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Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Growing up in Naperville – Trip down memory lane features treasured teachers


I entered kindergarten at Ellsworth School right after Labor Day in 1944. My teacher was Miss Reynolds. However, after three weeks of school, we had to learn her new name was “Mrs. Hallwachs.” Years later, I found out that she was the first single teacher that was allowed to marry during the school year. Then Superintendent Ralph Beebe had given her permission because Mr. Hallwachs was in the Army and going overseas!

My first-grade teacher was Miss McDermand. The big thing that happened in first grade was the big train wreck on April 25, 1946. You can read all about this local disaster in a book by Chuck Spinner. It’s called Tragedy at the Loomis Street Crossing. (A Century Walk sculpture by Paul Kuhn titled “Tragedy to Triumph,” located near the Naperville Metra Station since 2014, also tells the story.)

My second-grade teacher was Mrs. Peterson and she read a chapter a day from Tom Sawyer. When that book was finished, she started on another classic, Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

My third-grade teacher was Mrs. Kresen and I also started to take bass horn lessons from Mr. Elmer Koerner. The bass horn is more commonly known as the tuba!

My fourth-grade teacher was Miss Noss and I was put in the Ellsworth School Band! The band included fourth, fifth and sixth graders.

My fifth-grade teacher was Mrs. Eichorst and she was tough! She ran a very disciplined class.

At the end of fifth grade, the school board moved the sixth graders to the old high school and renamed the building “Washington Junior High School.” The building housed sixth through eighth grades.

The new high school was opened on Aurora Avenue in the fall of 1950.

My sixth-grade teacher was Don Barnickle who later became principal at Elmwood School. I also joined the orchestra that year, learning to play String Bass.

In seventh and eighth grades, we began moving to different class rooms for English, Science, Math and Social Studies. We also had Art Class, Gym, Music, Band and Industrial Arts. So I had a multitude of teachers, including Miss Gramp and Miss Morrisey (English); Mr. Chessman (Social Studies); Mr. Maleck (Science); Miss Baker (Math); Mr. Koerner (Band); Mr. McCabe (Orchestra); Mr. Weldy (Music); and Mr. Klein (Industrial Arts).

Then in the fall of 1953, I started high school and Mr. Koerner put me in the Naperville Municipal Band! Wow! Was that an exciting experience! I’d never seen so many notes go by so fast in my life! I know why he did it. He was afraid I wasn’t practicing hard enough and he wanted to challenge me. And he did!

Years later when I was hired back to teach in Naperville, I had the privilege to teach with some of my former teachers. They were all wonderful and treated me well as I had been taught by some of the best!

Editor’s Note: Ever wonder if you can name all your teachers with a highlight from every grade?

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Ron Keller
Ron Keller
Ron Keller is a lifelong Naperville resident, tuba enthusiast and has been conducting the Naperville Municipal Band for over 50 years.

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