A Newcomer's Experience
Dear CSAA Members,
What started as a chance to attend the CSAA Conference in order to better understand the role country schools play in our history and our future, but ended with warm feelings for a diverse group of people who left us feeling grateful for being invited into this unique and lovely association. In case you don’t know who we are, I am the “young” volunteer recruited by Richard and Catharin Lewis who oversees the West Bay Common School Children's Museum in League City, Texas. My husband Mark volunteered to assist where needed, and was the IT guy who gladly helped in the minor emergencies of presentation woes. There are many memories we walked away with after that week in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, including how to properly pronounce Lancaster.
After an airplane delay of an unreasonable number of hours, we finally made it to Pennsylvania. The landscape was beautiful, the weather heavenly, and the people genial and welcoming. The first day mixer was fun, and we found a great walking trail that evening that led us to wild cherries and huckleberries. My Wildlife Biologist husband was in awe and nearly refused to go back to Texas. The first day of the conference was exciting, and after a fantastic breakfast, we were anxious to hear the speakers.
I learned about Lancaster’s public and Amish school history, while my husband navigated the conference rooms for IT help. He definitely got his steps in that week. The speakers offered a rich assortment of topics that made it difficult to choose which one to attend. I enjoyed each of the talks and walked away with many ideas for our museum and schoolhouse in League City.
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The day of the bus field trip was met with rain in the forecast, but that didn’t stop us from learning about Thaddeaus Stevens and the history of early Pennsylvania public education. I enjoyed seeing the architecture and design of a museum in-progress, as I am a curator at heart. Pennsylvania has many schoolhouses to see, and while I enjoyed the architecture and history of each, my husband appreciated the farmland scenery. There was so much to learn and see, it was hard for my mind to process it all, but the historian in me was loving every minute.
By the end of the week, I had a better appreciation for one room schoolhouses and all the work that goes into preserving them, and the history behind them. I discovered the reason they were built, and later replaced, the detail behind the architecture, what Marm life was like, and a bit of Pennsylvania history as well.
The last day was bittersweet as we prepared to head home to our three kids and not so heavenly Texas weather. We said farewell to new friends we met, and as we departed Lancaster County, we were already plotting how we could make it the next year to Toledo, Ohio.
Thank you for the gift of the Fellowship and this incredible opportunity. Mark and I are truly grateful for the chance to attend a CSAA Conference.
Mark and Kristen Tyson