Karen Kepler

Karen Kepler, principal of Emerson Elementary School, displays a slide rule she found while cleaning out the closets of teachers who have retired or left the school. Kepler has been collecting memorabilia from the school in hopes of displaying it some day.

Over the past few years, Emerson Elementary School Principal Karen Kepler has made important discoveries as she finished cleaning out classrooms when teachers retired or transferred to another school.

Tucked into closets were old curriculum supplies, costumes, textbooks and other historical items.

They helped Kepler develop a greater appreciation of how teaching has changed over Emerson's 92 years, something she hopes to share some day.

"In some way I want to display this somewhere," Kepler said.

Among the items were a kindergartner-sized metal hoe and rake. A sign from a school event advertises food for sale such as hot dogs for 15 cents and cole slaw for 10 cents.

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The art room held a slide rule in a leather case. Special scissors that allowed an adult to guide the student came with a scissors skills book. There was a costume made of muslin. Curriculum materials depicted a milkman, a dentist not wearing gloves.

The 1920 school itself contains remnants from the past. Lettering over the doors still designates a girls' gym and a separate boys' gym. Holes in exposed wooden floors mark where desks were once bolted down. The bomb shelter under the school is used for storage.

Since her initial discoveries, staff members have pointed out other finds to Kepler. One staff member brought her an Emerson graduation certificate from 1931 and a certificate in recognition of good penmanship from 1928 that he had found for sale.

Kepler, a former teacher, said when she was taking classes to become a school administrator, she was told that part of her job would be to serve as a historian. She has taken that to heart at Emerson, where she embraces all aspects of her work.

"School is my hobby on top of my job," she said.

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