Introducing The Class of 2018: Inez Eloise (Elliott) Tysdal

By: 
NLJ Staff

I believe we are made up of bits and pieces of all those who have touched our lives; every instructor, every friend, has made his contribution. “ — Deborah J. Ward

Inez (Elliott) Tysdal has worn many hats in her 94-year life: daughter, sister, ranch wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, friend, neighbor, and coworker.

However, Inez is best known to the community for her teaching cap that she donned for nearly four decades.

Inez was born on March 25, 1924, in Newcastle, Wyo., to Robert and Ida Elliott, and joined an older sister, Betty. Inez was raised on the prairie north of Newcastle. She couldn’t wait to join her sister at the Boyd country school, which she attended through the eighth grade.

Inez’s mother had been a teacher and Inez developed an early love for the printed page from both her parents. One of her earliest memories included reading “Loki” at bedtime from her mother’s Harvard Classics.

Inez found school very satisfying, and shared how the teacher was a highly respected individual. She graduated at age 17 from Newcastle High School in 1941 as valedictorian of her class. This earned her a scholarship to attend the University of Wyoming. She followed in her mother’s footsteps becoming a teacher after attending the UW College of Education for one year. She taught school at Boyd and Clareton, and went to college at Laramie in the summers.

She married Lloyd Tysdal on July 23, 1946, at Broadus, Mont. After her marriage, Inez stayed home with her family for nine years. Lloyd and Inez had three sons, Martin, Lauris, and Harold, and they continued to farm and ranch on the prairie near Four Comers.

Inez went back to teaching in 1954; she taught third grade in Newcastle for four years at the “school on the hill.” In 1958, she moved to the Gertrude Burns School and began teaching first grade, where she recalled having more than 50 children in her class. The next year, she moved to fourth grade and taught alongside her long-time neighbor and friend, Marge (Rawhouser) Elliott, where both women would spend the rest of their lengthy teaching careers. Inez especially loved teaching fourth grade as the curriculum included Wyoming history.

In 1960, Inez received a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Wyoming with honors, and in 1967, she received her master’s degree from UW.

Inez’s teaching philosophy, as written by herself in 1980, included her belief that “the charge of teacher is awesome in its responsibility and trust, considering the importance of a child to his parents, to his community, and to his country. A highly successful school experience must stem from a three-way commitment: parent-child-teacher.”

She noted that “proper expectations are crucial. To ask too much of a child leads to certain defeat and emotional upset, and to ask too little is pure waste of the child. Those who come to learn are not a group so much as individuals who become an important part of teachers’ lives; for a year they are ours. We oversee more of a child’s waking time than do his parents, and our influence is immense. We must know them quite personally, must provide for their needs and abilities individually, finding each child’s optimum way of learning, his strengths, and his weaknesses.”

As a teacher, Inez passed on her love for the printed page in her classroom on a daily basis. “It was as a fourth-grader that I grew to really enjoy reading. I still remember how we looked forward to the hour everyday right after lunch when she would read to the class. Books were exciting; learning was fun,” wrote Deborah J. Ward, who was in her third year of medical school at Creighton University in 1980, to support her former teacher, Inez Tysdal, as Teacher of the Year.

Inez and Marge both considered the time period when they taught as the era of the “Golden Age of Teaching,” noting it to be a time when the basics were stressed, children were expected to mind, and parents supported teachers. They shared ideas and helped one another achieve success in their profession, thus shaping many young lives. Both women loved teaching and said they couldn’t have had a better job, with Inez posing the question of “What kind of a better job can you have than shaping a young child’s future?” With such longevity in their careers, the duo taught multiple generations of families in Weston County.

Inez was honored as Teacher of the Year in 1980, and was also chosen as Beta Sigma Phi First Lady in 1994. The bonds of friendship formed over a lifetime of teaching between students and teachers are lasting. “We who spent a year with Inez Tysdal are better because of it and would be less if we had missed it. What she has done with her life is important, for she has given a part of herself to each of the hundreds of children she has worked with. She has enriched our lives,” concluded Deborah J. Ward in her 1980 nomination letter.

Inez also addressed this bond in the last sentence of her 1980 biographical sketch, “There is a great deal of satisfaction in leading a student to new excitement in literature or mathematics, and the bonds of friendship developed with students and co-workers cannot be matched.”

When retirement came, Inez and Marge found a way to continue supporting education. As part of a retired group of school personnel who met regularly, they began discussing how the group could generate funds to offer scholarships for local students, wanting to enter the education field. At their Christmas 1990 gathering in Marge’s home, the idea was born to gather stories from the county’s pioneers, including those with memories of the cyclone that went through Canyon Springs Prairie on July 8, 1922. They would preserve history and bind them into booklets to sell and use the interest from the funds to provide scholarships. Marge and Inez were instrumental in seeing this idea to fruition. Marge did most of the interviewing while Inez put the stories into her computer. The authors of the stories were given a chance to proof them before publication for accuracy. The two women also verified dates by looking up newspaper accounts and occasionally researching courthouse records. Some members of the group were skeptical the books would sell, so Marge paid $500 to have the first book published. From 1991-1998, four books titled “Fading Memories Afterglow” were published and two more titled “Early Day Memories” and “Ride a Wagon to the Moon” followed. The books were priced from $4 to $9.

According to an April 2, 1998, News Letter Journal article, Inez recalled that some of the books had to be reprinted and more than 800 copies of each were sold. The first scholarship was $500, and it was raised to $700 the next year and eventually the award given was upped to $1,000, awarded to either an Upton or Newcastle graduate. Prior to 2012, the group turned the proceeds from the book series, around $21,000, over to the Weston County School District No. 1 Education Endowment Fund for management for continued scholarships. During the 2012 interview, Inez and Marge shared stories from former students they would bump into who fondly recalled their classroom and teaching days.

Inez was dedicated to education and encouraged many young people as well as her own family members to pursue higher education, and being a UW graduate, she encouraged others to pursue degrees from her alma mater. She was a huge promoter of the University of Wyoming. Several of lnez’s family members followed her footsteps into the teaching profession, cementing a four-generation family legacy of educators.

Inez and Marge were fortunate to live long lives and see how the small seed that the Retired School Personnel group planted more than 25 years ago has helped many college students achieve their dreams and still continues to do so. The lifelong passion and dedication to their profession as well as their legacy and part in the “Fading Memories Afterglow” book series which continues to shape young minds with an interest in education, has earned both Inez and Marge a place in Weston County history, and induction into the Newcastle High School Hall of Fame.

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