I was 6 years old and in the first grade in the spring of 1950 when my parents received my last report card of the year. It was signed by teacher Sylpha Hovland, who certified my promotion to the second grade at Fram Township School No. 3 in Wellsburg, N.D.
I still have the card.
Later, I moved on to Harvey High School, the University of North Dakota and Northwestern University. But in retrospect, I regard Mrs. Hovland as the best teacher I ever had, bar none.
She was very encouraging, focused on solid fundamentals and instilled in us a desire to learn. My subject matter grades were decent (except for penmanship).
But I fared less well in two habits and attitudes categories: “Responsive to Authority” and “Receives suggestions kindly.”
Yeah, she got that right.
Although the Vorland farm is long gone, most years I try to visit Wellsburg. This picture was taken in 2004, shot from roughly the center of the home quarter. The buildings and trees are now gone. The current owner farms the land fence line to fence line.
The Wellsburg grain elevators also have disappeared. Indeed, so has most of the town.
But the school building still exists, converted into a personal residence.
I’ll travel to Wellsburg and Harvey this summer, as I have done so many times. The novelist Thomas Wolfe was wrong — you CAN go home again.
And this year, I’ll be thinking of Mrs. Hovland.