Teaching, a Family Tradition: The Hightshoe Sisters

Following the formation of Iowa in 1846, the state’s founders embarked on the creation of a formal educational system that would become a model for the rest of the nation. For this system to succeed, the role of the teacher was critical. Standards and rules for educators were developed for Iowa’s children to receive the best education possible. As time has passed, many of these rules have changed, but the importance of teachers has remained.

With a combined total of 139 years of teaching experience, the Hightshoe sisters – Helen, Martha, and Lorraine – created a lasting impact on the history of education in Iowa. Together, the sisters experienced multiple phases of educational development including the transition from one-room schools to consolidated schools. In a 1994 interview with the Iowa City Press-Citizen, the sisters discuss the many changes they have seen and make special note of the differences in approaches to teaching. Helen states, “We used to have books and manuals for each grade. Now they want teachers to come up with original ideas and do more new things.”

The sisters began their teaching careers in the mid-20th century. Helen was the first to graduate with her High School Normal Training Certificate in 1941 and soon after began teaching at Iowa County, Greene Township, #4 Tucker. The first year can be nerve-wracking experience for any teacher; however, for Helen, this was especially true. Her sisters, Martha and Lorraine, were two of her students! Helen recalls, “They didn't cause problems for me, but they thought I was tougher on them than everyone else.” That may be because, “Our dad always told us if we gave her any trouble we’d have a lot more trouble at home,” remarks Martha in a 1995 interview with the Iowa City Gazette.

Although she may have been tough, watching Helen in the classroom inspired her sisters to follow in her footsteps. Both Martha and Lorraine became rural school teachers in 1942 and 1951, respectively. Each sister taught at multiple schools during their careers, but each remained in southeast Iowa. Students from Iowa, Washington, and Johnson Counties benefited from the expertise and guidance of the Hightshoe sisters.

The Center for the History of Rural Iowa Education and Culture (CHRIEC) possesses a variety of records pertaining to the Hightshoe sisters and their contribution to Iowa’s history of education. The Helen Marine Collection, Lorraine Turnipseed Collection, and Susan Hightshoe Collection – all part of the History of Education Collections – consist of personal items and teaching records. County specific teaching records can be found in the Rural School Records: RSC/RSR/048 Iowa County, RSC/RSR/052 Johnson County, and RSC/RSR/092 Washington County.

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