Exhibits preserve schoolrooms of the past
The Kansas Teachers' Hall of Fame began in 1977 as the inspiration of one man: Laurence Stanton.
Stanton and his wife, Thelma, were both teachers and Stanton wanted to create a way to recognize teachers and preserve the methods and equipment of teaching.
"I think Mr. Stanton, whose wife taught Kindergarten, just idolized her and thought that women who taught at that level at that time didn't get enough recognition," said Ethel Peterson, member of the executive committee of the Kansas Teachers' Hall of Fame.
Stanton was full of good ideas and the determination to get them accomplished.
He created the Tournament of Champions and experimented with several innovative ideas in the game of basketball. He also started the local Retired Teachers Association.
"He didn't like to do things in the usual ways," Peterson said. "Once he got the teachers organization going, he used it to start the Meals on Wheels program."
Stanton, who was a member of the Boot Hill board of directors, located a one-room school near Bucklin, had it moved to Boot Hill and the Teachers' Hall of Fame was born.
Five years later, having outgrown the small school, the organization joined forces with Larry Yost, a photographer who owned Studio d'Lari. Part of Yost's studio included the Gunfighters Wax Museum and the Slanty Shanty, both attractions anyone who grew up in Dodge City in the 1960s will remember.
For a time, the hall of fame was part of Yost's studio but Yost eventually moved to Gunsmoke downtown and the hall of fame purchased the building on 5th Avenue.
"And I really wish we had purchased that Slanty Shanty too," said Dennis Doris, current president of the Hall of Fame board.
"That would have been a gem — we have people coming in all the time asking about it," he said.
The Kansas Teachers' Hall of Fame is now a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization with representatives on the board from 12 districts across the state.
They accept nominations of teachers for induction into the hall of fame and ceremonies are held the first Saturday of every June.
The organization has two main missions: to celebrate excellence in the teaching profession and to preserve the historical pedagogy of teaching.
Teachers chosen to be inducted are recognized in the hall's new interactive touch screen exhibit. Visitors can look up any teacher in the hall and find their nomination form along with all the supporting materials submitted with the nomination.
"The youngsters are quick to put the screen into action," Doris said.
"We had a young boy in recently and he said 'I'm gonna find grandpa,' and it didn't take him long."
As part of the hall's digitization process, all paper documents relating to inductees have been scanned.
In another room, the hall displays artifacts of schoolrooms from days gone by: textbooks, technology from chalkboards to typewriters to computers, desks, and even lunch pails.
"One of the teachers at the community college brings her education class here and gives them a list of things to hunt for," Doris said.
"It's a way for them to see what teaching was like years ago."
The Wax Museum upstairs, although not directly a part of the hall's mission, does provide revenue.
"There's no charge to visit the Teachers' Hall of Fame, but there is a charge to visit the Wax Museum," Doris said.
A small gift shop also provides revenue by offering items related to teaching.
The hall, museum and gift shop are staffed by volunteers.
The facility is normally open from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend, but recently, due to interest from the city and the Convention and Visitors Bureau, the hall has been open from April into December.
"And we're open by appointment at any time and also for school tours at any time," Doris said.
The hall of fame applied for organization funding from the Why Not Dodge? sales tax in this year's round and has been tentatively approved for $8,900 which will be matched with $1,700 from the Scoggins Foundation to purchase a new sign for the front of the building.
"The Kansas Teachers' Hall of Fame was the first such organization in the United States," said Alan Cunningham, superintendent of USD 443 and a member of the executive committee of the hall of fame.
"We want people to know that anyone can nominate any Kansas teacher, so long as they are not a member of the teacher's family. Nomination forms are accepted year-round and the form is available on our website. People can also honor teachers who had an important effect on their lives by placing a brick in the walkway in front of the building," Cunningham said.
"We had a middle school boy come in last year and say 'I want to nominate a teacher,' so we worked with him and he worked with Mr. King (principal at Dodge City Middle School) and he completed his nomination," Doris said.
In the future, the hall hopes to acquire a one-room schoolhouse along with an outhouse and vintage playground equipment — all to be installed on four lots currently owned by the hall just west of their facility.
An elevator to the basement level is also needed.
"To make those improvements, we need donations," Doris said. "We are happy to accept cash and we also like to get artifacts donated."
Visit the Kansas Teachers' Hall of Fame online at www.teachershallfamedodgecityks.org.