Back To The 1st Grade

Posted: Tuesday, September 16, 2008 at 12:00 am
By: Doug Lund
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Funny the interesting things one can discover when one leaves the house to do something besides play golf.
Such was the case on our recent weekend in Lincoln, Nebraska.
Our daughter, Suzan had taken Friday afternoon off so that we could pick-up granddaughter Zoey from her new school, Cavett Elementary,  and perhaps arrive early enough to  spend a half hour or so visiting her first grade classroom. Now, you have to be careful here. There’s a fine age line from when a child is happy to see you show up at school and when they roll their eyes and slump down low in their desks red from embarrassment. 
Fortunately, Zoey is six and hasn’t reached that latter point yet.  In fact, when she spotted us coming into the room, she flashed a huge smile and was actually kind of proud, I think, to show us off to her classmates. Zoey, still okay with Grandma and Grandpa visiting schoolOur presence was a curious distraction to the other kids at first but they soon lost interest..especially when their teacher, speaking in the third person, said “Mrs.Johnson would like you to go to your stations right now and get the workbooks out for our next lesson.” Mrs. Johnson then presented a fun way for them to learn about sentence structure and their attention quickly refocused on the task at hand instead of the grown-up strangers standing off in the corner.
 It’s amazing to watch little kids who are like sponges absorbing so many new and exciting things every day being guided by imaginative caring teachers like Mrs. Johnson.
“This might be a dumb question, I said to Suzan, but I couldn’t help wonder if there’s any connection between Cavett Elementary and Dick Cavett..the long time TV talk show host in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s? He is from Lincoln, I think.” Turns out it wasn’t a dumb question. The school is, in fact, named after his father, Alva, and step mother, Dorcas Cavett, both lifelong school teachers who had a significant effect on the lives of children throughout the Lincoln community.Alva Cavett (Dick’s Dad) was known to inject humor into his English lessons.Dorcas Cavett was once fired for refusing to keep a list of "naughty" kids for the school board.
But there’s more. Dorcas was a young teacher when World War II began. Determined to serve her country, she wound up being the very first female in the United States Marine Corps..serving 3 ½ years and rising to the rank of Captain. After the war she returned to teaching and married Alva..a widower with a young son, Dick, who she raised as her own.
In fact, Dorcas Cavett became a  TV celebrity long before her step son.
She was “The math lady’ to tens of thousands  through the math classes she taught every day for years over Nebraska Educational Television.
When she died last year at the age of 91, city leaders praised her as being one of the most beloved and smartest people in Lincoln. Former students spoke of how she changed their lives in all sorts of positive ways and inspired so many of them to become teachers too.
I don’t know if Zoey’s teacher, Mrs. Johnson, was one of them but I’ll bet there was someone like a Mrs. Cavett in her life too. God bless ‘em all!

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