|Prospect Elementary 6th Grade - Miss Woodruff|
Monday, November 7, 2011
Prospect Elementary School Cont.
My Favorite Teacher
In September of 1950 I entered the fifth grade at Prospect Elementary School. I had just celebrated my tenth birthday and was about to begin the best year of my career at Prospect. It was then that I met Mrs. Hazel Cramer, our fifth grade teacher. Mrs. Cramer’s classroom was in the old section of the school overlooking the Playground on the South side of the building. This was the first time our class met in the old building. Our Kindergarten through fourth grade classrooms had all been in the newest section of the school overlooking the Euclid Avenue playground. Moving to the old building seemed to be a significant step in our maturation. We were now closer to the seat of power (Mr. Preston and Miss Woodruff) and quite separated from the younger children. I believe we even used a separate entrance.
Most of us can identify one or more people, who had a great impact on our lives. That person may be a friend or relative or some other adult, whom we look to for guidance and inspiration. Often that person is a teacher. I have had many teachers in my life. Most of them had some influence on the person I have become. However, very few of those teachers stand out from all the others. Hazel Cramer was the teacher, who was first able to inspire me to grow and achieve. The year I spent with her was a breakout year for me in many ways and not just in school.
As I said earlier, I spent the first five years of my school career just getting by. I did as much work as necessary but no more. I knew the stuff I was doing was important but I wasn’t really inspired by it. I was also somewhat shy and introverted. I think I was self conscious about the fact that I wore glasses and that my left eye turned in. For that reason, I believe, I seldom volunteered or put myself out there. I didn’t want to call attention to myself. That all changed in the fifth grade. A lot of that change I attribute to Hazel Cramer.
Hazel Cramer was a trained teacher, who probably knew all the latest thinking on educational theories and techniques. However, I’m sure all my other teachers had been just as well trained. If there was any one technique Mrs. Cramer used with me, I believe it was positive reinforcement. The difference is that I don’t believe that was just a technique with her. She was a very nice and caring person. Without even realizing it, I found myself participating more in class. I came out of my shell and lost many of my inhibitions. I was able to do that because Mrs. Cramer gave me the support and encouragement I needed to achieve my potential. I found myself wanting to do things to please her and as a result I was feeling better about myself. In retrospect that awakening I experienced in the fifth grade may have been influenced by factors outside of my school life as well. I had a wonderful group of peers in my neighborhood, which provided a comfortable environment in which to develop my interpersonal skills. Some of my new sense of security and confidence may have been a result of normal maturation. That being said, I believe my relationship with Mrs. Cramer in school that year was the major influence on my success in school and in life generally. I will always remember her fondly.
For some reason my fifth grade class is the only group for which I do not have a class picture. I think they may not have made class pictures that year. I did correspond with Mrs. Cramer briefly after graduating from Prospect School. The entry she made in my graduation autograph book is shown below along with a picture of Mrs. Cramer taken at her Cleveland Heights home in July, 1951.
Later in life I got to know Mrs. Cramer’s daughter, also named Hazel Cramer. At that time both Hazel and I were attending Western Reserve University. Hazel was studying French. She went on to become a very successful Professor of French at State University of New York in Cortland. I have recently corresponded with Hazel, who informs me that both of her parents have passed away. I had hoped that her mother was still alive so I could tell her how important she was in my life. Unfortunately I waited too long. However I hope I was able to demonstrate my regard for her back in the day. I am sure that she had similar influence on the lives of many students during her time at Prospect Elementary School.
Sixth Grade and Graduation from Prospect Elementary School
In September, 1951 I finally met Miss Woodruff, the authority figure, whom I dreaded for most of my career at Prospect. As I wrote earlier, she was in charge of school discipline and ran the Safety Patrol. Any minor infraction could result in the miscreant being “sent up to Woodie”. She was also my sixth grade teacher. I found her to be a very pleasant person, not anywhere near as fearsome as her reputation. By that time I also had the self confidence to not be intimidated by her reputation. She was always fair and helpful to me. Having adopted a new attitude toward myself and school in the fifth grade, I think I was better prepared to succeed in the sixth grade. I even served on the Safety Patrol. That meant I could wear a badge while guarding various entrance doors and halls. I even got to ring the school bell on several occasions. I never got the prime assignment for a Safety, which was working the crossing at Shaw and Euclid along with Patrolman Jack Baker. Miss Woodruff was an important influence on my life both as an unseen and distant disciplinary figure and a close up classroom teacher.
Note: Miss Woodruff top row right
Robert Dreifort bottom row left
We had a second teacher in the sixth grade. Her name was Mrs. Porter. Mrs. Porter’s classroom was across the hall from Miss Woodruff’s room. The class moved to Mrs. Porter’s room once a week or so for our music lesson. For some reason Miss Woodruff did not teach music. This was unusual, because all the teachers in the Kindergarten through fifth grade had a piano in the classroom and taught music as a regular part of the curriculum. Moving from one classroom to another for music in the sixth grade did prepare us for the fact that we would be moving from class to class and teacher to teacher, when we moved on to Kirk and Shaw.
In addition to the classroom music lessons, the East Cleveland School District employed an elementary school music instructor, who served all six elementary schools. Her name was Marjorie Shields. Miss Shields met with students in their classrooms and worked with large groups of students in the Auditorium on choral music. She later moved up to Shaw High School where she directed the choral music program.
Prospect students were also able to take instrumental music. I think that happened in about the fifth grade. The instrumental lessons were given in the Shaw High School band room located in the wooden barracks like building adjacent to our playground. I briefly took trumpet lessons in that program. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the interest or dedication to keep up with those lessons. The next time I decided to take trumpet lessons was when I was 28 years old. I have been playing trumpet and leading a community dance band ever since. Perhaps the seed for my musical career was planted back in Prospect School. The link below is to my dance band, the Smart Set.
I graduated from Prospect Elementary School in June of 1952. My experiences at Prospect prepared me well for the move to Kirk and Shaw as well as the entire life before me. I had an autograph book at that time. Some of the messages from Prospect staff and my fellow students are included below: