Country School Reunion takes place Saturday in Craig |

Country School Reunion takes place Saturday in Craig

Country school teachers and students unite

Noelle Leavitt Riley
Wesley Counts sits with his former school teacher Shirley Stehle at a country school reunion organizational meeting last week.
Noelle Leavitt Riley

Saturday is a big day for those who attended and taught at rural country schools in Northwest Colorado.

A large Country School Reunion will bring generations of students and teachers together at Moffat County Fairgrounds who haven’t seen each other in a long time. The reunion starts at 11 a.m.

Long-time Craig resident Shirley Stehle is one of the country school teachers who helped organize the event. She is proud of her roots in the region and has a fascinating story to tell.

As a student, Shirley attended High Mesa School from fifth to eighth grade. Most memorable in this period was when she won the Moffat County spelling bee and got to go to Denver to compete at the state competition.

She graduated from Craig High School with a scholarship to Greeley State Teachers’ College in 1946. It was then that Katherine Coles, a teacher at Craig High, approached eight potential teachers and said, “We need eight teachers for the rural schools, and if you take this test you can teach next fall.”

“We all considered this and took the test,” Shirley said.

Five passed the test and were assigned to five schools. It was a hard decision for Shirley since she had already received a college scholarship. She consented to teach at Cedar Mountain School, where she taught for one year.

Shirley had first, second, sixth, seventh and eighth grad students in her one-room classroom.

“A circus, and yes we had a clown,” Shirley said.

Wesley Counts was her first-grade class clown.

“And those who know him, knows he’s still a clown,” Shirley said.

But, she said it was a good year teaching. Everyone passed their grades and grew up to have good lives of which Shirley is very proud.

Another one-room classroom teacher is Patty Nicodemus who had only two students at her school in Morapis. Craig Daily Press columnist Diane Prather was one of her students.

“She was a good student,” Patty said of Diane.

Students of the current generation might find the hardships of country school too much to handle, but Patty enjoyed the hard work of carrying coal and wood to the schoolhouse so that they had heat.

“We didn’t have any electricity,” she said.

Patty taught at Morapis for two years in 1949 and 1950, and she loved every minute of it.

Tim Hurst also taught in rural Northwest Colorado in Powderwash, however his tenure was in the 1990s when one-room classrooms were almost nonexistent.

The school was opened to teach gas line employees’ kids. In 1992, Hurst taught 10 kids from first to sixth grade, and in 1993 he taught 12 kids in first through sixth grades.

“It was pretty fun, because we could go outside and explore the country if we wanted to,” he said.

He taught the younger kids how to read and write, and it was an amazing experience.

“That one room school experience was unique and a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Hurst said.

He currently teaches physical education at Sandrock Elementary School in Craig.

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