MAMMOTH SPRING -- After nearly 40 years of serving in public education, Mammoth Spring Elementary Principal Ruth Stevens is cleaning her erasers.
Stevens is a 1962 graduate of Couch High School. She attended the University of Missouri at Columbia and received a double major in elementary and business education in 1966.
Her teaching career began in the Columbia public school system where she taught third and sixth grade. She attended summer school and night school classes and obtained a master's degree in reading. She married and her first child, Justin, was born in Columbia. In 1972 she moved to Pueblo, Colo., where she taught Title I reading at a middle school for 4 1/2 years. A second child, Heather Aichele, was born in 1975.
Stevens moved back to Oregon County in December of 1976 to marry Elmer Shaw. She substitute taught at Thayer before being hired at Mammoth Spring in 1977 as a remedial reading teacher. Another daughter, Suzanne Shaw was born in 1978. She taught at Mammoth Spring for five years and was hired as principal at the school in 1982.
Stevens said she has see a lot of changes in 40 years. "Curriculum has changed, mostly due to educational reform in the 1980s," Stevens said. She said these were mandates from the Arkansas Department of Education.
"These mandates and the federal No Child Left Behind law are the most sweeping pieces of legislation to effect education," Stevens said. She said both programs have been good. "They give teachers guidelines for what is expected of them. It gives them structure," she said.
The principal is proud of her students and her teachers at Mammoth Spring Elementary School. "Our test scores are above the state average. Our staff is well trained. They work hard and our kids are learning," she said.
Stevens said she encourages her teachers to try new ideas. "My job is to present the best education possible to our kids. I've done this by being supportive and helping find resources to accomplish these goals," she said.
Stevens has worked with five superintendents while employed at Mammoth Spring.
Stevens says technology has changed the face of education as we know it today. She said Mammoth Spring Elementary received its first computers in 1984.
She wrote a grant and received 24 computers that were used in grades 4 through 6.
She said at that time they were all used by math, language arts and reading students. She said now there are two computers in every classroom at the school hooked up to the Internet. She said the school also has a computer lab with a lab manager.
Another major change Stevens says she has seen in education is the structure of families.
"Both parents have to work to make a living. There are also many single parent families and there are a lot of traditional families in our area. "No matter what, kids are kids, she said.
"I have really enjoyed my job. I've never felt like not wanting to come to work. I always wanted to be a teacher. There were four other children in my family and we played a lot of school," Stevens said.
The principal says she plans to do a lot of reading when she retires. "I love to read. I will be doing some traveling with my husband Rex and will be able to spend more time with my Mom. I plan to do some volunteer work and have two or three projects already in mind."