Music composed by Malcolm on the Roland KR-1070, "Variations of Summer Prelude" in honor of Elaine.
I began teaching secondary science in the fall of 1940 and
reluctantly retired in May of 1980 after 40 joyous and
rewarding years. That space of time included the sixties
when science enjoyed a high priority and saw many exciting
technological developments. High school students were eager
to enroll in science classes like chemistry and physics;
furthermore, school boards were willing to purchase supplies
and equipment.
During the fifties and sixties science fairs were very
popular. Properly handled they were a valuable teaching
tool. A student would select a topic in which he was
interested, pose questions about it to which he wanted
answers. Then he would design experiments to help him
answers his questions. This gave him experience in
scientific methods and develop skills which he could use for
more sophisticated research.
During these years the National Science Teachers Association
was my most important resource of professional inspiration,
therefore, I urge all science teachers at whatever level to
become an active member of NSTA and to take advantage of its
opportunities for growth and in service.
In the spring of 1972 I was elected president of National
Science Teachers Association. At the request of Dr. James
F. Malone, superintendent of the Pampa Schools, the Board of
Trustees granted me a leave of absence for the 1972-73
school term. My contract read just as though it would have
if I had been teaching, and I was not obligated to the
District for any local duties. NSTA reimbursed the District
for one-half of my salary. I will always be most grateful
to Dr. Malone and that Board for their cooperation and
support. Many educators over the nation commended them for
their professional attitude, and I was to learn that very
few secondary boards would grant a teacher this kind of
It has long been my adopted motto: That students are not
cups to be filled but lamps to be lighted. Therefore, the
most important component in any classroom is the teacher.
During that year I traveled widely and visited more than
2,000 classrooms in twenty-five states. Because of my wide
exposure to classrooms of all types in many states, I am
often asked about the status of science education in this
country. One cannot generalize about the quality of science
teaching. In every area I found a gradation along the
entire spectrum from superior to poor. I met enthusiastic
teachers engaged in exciting programs who are working in
ancient classrooms that are unbelievably dreary and lacking
in facilities. I have been both inspired and humbled by
their dedication. I met other teachers whose environment is
a new, multimillion dollar, open-space building where there
is so little structure to the science program that total
chaos is the result. One cannot generalize. This further
confirms my belief that the most important component of any
classroom is the teacher.
With all the new technology that is changing rapidly, it is
imperative that the use of computers be included in
effective teacher training programs, and include an
awareness of all the software that is available to make
subject matter presentation easier and more understandable.
Elaine Ledbetter
August, 1998

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