Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

A Beloved Teacher Who Taught at the Jackson Avenue School and Siwanoy Junior High School

Pelhamites love and treasure their teachers.  One beloved teacher who taught in the Pelham school system from 1909 until 1934 was Charlotte Lamson Root, known as Mrs. Root.  She was a storyteller par excellence.  She taught in the school system during a critical time, as it evolved from a small, simple system to a large, complex system not so different from today's.

In 1909, Mrs. Root (then "Miss Charlotte Lamson") left the Lincoln School in Mount Vernon to become principal and a teacher of the seventh and eighth grades at the Jackson Avenue School in Pelha Manor.  The Jackson Avenue School at the time was a three-room school with a total enrollment in all eight grades of about sixty students.  Charlotte Lamson was the Junior High School Principal in charge of the seventh and eighth grades with a grand total of eight students!

By 1917, Mrs. Root was a Junior High School teacher at Siwanoy when that school served as the Junior High School and High School before the construction of today's Pelham Memorial High School.  When Pelham Memorial High School opened, she became a member of the Junior High School faculty there, teaching english, reading and, later, mathematics until her retirement after 25 years at the end of the 1933-34 school year.

Today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog transcribes the text of a lovely article that appeared in The Pelham Sun on the occasion of the retirement of Mrs. Root.  The article is followed by a citation and link to its source.

"Mrs. W. S. ROOT."
The Pelham Sun, Jun. 15, 1934, p. 3, cols. 1-2.
NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

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"Mrs. Root To Retire After 25 Years As School Teacher
Member of Faculty of Junior High School First Taught in Old Jackson Avenue School in Pelham Manor.

After a quarter of a century of service as a teacher in the Pelham public schools system, Mrs. William S. Root, teacher of mathematics in Pelham Memorial Junior High School, will retire at the end of this term.  During her 25 years of service, Mrs. Root has taught hundreds of Pelham children and is one of the most popular teachers on the local faculty.

In 1909, Mrs. Root, then Miss Charlotte Lamson, came from the Lincoln School in Mount Vernon, to become principal and teacher of the Seventh and Eighth Grades of the Jackson Avenue School in Pelham Manor.  This was a three-room building with a total pupil enrollment in the eight grades of approximately 60.  In the two grades Mrs. Root taught, there was a grand total of eight pupils.

Education in those days was a different story from that of today.  One of the many amusing anecdotes related by Mrs. Root about the Jackson Avenue Schoolhouse, dates back to 1910.  Just before the end of the term that year, one of the pupils was taken ill with measles.  The schoolhouse was quarantined and no classes were held.  However, in order that the pupils of the two highest grades might not be held back, classes were held in the old Pelham Manor police station on Black street.  Former Chief Philip Gargan, then a patrolman, was a great favorite with the pupils.

Mrs. Root also made it a point to attend the school board elections and in those days, she recalls, there was considerable opposition to the appropriation of money for the construction of Siwanoy School in 1910.  Mrs. Root taught several classes in that school.

It was while Mrs. Root was a teacher at Siwanoy, just after the United States entered the World War, that she became engaged to Captain William S. Root.  He had been in camp upstate and shortly before he received orders to sail for France, he came to Pelham and visiting his intended bride in her classroom, gave her an engagement ring.

'And do you know,' confided Mrs. Root with a smile, 'after that, the teachers at Siwanoy used to ask for that room and for a long tie, every teacher that had it got married.'

During the two years that her husband spent in France, Mrs. Root continued to teach and then when Memorial High School was completed, she beccame a member of the Junior High School faculty, first teaching English and Reading and later Mathematics.

She is exceedingly popular with her pupils, many of them terming her the 'story teacher,' because of the seemingly inexhaustible fund of anecdotes with which she lightens up the classroom duties.  She is possessed of a fine sense of humor, which is best evidenced perhaps by the fact that one minute she will be scolding the class and then in the next telling them a story that will send them into laughter.

'One of the nicest things about my teaching here,' she said this week, 'has been the wonderful children who have been in my classes.  Many of them have gone on to graduate from high school and college and take their places in the business and professional world.  Many of them have brought me little gifts that I treasure highly.  Why, at home, I find daily reminders of former pupils in their gifts.'

Asked whether she had had any pupils who went on to become officials in the town, she recalled Dominic Amato, former village trustee and now chairman of the Board of Fire Commissioners of the First Fire District, who was in her class at the Siwanoy School.  Former Justice of the Peace Alfred P. Walker, Jr., was a member of her class at Siwanoy School.

'I'll tell you one interesting fact,' said Mrs. Root.  'When I first came to Pelham I had four Templetons in my first class.  I have one today, the daughter of one of my first pupils.'

Mrs. Root also recalled an amusing incident about John Cox, Jr., son of the Democratic candidate for president in the race against Warren G. Harding.  At that time, the son was a student in her class and was graduating from Junior High into Senior High School.  In 1920, Mrs. Root said, it was the custom to initiate newcomers into the Senior division of the school.  Accordingly, the group in charge of the ceremonies had John Cox attend the stage in the auditorium and give seven reasons why Warren G. Harding should be elected to the presidency instead of his father.  

Mrs. Root is only the second teacher to retire in the Pelham system after completing such a record of service."

Source:  Mrs. Root To Retire After 25 Years As School Teacher -- Member of Faculty of Junior High School First Taught in Old Jackson Avenue School in Pelham Manor, The Pelham Sun, Jun. 15, 1934, p. 3, cols. 1-2.  

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