Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Davis Calculus Teacher Retiring After 50 Years

It's not often I find something nice to say about the City of Davis, a cowtown just west of Sacramento with its own University of California campus. It's a very liberal place, one I sometimes describe as Berkeley-lite.

But this post has nothing to do with the City of Davis. It has to do with a 78-year-old woman retiring after 50 years of teaching math, including calculus.

From the major Sacramento newspaper:

Students who had yet to take her advanced calculus class absolutely feared her. There was no joking around when she was teaching. She gave two hours of homework every night, and if you didn't do it you were docked 10 points, whether your dog ate it or your grandma had a heart attack. Behind her back, some students referred to her as the Molden-ator, so scary was she.

Moldenhauer has been teaching the same way at Davis High School for 50 years...

In recent years, students in Moldenhauer's calculus classes have taken to wearing "I survived the Moldenhauer" T-shirts after the final exam. It's a sign that they admire her devotion to teaching and appreciate just how hard she has pushed them. It's also a tongue-in-cheek acknowledgment that, hey, enough already...

She began her teaching career after graduating from Iowa State University with a degree in physics. She took a job at Central High School in Omaha, Neb. She was recruited by General Electric to work as an electrical engineer, spending an unhappy three years at a job that bored her. She returned to teaching, then set out with friend Vivian Nesbitt in a green Pontiac convertible, heading west and interviewing in several cities along the way. The former Joanne Gatz settled on Davis High and its student body of 300.

Her salary was $3,600 and she was paying $100 a month rent. In 1962, she married Leonard "Red" Moldenhauer, and the couple bought their home for $15,000. In 1964, her husband bought her a bike, which she rides to this day. She has also been a member of Davis Lutheran Church since she arrived in town...

Even many of her former students retired before she did -- like Mary Kroeger.

"She was very strait-laced, very demanding," said Kroeger, 60, a retired accountant who took calculus from "Miss Gatz" in 1961. "One thing she taught me was to go home and do your homework first, then go on with your life. To me, she walks on water. I have always really liked her."

Here's hoping she enjoys retirement as much as she enjoyed teaching.


Robert said...

I think it's no accident that the teachers with the greatest staying power are the ones with the highest standards and biggest expectations. And who don't care a bit for whether they are looking cool to, or are befriended by, their students.

Good post.

rightwingprof said...

Sounds exactly like Edith Wilson, my high school math teacher -- who was one of the most loved teachers in the high school, and a hardliner.

Darren said...

The president's wife? =)