Editor’s note: The following includes excerpts from a 1981 retirement for Alice Lee.
While strolling by the shores of the Des Moines River, I ran into an interesting group. Now, you must understand that this wasn’t the normal family group you often find, so we introduced ourselves. Samantha Snake said, “Are you a pin?” Milton Monkey, while dangling from a tree asked, “Are you a pan?” Henry Hippo asked, “Then are you a mat?” Salty Parrott, becoming impatient, said, “Well, if you aren’t any of the above, just who are you and why do you look so sad?”
I told them I was a parent who was grateful to a teacher for the solid educational foundation she had given to our children. The animals invited me to join them and said, “We know this wonderful lady who has enriched so many children’s lives, as we have spent much time with her in the past years. We can tell you many things about Mrs. Alice Lee.”
Alice Chitwood Lee graduated from William Penn College, earned her M.A. from Northeast Missouri State University and added 15 hours from both Drake and UNI. Thirty-four years ago, Frank Douma interviewed her in New Sharon, where she was teaching, and the next day he called and offered her a job. Douma named several schools, and she selected the last one, which happened to be Agassiz. In 1947, she was given the responsibility of teaching 62 children in full-time classes. During the years, she has taught with 13 different teachers and served under principals Merle Wilson, Albert Wagner, Wallace Pixley and Bill Evans. Parent-teacher conferences date back to Stuart school, and Mrs. Lee was asked to start a pilot program with kindergarten parents at Agassiz. These were accomplished both before and after school as there was no “release time.”
Samantha Snake said their lives had been enriched even more as 11 hearing-impaired children have been mainstreamed through her kindergarten classes. She also taught a completely blind child a year before the visually-impaired classroom was established at James school.
Milton Monkey dropped from the tree, put a consoling arm around me, handed me a hanky and said, “Dry your tears, lady, don’t you and your babies know how lucky you’ve been?”
Thank you, Alice Lee, for the years of caring, sharing, teaching and symbolizing what American education is all about!