Generally, when naming new schools, West Aurora school boards have chosen to honor former superintendents, principals, teachers and U.S. presidents. One exception is a school named after the first white settler in North Aurora. Another is the high school, where geography, rather than a surname, served the purpose.
The descriptions of the teachers for whom schools are named reveal significantly different personalities, but a common ability to inspire and influence students well beyond the classroom.
The names Washington and Jefferson need no further explanation.
During Harold G. Fearn’s 18-year tenure, from 1954-1972, the district as we know it today largely took shape. Built during his tenure were Hope Wall, Washington, Jefferson, Smith, Schneider, McCleery, Hall, Goodwin and the football stadium. Also, the administration office moved downtown and Hill, Nicholson, Todd, Jefferson, Smith, Schneider, McCleery, Hall and West all received additions. Fearn also developed a strong relationship with the Fox Valley Park District.
Joseph Hewett Freeman was a highly respected Illinois educator and administrator and had the distinction of serving as superintendent of both the west- and east-side districts of Aurora. He first came to Aurora in 1869 as principal of Brady School. He served as superintendent on the west side from 1879-1886. He later became state superintendent of schools and served as president of statewide organizations for both teachers and schoolmasters. The Civil War veteran often referred to as "Captain Freeman," served as commander of the Aurora G.A.R. post. Freeman Elementary School was built in 1928, added onto in 1951, and renovated in 1976 and 2003.
Lucia Goodwin, daughter of pioneer Aurora settlers, ranked first in scholarship in her high school graduating class (1880), but missed commencement exercises because of measles. In 1901 she graduated from Leland Stanford University. She then began her teaching career in Aurora at Lincoln School formerly the South Lake Street School. Lucia Goodwin moved to West Aurora High School to begin her career as a math teacher. There she remained until her retirement in 1936. Goodwin taught math for 33 years, from 1903-1936, and retired at the age of 71, the oldest living instructor in the West Aurora schools.
She was known as a strict disciplinarian, but exhibited patience and fairness with her students. Goodwin stood just over five feet tall. "Tiny she may have been, but she could face down the biggest football player who wanted to go out for practice without getting his assignment done. Tradition says she even brought a freshet of tears from some of those football players when she said ‘No!’ and made it stick" (Beacon News, 1967). “Hundreds of college students, especially those who took engineering and scientific courses, have been grateful to Miss Goodwin for the educational foundation she gave them.” It has been the policy of the Board of Education to name elementary schools after educators who served boys and girls in District 129.
Greenman’s history begins at he ending of the nineteenth century when in 1890, Arthur V. Greenman was asked to be superintendent of the West Side Schools. Under his leadership the district grew from eighteen teachers to forty teachers. Several buildings were constructed under his leadership including Lincoln School, Hill (which was then called Pennsylvania), a second Oak Street School (the first one burned down), the first West High School (which is the former Aurora Christian School building on Blackhawk) and the Galena Street School, which was later named Greenman Elementary.
According to the Educational History of Illinois, “He was a progressive, earnest educator, who gave much attention to his community and to every organization with which he was connected. He introduced the study of nature into the elementary grades. He was interested in the youngest and oldest.” In 1909, the Aurora Newspaper (now called the Beacon News) wrote, “He had brought the Aurora schools to a high grade of proficiency and his work was thoroughly organized.” It was also written, “Professor Greenman was very public spirited and was always to the front in promoting the city’s interests.” Upon his death in 1909, the headline in the Aurora paper said that the “whole city mourns him.”
Six years later in 1915, the Galena Street School was renamed Greenman Elementary School in honor of A. V. Greenman. The Galena Street School originally was built in 1895, according to historical documents, with only two classrooms and two basement rooms. Additions were added in 1916, 1928 and 1950. In the summer of 2004, the original Greenman School structure was brought down to make room for the new Greenman Elementary School which opened its doors in August, 2004. The new larger Greenman Elementary School has won three international design awards and continues to serve the needs of the close community families as it remains a walking school.
Frank Haven Hall, a soldier, educator, businessman, inventor, and author was born on February 9, 1841 in Mechanic Falls, Maine. Following his formal education in Maine, he served as hospital steward at Edward's Ferry during the Civil War. After his discharge, he became principal of Towle Academy in Maine -- the first of many times he would hold that position in education. In 1866 he left Maine and came to Illinois to become principal of the public school systems in Earlville, West Aurora, Sugar Grove, Petersburgh and Waukegan. At the start of his term in Sugar Grove, he also built and ran a store, owned a lumberyard and creamery, was a postmaster and a township treasurer and clerk.
He married Sybil Norton and they later became the parents of three children. In 1890, at the age of 49, he became the superintendent of the School for the Blind in Jacksonville. Until he invented the Hall Braillewriter, most teachers of the blind resisted the Braille System. His was the first practical embossing typewriter that made the learning process easier for the blind students. In 1893 he co-invented the stereo typewriter which produced copies faster and cheaper. Today most books for the blind are made on updated versions of this machine. In the late 1800's, the Underwood Building in Aurora displayed another of Frank Hall's inventions -- the first electric clock. He wrote many books on mathematics which were used in schools all over the world. Frank Hall and his wife settled Aurora in 1902 and he remained active in his church and community until his death in 1911 at the age of 70.
Robert L. Herget Middle School welcomed its first students in August 2005. The metaphor of the American Heartland was used for the creation of this school. Various industrial and agricultural materials were used to emphasize the theme. Field stone, brick, corrugated metal, and standing seam metal have all been incorporated into the design of this school.
As remarkable as the design of the outside of Herget is, the inside of the 112,000 square foot school is even more impressive. Six classroom clusters are arranged around the school’s main hallway. Integrated throughout the academic clusters are the library, a technology center with a process lab and life skills lab, and classrooms for exploratory classes. Located at the other end of the main hallway are the performing arts classrooms, cafetorium, and gymnasium.
With this project, School District 129 has extended its partnership with Aurora University. Herget Middle School contains a university classroom for the preparation of future teachers and professional development of veteran teachers.
Prior to her coming to Aurora in 1902, Nancy L. Hill held teaching and administrative positions in Yorkville. She taught at Oak Street School (Mary A. Todd School) in Aurora for seven years and then served as principal for 19 years. Hill was highly regarded and was once considered for the superintendency. Two weeks before her death, she was named to be the principal of the new J.H. Freeman School. She was described as a fine teacher and "a wonderful character builder." At the time of her death, a school board member described Smith as "absolutely unselfish and just and generous toward all, -- seeking always for the good and overlooking the faults…" The Illinois Avenue School was named for Nancy L. Hill on June 11, 1928.
Hope D. Wall was a local pioneer in special education. Born in 1912 in South Dakota, she later moved to Aurora with her family and taught at Brady School. In 1961, parents asked her to help start a school for the mentally retarded. Prior to this time, most children with disabilities did not attend school. Although she had no formal training in working with children with disabilities, she accepted the challenge.
At its inception, Wall was the only teacher at the private, eight-student John F. Kennedy School for the Mentally Retarded, which was in the old post office building. In 1969, East and West districts took over JFK and came together to build the present facility. The current Hope D. Wall School opened in 1971. Wall retired in 1972 and died in 2001 at the age of 89.
Hope D. Wall is a cooperative public school operated by East and West Aurora Districts for Aurora students residing in District 131 and District 129. Services are provided for students from age 3 to 21. The mission of the school is to value diversity in the population, and to promote effective communication among the students, families, staff, and community members.
Gary D. Jewel began as a teacher at Franklin Junior High School and later served as principal of Washington Middle School. He later became an assistant superintendent and then superintendent, a position he held for 14 years until his retirement in 1993.
During his tenure, Jewel built positive relations with local businesses that began Partners in Education and the Corridor Partnership. He also was a leader and charter member of a state-wide association of large unit school district.
Words to Jewel’s school song:
Jaguars, Jaguars, Jaguars
Loyal to our School Hail to thee and blessed be, our alma mater Jewel.
Lift it up, and hold it high, proud to be here.
Hail to thee and blessed be our alma mater Jewel.
Wayne McCleery, superintendent from 1950-1953, undertook and completed a program of significant school expansion and modernization in the district’s history. This included building the new West High School and converting the former high school to what became Franklin Junior High School.
Nicholson School was built originally in 1891 as Montgomery School. In 1953 a new addition was constructed, and in 1961 a new addition replaced the original building. In 1962, the school was officially renamed for Grace M. Nicholson who began teaching at the school in 1902 and was principal from 1915 to 1949. Nicholson, a graduate of West High School, used her personal funds to start a school library in 1911 and was active in establishing the first kindergarten in 1915. She also helped organize the first Montgomery School PTA after WWI. It was stated at the renaming ceremony, at which Nicholson spoke, that the secret to her success as a teacher was respecting each of her pupils as individuals.
In 1995, facing a shortage of classrooms at Freeman Elementary School, the district approached Aurora University, to see if District 129 might rent three classrooms for a two-year period. This would provide a location to house Freeman fourth grade students close to their home school until Jewel Middle School opened and the sixth graders moved from elementary to middle school, which would free up classroom space at Freeman.
In the 1996-1997 school year, the Freeman fourth graders attended class in the brick building at 1330 Marseillaise, just east of Dunham Hall. Partnerships between the District 129 staff and university professors of education began to grow. University students began observing in classrooms and working with the teachers. By the 1998-1999 school year, 1330 Marseillaise was too small to house all of the fourth graders, and a portable classroom was added. By this time, a “lab class” was designed, and the university students from Methods for Teaching Elementary Reading class spent two to three hours per week in a classroom, applying the methodology they were learning in the course with “real” students.
In January of 2006, Aurora University opened its newest building on campus, the Institute for Collaboration. The design of the Institute for Collaboration included eight classrooms and office space for the Partnership School.
The partnership between District 129 and Aurora University has continued, providing a unique learning environment and many opportunities for our students. University students continue to work with the Partnership School’s students and staff.
Schneider, which was opened in 1964, is the only District 129 school with a tie to local history. John Peter Schneider was an immigrant from Germany, who came to the Fox River in 1834. He subsequently built a cabin, dam, and mill near the present intersection of Butterfield Road and Route 25. North Aurora used to be known as Schneider’s Mill or Schneider’s Crossing.
Gertrude Scott Smith taught in the district for 46 years. She began her teaching career in 1900 at the Oak Street School (Mary A. Todd School). After some years, she became principal of the South Lake Street School (Abraham Lincoln). In September of 1917, she was transferred to West High to teach math. In 1927, Smith became assistant principal and in 1933, she was appointed dean of girls. She is described as having had "an indomitable faith and belief in most everybody, and this was the source of her wise and friendly counsel that inspired, encouraged and endeared her many students." Smith School was dedicated in 1964, six years after Smith’s death.
Mary A. Todd graduated from West High as the class valedictorian in 1871 at the age of 14. Todd served as the high school principal from 1884-1887. In 1888, she was elected Supervisor of Drawing and teacher of Mathematics. At the age of 60, she resigned from teaching and died four years later (1921).
The first high school annual ever published was dedicated to Todd with a poem. It reads, in part, "Since thou so cheeringly hast filled thy place / And left upon thy friends so deep a trace / Of all thy goodness; we unforgetful, try / To render some small part of what’s thy due." In 1923 Oak Street School was renamed Mary A. Todd School. The original school on this site, begun in 1852, was called the Stone School and later Old Stone School. At least two additions were built, the last being a 4th floor used as the first high school on the west side. The school burned in 1885 and was replaced in 1886.