Former Giddings teacher Ellie Vanderwerth believed so highly in education that she volunteered to drive a school bus so her rural students could go to high school.
Mrs. Vanderwerth’s commitment to education, which included teaching for more than 50 years, is being recognized through a new endowed scholarship created in her name.
The Ellie Adelia Carter Vanderwerth Scholarship will benefit Giddings High School (GHS) graduates who plan to major in education.
Vanderwerth’s daughter, Theodora “Teddy” Boehm, gifted $20,000 to the Blinn College Foundation to establish the scholarship. Boehm, a former member of the Blinn College District Board of Trustees, said her mother dedicated her life to education, beginning as a teacher in a one-room school in Roberts County in the Texas Panhandle.
“She started teaching when she was 18, as soon as she got out of school, and she later obtained her degree from the University of Houston,” Boehm said.
In 1930, Vanderwerth began teaching in Ledbetter at a school that only had classes to the eighth grade. Students then had to travel to Giddings if they wanted to attend high school, but when World War II broke out, many found themselves without a way to get there. Vanderwerth, who had joined the Giddings Independent School District in 1940, offered to help.
“My mother told them (Giddings ISD officials) that if they got a bus, she would drive it,” said Mrs. Boehm. “She drove it for a number of years during the war.”
Vanderwerth spent 48 1/2 years with Giddings ISD, most of them as a fourth-grade teacher, and retired in 1969 at age 66. She passed away in 1998 at age 95.
Karen Gonzalez, Giddings High School counselor, said Vanderwerth was “a beloved teacher who is remembered for the special things she taught and did for her students.”
Driving a bus so Ledbetter students could continue their education was only one example, Gonzalez added.
“Some of her students cherish the memories of her reading stories to the class, her love of teaching evident in the animated ways she read aloud,” she said. “Former students also remember her beautiful handwriting and that she was tough but fair.”
Now, her legacy continues with the scholarship, Gonzalez said.
“Many of our students attend Blinn each year as a way to save money before going on to a four-year university,” she said. “Some of our graduates would not even have the opportunity to attend college if they didn’t have an affordable option.
“This scholarship will give our graduates the opportunity to obtain an affordable degree. Giddings ISD is very fortunate to have had such a caring teacher for so many years and to have a caring family member who wants to give back to our graduates.”
Sam Sommer, Chair of the Blinn Foundation Board of Directors, said the scholarship means Vanderwerth will continue to help students.
“Mrs. Vanderwerth’s dedication to her students was evident,” Sommer said. “She devoted her life to teaching, and an endowed scholarship is a wonderful way to honor her.”
The Foundation oversees more than 300 endowed scholarships. It is a tax-exempt organization that provides financial support for programs and activities that enhance the quality of education for Blinn students and expand educational opportunities. It also looks to heighten community awareness of the mission and accomplishments of the college and to promote excellence in education.
Endowed scholarships are available to incoming and returning students from a wide range of backgrounds, majors, and experiences. Students are considered based on high academic achievement, participation in student activities, and community involvement.
Current high school and college students can apply for Blinn scholarships by completing the application at www.blinn.edu/scholarships. Prior to applying for scholarships, students must complete their application for admission to Blinn College at www.applytexas.org.
(Story courtesy Richard Bray, Blinn Information)