When Esther received her teaching diploma at Kent, she went back to her home area to find employment. She started her teaching career in the fall of 1933 two townships from Mecca in the Farmington Local Schools. She taught elementary school in the upper grades. This was depression time, so she found a room to rent in a home. She found it less expensive than trying to have a car and buy gas and the upkeep. Esther related how rather than money, the teachers’ salaries were paid in “script”. She implied this was paper that local merchants accepted in place of money, with a promise from the school district to pay at a future date.
After a year with the Farmington Schools, Esther was accepted for a teaching position at her home school district – Mecca Township. She was happy to be back home to live and work. While there she taught grades fourth, fifth, and sixth. She started with them the fall of 1934 and resigned at the end of the 1939 -40 school year. Esther would tell of how strange it was at first, to be teaching there with the same principal, most of the same teachers she had as a student, along with knowing the older brothers and sisters of most of her students. At one point she had her older sister’s son in class. In later years she would return for Alumna Days. The last one she attended honored both her class for their 65th reunion and her for all her years as an educator. Many of her former students surprised her with memories of her as a teacher. They had flowers for her. When they asked her to speak, it was difficult to hear her as her soft voice would choke with her tears of happiness and gratitude. What an honor it was when all of those attending gave her a standing ovation. Some of the men even made whistles. She would later say it was one of the highlights of her teaching career.
In 1940, she went to teach in the Warren City School System in Warren, OH, the county seat for Trumbull County. She was there only one year when she resigned at the end of the school year, the spring of 1941. At that point in time, female teachers could not be married and teach. She had secretly married in February of 1941 and by May everyone knew as she was expecting by then. Her co-workers gave her a nice send off into marriage and expectant motherhood by giving her a Hummel figurine of a little girl reading a book.
World War Two started for the US in December 1941. The next month Esther had her first child. Women were going to work in the many factories in the Warren area. The public school system still did not permit married women to teach. However so many of those women who went to work had children requiring day care and many didn’t have family close enough to help them. Gasoline was rationed so many couldn’t make trips to take the children very far or bring someone to them. Private nursery schools started to appear on all sides of the city. Esther was hired at one of these schools in the center of town. The woman who owned and operated the school was an excellent educator and ran a terrific program making the school popular even after the war. Esther taught there from fall of 1943 until the spring of 1950, taking a short leave in the fall of 1946 when she had her second child. The school had the policy of not accepting children under the age of two. However, Esther was so competent and popular with the facility, parents, and students, that they made an exception for Esther, letting her bring her 18 month old to the school. The school doctor was the pediatrician the family used and since her mother was there, they felt the child would have no problems. They were correct, and she attended the school the rest of the time her mother worked there.
In the spring of 1950 the owner/director of the private school married and decided to move her private school to Youngstown which about 15 miles from Warren. She wanted her staff to go with her, but Esther didn’t want to spend so much time in travel she would have less time with her family, and regretfully declined moving to The Kennedy School, as it was to be called. Rather she applied to the county school system. She had an offer for a school not far away and taught first grade at Bazetta School for four years.
While at Bazetta, Esther’s first classes had over 40 students enrolled in them. This was the first of the “Baby Boomer” generation and schools all over the entire country weren’t prepared to handle the addition of so many new students at one time. Thus there was a shortage of teachers. Many of the men returning from World War Two, were going to school on the new G.I. Bill and weren’t always available to teach. Many of there were encouraged to go into teaching to help fill the need with the growing enrollments. This was when school districts finally permitted married women into the class rooms to teach once more. The four years she spent teaching at Bazetta were certainly difficult with the amount of students in her classes, but she managed. She was able to teach the required subjects along with maintaining discipline. She was highly regarded for the reading, spelling, and math skills of her students. Many went on to become the top of their classes when they graduated.
By 1954, Esther wanted to be closer to home once more and applied to the district school system where she lived and to the Warren City School System again. Because of her stellar record both in the year she taught in the system and her references since then, she was called to interview at Warren. She was offered a job and accepted. A few weeks later the superintendent from Howland Local Schools came to her home seeing if there was anything at all he could do to convince her to teach for them. But she had made the commitment in Warren, and could not leave. In Warren, she was assigned to Elm Road Elementary School. She started in Kindergarten. Her classroom was in a brand new addition to the school and was well planned. She was happy there for quite a while. Then she was moved to second grade where her classroom was in the older part of the school. It was an interesting school to both staff and students to attend. The principal was a single woman with exquisite taste. She had been raised in around antiques, and the arts. This showed in the school. She took in some of her own furnishing that decorated common areas, including soft lighting. The students for the most part didn’t get out of lines and only whispered on their way from one place to another. Even going to or returning from recess, the children were well behaved in the halls and all over the school. Esther would stay at this school until her retirement in 1972. She moved from second grade to third grade, having most of her students for two years. Then she moved to the fourth grade where she had some of those same students for a third year. She decided to stay with the fourth grade for the few years she had to go to retire. She thought the class that was with her from second to fourth was on the best class of students she ever taught. She would talk about how some of those students were the kind that comes along once in a teacher’s career. She found it easy to pass on her of love of reading to most of them, but found it a challenge to find material at their reading levels. She would often take books from home that had been favorites of her children to help meet this need.
In January of 1975, Esther and er husband were both retired and had purchased property in Putnam County, FL. They left at that time and had a small second home where they wanted to spend the winter months and return to their home in OH for the summers and fall. They joined the golf club that was next to where they lived. All was going well when her husband passed away. Esther decided to stay in FL full time and sold her home in OH to her youngest child. While in FL on her own, she decided to fill a lot of her time by volunteering at the local elementary school. She helped one of the teachers with extra reading for students who were having problems. Once more she was highly regarded by all who worked with her, the parents, and students. The principal of the school honored her as the volunteer with the most hours and years when she planned to finally give up her teaching in public schools. She had volunteered there for five years! She was in her glory those five years doing what she loved the very most – teaching reading and passing on her love for it.
After Esther retired from full-time teaching, she worked as a substitute in Howland Schools. One of her assignments was to take the place of a teacher on leave for six weeks. She enjoyed having the same students at the same school for that period of time. She felt she was really teaching rather than going through the motions of being there for one day at a time.
Throughout her many years of teaching, she touched many, many students in a positive way and passed on her love of learning and reading. Many have honored her for those accomplishments during her years as an educator and in retirement. When Esther passed away, her family donated many books to the head start program in Putnam County in her honor. The Bookplate reads In Honor of Esther Baldwin Dabelko Who loved teaching children to read.