The Time Traveler's Guide
Dr. Scott Waters, a professor in elementary education, early childhood, and special education for the Teachers College at Emporia State University, is a time traveler.
He takes from 15 to 20 groups a year back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries so they can experience the days of the one-room schoolhouse. Back to a time when rural areas had tiny buildings out in the hinterlands where students of all ages attended together. The teachers were typically a 15 to 18-year old woman with at least an eighth-grade education, and the pupils rode horses, traveled in wagons, or walked through the countryside to get to school.
Of course, Waters does not actually take the groups back in time. His method is to dress up in clothes of the time period and do a presentation in the Dobbs One-Room schoolhouse that sits on the northwest corner of the Emporia State campus.
The groups range from those in an introduction to elementary education classes to the Kansas Master Teacher and National Teacher Hall of Fame inductees.
“One of my Teachers College mentors, Dr. Bill Samuelson, was the driving force behind the relocation of the Dobbs One-Room School on our campus in the late 1960s,” explains Waters. “Bill served as curator of the school until his retirement. For a number of years, I observed Bill do presentations at the school and began to do my own research on the history of American education, and in particular, one-room schools.”
After Samuelson’s departure, Waters took over as “unofficial” curator. He admits to still being amazed at the role one-room schools played in American history and how teachers of that time overcame such difficult obstacles to provide a solid education.
“They truly are the legacy of Emporia State’s Teachers College. I am humbled whenever I stand in the front of the classroom at Dobbs School and think of the ‘shoulders I stand on.’ ”
Mr. and Mrs. Harvey Kruse from Marion County donated the One Room Schoolhouse. It was dismantled and restored stone by stone. It is furnished to depict an 1895 school setting.
While he has not conquered traveling back in time, when not professing to education students in the Emporia State classrooms or playing his part as a teacher from 200-something years ago, Waters has made some incredible trips around the globe.
“The first was a six-week Fulbright experience in China in the summer of 1988—my first international travel,” says Waters. “In 1991 I did a two-month professional exchange with a colleague from Otago University in Dunedin, New Zealand, and remained on sabbatical for an additional five months at Waikato University in Hamilton, New Zealand. I was awarded a second sabbatical leave for the 2000-01 academic year and taught second grade at an international school in Manila, Philippines.”
The school in Manila had students from nearly 25 countries and staff from almost 20. Waters calls the two sabbatical experiences the “highlights of my academic career.”
That statement takes on some heavy weight when you consider his career has spanned 29 years at Emporia State, and besides being the schoolhouse curator, he is site coordinator of the Professional Development School, former director of the Future Teacher Academy, and a member of the National Council for Social Studies/Children’s Book Council selection committee. Waters also earned two degrees from Emporia State — a BSE in elementary education and a master’s in Elementary Administration. The fact that he attended elementary school from grade K–6 at Butcher on campus and then junior high and high school at Roosevelt, both known as lab schools for the Teachers College — means Waters knows the university’s nooks and crannies as well as anyone around.
On top of all that, his father Harry Waters taught at Emporia State, too.
After securing his BSE in elementary education, Waters began teaching at Logan Avenue Elementary in south Emporia. He was also able to finish up his master’s in elementary administration from Emporia State and moved with his wife, Kathy, to Eugene, Ore., where he earned a doctorate in curriculum and instruction from the University of Oregon.
Waters returned to Emporia and again took a teaching job at Logan Avenue. He was waiting for an elementary principal position to open, he says. But Emporia State called him home to the campus, offering Waters a one-year faculty position. That was 29 years ago.
“It turned out for the best,” says Waters. “I love what I am doing, training elementary teachers, and, I truly think would have been a lousy principal!”
When looking back now at his career in teaching, as well as investigating the 200 years of the one-room schoolhouse, Waters knows he is well versed in the changes American education has experienced. He believes one aspect, though, has been like the Rock of Gibraltar.
“Perhaps the one constant I have observed in my time at Emporia State is the reputation of the Teachers College on the national stage,” he says. “I am always amazed when attending a national conference by the reputation the Teachers College holds in the eyes of other teacher educators. It makes me feel fortunate to be part of the faculty at Emporia State.”