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Redbird legacy

By Debby (Small) Baker ’77

My grandmother, Ina Elizabeth Sundberg, was born in March of 1905 to Swedish immigrant parents on a farm near Milford. She is the beginning of this four-generation ISU family legacy, which includes Ina; her daughters Luceille (Gleim) Werner and Mary (Gleim) Small; her granddaughter, Deborah (Small) Baker; her grandson-in-law Fred N. Baker; and her great-granddaughter, Sarah (Baker) Lukach.

Ina began school at the age of five. Her parents decided that to make it easier for Ina in school, only English would be spoken at home most of the time. There were no bilingual teachers.

The summer of 1922, after graduating from Milford High School, Ina and two friends enrolled at Illinois State Normal University. They lived in a home in Normal while attending a six-week summer school for those wanting to become a teacher. After passing the State of Illinois proficiency test, she received an Illinois teaching certificate.

So in 1922 at age 17, Ina began teaching at Casey School District 220. Her second year was at Laird School, located five miles southwest of Milford. She lived at home and drove her buggy and horse, Old Fanny, each day. As a one-room rural schoolteacher, Ina was responsible for teaching all eight grades in all subjects, including art and music.

She was responsible for custodial duties. There was no indoor plumbing or central air in the one-room school. The older boys helped by carrying in the coal, wood, and cobs for the pot-bellied stove. Other students were responsible for bringing in the bucket of water for drinking.

The older boys attended school only during the winter months, since they were needed to work on the farm. Most of the work was done manually. There was no state law making school attendance compulsory. For many of her students, formal education was terminated at the end of eighth grade. Grandma said that in her day, if you lost control of your students you were finished. She earned the respect and trust of her students. Parents were very supportive if problems arose.

Ina would tell of the numerous pranks she experienced. One morning some of the boys had put a live bird in her desk drawer. As a teacher she recognized the potential in each of her students, and sought to instill a love of learning. One of the young boys was an excellent student, but could not work on the farm because of a physical disability. She met with his parents and encouraged them to allow their son to attend high school. After much persistence, the parents agreed. The young many became a successful banker in Cissna Park. He remained very grateful to Ina and kept in touch with her for many years.

During her second year of teaching, Ina met Louis Gleim of Grand Ridge. In January of 1924 they drove to Indiana, and were married. Of course at this time single women teachers could not be married. The marriage remained a secret, and she completed the 1923-1924 school year. Two daughters were born to Ina and Louis—Luceille and Mary.

“The Depression of the early 1930s hit the family hard, but providing a college education for their daughters was of the utmost importance,” Luceille said. In 1943 she began college. Because of a shortage of teachers she left school, and received an emergency teaching certificate. Mary, right out of high school in 1945, did the same. They taught at one-room schoolhouses in LaSalle County for $155 per month.

Luceille ’53, M.S. ’63, returned to college in 1946, the same year she married Vincent Werner. College was put on hold with the birth of two sons, Phillip of Streator and John of Downs. In 1951 she began commuting to ISU over the next two years and summers to complete her bachelor’s degree. In 1952 she continued at ISU while teaching fourth grade at Long Point Grade School (today it is Woodland Unit 5), and graduated in 1953 with a bachelor’s degree in education.

Luceille taught at Long Point from 1953 to 1960. During this time she pursued her master’s degree, commuting to ISU with her sons. “This was a one-hour dive. I remember one summer when I had an art class at 7 a.m. I would drive with two sleeping boys in the back seat. They would go to class with me until Metcalf Lab School opened,” Luceille said. During one summer she and the boys lived during the week in Normal, with the boys attending Metcalf. In 1960 she accepted the position of elementary principal at Woodland Unit 5.

The year 1966 brought change. Luceille accepted a position with the State of Illinois Office of Education as Northern District Regional Curriculum Specialist. She was a former state president. In 1970 she became the director of the state’s “On the Way to Success in Reading & Writing” program. Luceille was instrumental in having this state program successfully validated by the U.S. Department of Education. The program has been adopted in more than 800 schools nationwide.

Throughout the 1970s Luceille was on the ISU campus and at various ISU extension sites as an instructor teaching classes on children’s literature and curriculum development. No longer traveling with her program, she and her husband of 62 years live in Streator, where she works out of her educational office with certified trainers.

Mary ’76 began college in 1945 after teaching one year in Grand Rapids Township. In 1948 she married J. Davis Small of Utica. She continued teaching at the Small’s one-room school in Waltham Township in LaSalle County. (This was when many of the one-room schools were named after the families that lived nearby.) She and Dave raised three children: Elizabeth A. (Small) Herrin, M.D. in Champaign; Deborah (Small) Baker’77 of Streator; and John of Utica.

“With my children each pursuing or receiving their college degrees, I thought it was important for me to have my degree. There was something missing. As one of the older students in the class, I offered a far different perspective in the college classroom than those who were 18 to 22 years old,” Mary said.

Mary began commuting to ISU in 1974. Ina decided to return to ISU after the loss of her husband in October of that same year. Ina, at age 70, came back to her alma mater the winter semester of 1975, taking a class for credit. Both were enrolled in Dr. Freyberger’s art education class. Mary graduated with honors in 1976 with a degree in education, and since then has done some substitute teaching.

Her love of teaching has continued, as she has participated the past 16 years as a volunteer teacher for the one-room school program at the LaSalle County Historical Society. She and Luceille were instrumental in the development of this authentic rural school program, which received state recognition.

Debby ’77 taught second grade at Mahomet-Seymour after graduating. “ISU’s faculty, classroom experiences, and exposures to the many facets of teaching prepared me well for the elementary classroom. ISU was doing then what it did for my grandmother over 50 years prior, and continues to do today as it prepares you to be the best teacher you can be,” Debby said.

“My favorite ISU memory was spending the spring semester of 1977 with the ISU Study Abroad Program at England’s  Brighton Polytechnic University Falmer Campus (now Brighton University) with History Professor Earl Reitan. While at Brighton one of my studies gave me the opportunity to observe and help in an English classroom twice a week,” Debby said. I am still in the classroom, but as a substitute teacher.

Fred ’72, of Streator, and Debby married in 1980. They have three children: Sarah (Baker) Lukach ’04; Susan, a teacher at Bradley-Bourbonais High School; and John, who is a student at Eastern Illinois University. They are all ISU basketball supporters and enjoy following the Redbirds. All of the kids attended numerous ISU summer basketball camps, staying in their dad’s dorm, Wright Hall.

Fred began at ISU in 1968 in the field of agriculture. “ISU continues to offer an ag program with an excellent reputation. ISU gave me a good foundation for life, both in curriculum and life experiences. I met some of my best friends at ISU, and still remain in contact with many of them,” he said. Fred is one of the founding members of the Beta Delta Chapter of Alpha Gamma Rho. He is the fifth generation to farm and raise cattle on the family farm in LaSalle County.

The fourth generation in our ISU family legacy is Sarah, who received a bachelor’s in agriculture in 2004. Sarah’s biggest influence at ISU was Professor Paul Walker, as he encouraged her to pursue a degree in agribusiness, and also assisted her in obtaining an internship with State Sen. William Brady.

In 2004 she married George A. Lukach, and they have a two-year-old son, G. Nolan. Sarah has put her ISU degree to work as an agricultural/commercial loan officer for First Midwest Bank in Morris. She works with agricultural producers and agribusinesses. Sarah also lives and farms with her husband near Streator.

The legacy of our ISU family began in 1922, with four generations educated. ISU has provided educational opportunities for our many professional careers. With heartfelt gratitude we thank ISU for maintaining its high academic standards and for the opportunities given not only to our family but all graduates.

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