The Chester Park Laboratory School

Now, 98 years after the first Duluth lab school opened, UMD is at it again. The UMD Department of Education has secured an innovative partnership with the   Chester Park Elementary School through the Duluth Public Schools.

UMD educators have been building the alliance with the Chester Park school over the past three and a half years. Prompted by $2.5 million in state-wide lab school start-up funds, parents, teachers, and administrators met last summer to plan a lab school that will start in the fall of 1998.

Mitzi Doane, currently dean of the College of Education and Human Service Professions, has been enthusiastic about the lab school from the start. "We have established a deep sense of trust with the staff at Chester Park," she said. The excitement level at UMD is high as well.

Like the earlier lab school, UMD students will be able to observe teacher and student interaction and become student teachers at Chester Park. Chester Park faculty will be invited to guest teach in UMD classes. All across the UMD campus, departments are planning ways to get involved. History, art, music, and science department faculty are brainstorming projects that will include UMD students in    the Chester Park curriculum.

There are four components of the Chester Park Laboratory School initiative: technology, arts integration, family/community involvement and school-to-work.

The technology initiative will take the most capital expense. "Right now there are only 10 computers for all 500 children and the 24 staff. There is no internet access," said Doane. "Our dream is to provide $400,000 in technology and a full-time staff person to help students and staff learn how to use the tools." Because funding  is still uncertain, the project is ready to scale that initiative down if necessary. "If   we don't get all the money we need, we will write grants, appeal to computer manufacturing companies and try other ways to bring more computers to the school," she said. The school district has agreed to bring the necessary wiring into the classrooms as part of their contribution.

Doane said there is some hesitancy about technology from the community. "We hope this project will demonstrate how technology can improve student achievement and convince the population of technology's place in elementary schools," she said. The project philosophy doesn't place technology as a replacement for subjects, but uses it to enhance learning. Doane said, "Imagine students completing an assignment using a computer. Each student can work at his or her own level. Each student can be totally engaged."

Arts integration is the second facet of the lab school. The plan calls for art, graphic design, music, dance and drama to be integrated into regular classes. The theory is that children will learn more about a subject if they can do more than read about it. If the class can study Egypt or Colonial America by making costumes, putting on a play, drawing scenes from history and listening to or playing music from the period, the experience will be richer. A simple task like using music rhymes to teach times tables is one more example of the arts integration concept.

The family/community involvement concept will bring parents closer to their children and the school. "There was some skepticism at first," said Doane, "Now our meetings run overtime because the parents and staff are enjoying the planning so much." Other aspects of community involvement will be explored. Ideas range   from giving education majors weekly contact with a student to taking time for a    class to shovel snow for elderly neighbors.

The project staff are interested in getting businesses more involved with the school-to-work segment of the plan. "Today's children are isolated from the work world. They almost never get into industry and places of business," said Doane. Plans to visit a hydroelectric dam, a paper manufacturing plant and to investigate the Great Lakes shipping industry are just a few of the ideas they hope to carry out.

The Chester Park teachers and parents want the innovative curriculum development the Laboratory School will bring. The teachers have made a commitment to attend 70 hours of in-service training before classes begin in the fall.

UMD's Mitzi Doane and Chester Park principal Sherri Rudd have
been collaborating for over 3 years on the new lab school

Faculty Achievement in Education

The time is ripe for UMD to take on a project of this magnitude. In the mid-1980s, the Department of Education pulled together elementary education, secondary education, special education and early childhood education into one department. Since that merger, the faculty team has been thriving.

Terrie Shannon, head of the Department of Education, said that faculty members are committed to adding hard research to the body of knowledge in the education field. "Between research, publishing and giving students the best possible teacher preparation their lives are full," she said. "It is a dynamic department with lots of team teaching, grants, and technology."

There are a number of examples of faculty projects that illustrate that energy:

Mary Kay Rummel and Elizabeth P. Quintero recently published two books Teachers' Reading/Teachers' Lives and American Voices, Webs of Diversity. They have two more books in progress.

Clay Keller has joined colleagues who are studying special education in Norway. That connection was recently made "live" with a video link between Duluth and Trondheim that allowed leaders in the field to discuss emotional behavior disorders and their treatment.

Joan Karp, Clay Keller and Noell Reinhiller routinely assist the State Department of Education with licensure changes.

Bruce Munson received a National Science Foundation grant to develop a web page for students called "Water on the Web." He is setting up computer links between classrooms and assisting students with an underwater robot that collects water samples. Through his project, students share their research on the web.

Helen Carlson and Joan Karp have completed several studies on cross-cultural research in early childhood with Sweden, Russia and England.

Each year, five or six UMD faculty members present research to the American Educational Research organization, the most prestigious educational research association in the country.

Linda Miller Cleary and Thomas D. Peacock, endowed chair in American Indian Education, recently published Collected Wisdom, a book about teaching American Indian children. UMD is the only university in the world to have an endowed chair in American Indian Education; it is evidence of UMD's focus on diversity.

Peacock joins other faculty members in providing experiences for students in numerous settings from Duluth to areas with high populations of diversity. Student teaching can take place in an inner city Minneapolis school or in New Zealand.            

The new lab school will provide an additional challenge to this active group of faculty members. If their past accomplishments are a guide to their future success, the Chester Park project will be an achievement of the finest class.

Moy Fook Gum - Outdoorsman, Scholar, and Teacher

Did a British cargo vessel   help get Moy Fook Gum from Chicago to Duluth? It did, and it is quite a story.

Gum, as his friends and family called him, was working on his Ph.D. in educational psychology at the University of Chicago and his wife, Dorothy, or Dot, was working for a steamship agency. An executive in the company had come to Duluth as an agent for the owners of the freight carrier and when he came back, he told stories of a warm reception in Duluth.

Gum worked in the career counseling office at the University of Chicago and     regularly reviewed the job postings. He brought home the posting for head of the counseling office and psychology instructor at UMD the day it arrived. Because Dot had heard about beautiful and friendly Duluth, she encouraged Gum to apply.

Dot was right. When Gum came back from the UMD interview he was enthusiastic about this new school on Lake Superior. The faculty and administrators he met saw the potential for UMD to grow and encouraged Gum to toss his hat into the ring. Of course, the possibility for hunting and fishing also played a part in Gum's decision. That fall, Gum and Dot arrived in Duluth and Gum began his 34 year-long teaching career at UMD. Gum retired in 1990 but stayed active as a UMD faculty emeritus until he passed away in February of 1997.

Moy Fook Gum made a tremendous impact on both the Department of Psychology and the Department of Education at UMD. He changed the programs and the lives of students. In Hawaii, Chicago and Duluth, Gum brought a love of nature to the classroom and to the people he met.

Gum and Dot grew up in a Chinese community in Hawaii. When they began   dating, Gum and Dot's parents coincidentally knew each other. He met with her parents' approval and the couple married. Their Chinese and Hawaiian backgrounds added color to the lives of UMD students and faculty. Hawaiian flowers joined Chinese paintings and food wherever Gum and Dot were to be found.

As Gum took on more responsibilities at UMD he always had time for his students. He and Dot hosted get-acquainted parties in their home for students and staff. Gum became director of graduate studies in 1961, director of the elementary guidance and counseling institutes in 1968, and head of the psychology department in 1970. Even when he took on Director of graduate studies and a full professorship in 1974 he still made time for his students. Dot said, "he was like a 'father goose' because he cared for them so well." Gum was especially attentive to his student's ability to complete the program. "He made sure they were ready for the demanding challenges ahead," said Dot.

Dot remembered that students could get in touch with Gum at anytime. They   often phoned or visited their home and sometimes they even went fishing with Gum.

Gum set the tone in the psychology department. He created a fun environment that attracted people to the major. He established a trusting relationship with his students that made them willing to take the risk of enrolling in a challenging program.

Perhaps the greatest contribution to UMD was Gum's commitment to the advancement of UMD's graduate programs and establishment of quality standards for Minnesota's educational psychology and counseling curriculum. He authored many of the state policies on elementary school counseling and educational guidance programs.

Professor Marlowe Smaby, now professor at the University of Nevada in Reno, collaborated with Gum at UMD on over 30 articles and books. "Gum was a persistent advocate for people of color," he said. "To this day, I think of Gum when I see the highly-qualified minorities in our profession. Gum led the way. He stood up for what he believed in and he pushed people to excel."

Gum led a balanced life and that was an inspiration for his colleagues. Smaby said, "He took time to enjoy life. He fished and hunted and showed us you can't be completely absorbed by work."

This year, the College of Education and Human Service Professions has established an endowed assistanceship in Moy Fook Gum's honor. The psychology assistanceship will provide tuition and support for counseling graduate students who work as teaching assistants. The goal is $100,000 so the interest can support assistanceships every year. "This assistanceship is a real tribute to Gum and honors his professional dedication, commitment, compassion and ethics," said Smaby. Mitzi Doane has already made a $5,000 gift to get the fund off the ground. Alumni and friends interested in contributing to the scholarship can contact Steven Johnston at UMD, 218/726-6995.

-- Cheryl Reitan


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