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Howe, 50-year teacher, faculty inductee Friday

Published: Thursday, Sept. 27, 2012 11:31 a.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, Sept. 27, 2012 12:01 p.m. CDT

World War II was under way, and teachers were in demand in the spring of 1944.

So, even though she was only 17 years old at the time — younger than allowed to be a certified teacher through a six-week "normal training" period — Marcella Stanley became a country school teacher in Madison County.

She had graduated just a few weeks earlier from Redfield High School. Some of the students in her school were 16 years old. Essentially, her peers.

But, an educator was born. Fifty years later, Marcella Howe — married to Robert Howe in 1949 — retired as an elementary teacher in Creston, ending a 32-year career in the district.

Both of her daughters were teachers for a time. One, Sharon Snodgrass, stayed in the field for 39 years, advancing to positions as curriculum director and Early Childhood Center principal in Creston before retiring in May 2011, and now serves as president of the district's board of directors.

Howe died in 2010. Her legacy in education runs deep, and she will be rewarded Friday with induction into the Creston Community Schools Hall of Fame as a distinguised faculty member. The ceremony, including coronation of the 2012 homecoming queen, begins 12:15 p.m. in the high school auditorium.

Howe grew up on a farm between Dexter and Earlham in Madison County. She was one of four girls in the family who became teachers. After teaching five years in a Madison County country school, she began teaching at Lincoln No. 5 in Union County Lincoln Township.

Career move Snodgrass was a student in the school, taught by her mother, until the middle of her third-grade year.

"In the fall of 1962 she got a job teaching in Creston," Snodgrass said. "My dad was diagnosed with cancer, and mom knew she had to get a better job that paid more. I was 12 when my dad died, and my sister was 4." Snodgrass said a country school, with students ranging from kindergarten through eighth grade, was a "family atmosphere." Moving to a much larger district in Creston was an adjustment, but Howe made the transition easily as a teacher of third and fourth grades at Lincoln Elementary.

"She was firm, someone that probably some kids would be afraid of," Snodgrass said. "But if you did what you were supposed to do, you were fine."

Tom Lesan, Southwestern Community College vice president of economic development, learned that lesson early in his fourth-grade year.

"The first day of class, I was running around and not paying attention," Lesan recalled. "Mrs. Howe got my attention, believe me! And, she had it from then on. I don't like to overstate things, but if she wasn't the best teacher I ever had, she was in the top three. And, she scared the bejeezers out of me!"

Howe completed her degree while teaching in Creston, first at Creston Junior College — now Southwestern Community College — and later at Drake University.

SWCC endowment Her loyalty to SWCC was repaid in the development of a scholarship program in her name. She purchased a $25,000 life insurance policy on herself, naming the SWCC Education Foundation as the beneficiary. Her gift was acknowledged in a ceremony during the annual foundation board meeting in June 1995.

Through this scholarship endowment, scholarships are awarded to students living within a 50-mile radius of the SWCC Creston campus. A stipulation is that they are education majors. "She wanted to make some kind of legacy for people who wanted to become a teacher," Snodgrass said.

Determined to teach for 50 years, Howe retired from Creston schools in 1994 at age 67. But, she didn't stop working with students.

Howe mentored students after retiring, especially helping those involved in researching history projects. She also became involved in volunteering at the Union County HIstorical Complex in McKinley Park. The Lincoln No. 5 school building was moved there shortly after it closed.

"Her passion was helping others learn ... at school, through talks to community organizations, to students working on projects, or family and friends in the area," Snodgrass said.

Extra attention And, Lesan said Howe was a teacher who cared about her students long after they left her classroom.

"She would clip out something in the newspaper if I did something, and send it to me with a note on it," he said. "Even after I was married and back in town, we moved close to where she lived and she made a point to come down and talk about how we were neighbors now. She was always paying attention."

And now, she's in the school district's Hall of Fame.

"That's a very nice honor for my mother," Snodgrass said. "She'd be very pleased and touched."

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