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WTA First-Graders Welcome Grandparents to Share Their School Day Memories

Post Date:02/08/2018 3:30 AM

WTADonnaHiggins1_400x244It sure was a different world in 1952! Ward Traditional Academy Grandparent and Retired Tempe Elementary Educator Donna Higgins – or Grandma Higgins as she likes to be called – visited WTA first-graders to share how life was like when she was a first-grader. This was all possible thanks to First-Grade Teacher Erica Smeltzer who came up with the idea to welcome grandparents into her classroom to connect with her students.

“I think it’s good for my students to see the similarities and differences that their grandparents went through when they were their age,” said Smeltzer.

Higgins began her presentation by asking, “What was life like for a first-grader 65 years ago?” The first-graders had all sorts of ideas! Some pointed out similarities such as she probably had recess and played with her friends. Others weren’t sure about the differences which Higgins was happy to explain.

“When I was in first-grade, there were no cell phones!” said Higgins amid gasps from the first-graders. “They weren’t invented yet! My family had a corded telephone that didn’t even have a rotary with numbers. I had to speak with an operator to call my friends.”

WTADonnaHiggins2_400x244Another difference that shocked the first-graders was that there were no computers or fast-food chains like McDonalds or Taco Bell when Higgins was growing up.

“If we wanted to have a hamburger, we either had to go to the local diner or our mother had to make it for us,” said Higgins.

Higgins then showed photos of her school – Iron Mountain School located in Iron Mountain, Missouri. The school had only seven staff members and serviced 100 students from from first- through eighth-grade. This differs from WTA which has about 35 staff members and currently serves about 480 students from kindergarten through eighth-grade.

After seeing photos of Iron Mountain School, First-Grader Lukas Martin questioned why the photos were in black-and-white. Higgins had to explain that color photos along with color television also hadn’t been invented yet!

A similarity that Higgins pointed out was that she was able to buy lunch or bring it from home, just like our WTA first-graders! She also talked about how she learned similar and important lessons such as reading, math, and science from her teacher. But when she did math, it wasn’t on a whiteboard with dry erase markers! It was on a blackboard with chalk.


Yo-yos, jacks, jump rope and reading Dick and Jane books were among some of Higgins favorite recess activities. Higgins brought in some vintage Dick and Jane books for the students to see and also led a reading exercise where the students were able to read it aloud. Her favorite toys were also given to the class along with a print out of some of her favorite jump rope rhymes.

Higgins opened the floor to a brief Q&A session after her presentation and students were eager to hear more about life back then! First-Grader and Grandson Liam Higgins proudly reminded his friends that this was his grandma.

“Donna is amazing with the kids and a great WTA volunteer,” said Smeltzer. “She has a special ability to engage students and go deep into her subject area. We were so excited to have her here today and it was a wonderful presentation!”

Thank you Grandma Higgins for walking down memory lane and sharing your life to our first-graders at WTA!