After running the Clark County School District’s gifted program and the Teachers Center for many years, North Las Vegas resident Julie Newberry decided to head back to the classroom. She missed working with children.
Looking for a different environment, she applied for a teaching position in the small mining town of Goodsprings, population approximately 200, 34 miles southwest of Las Vegas. She made the long drive from 1982 until her retirement in 1999.
"I found my niche," Newberry said.
At the time, the entire school consisted of 16 students, grades K-6, in the same room. She found it challenging, but she "absolutely loved teaching out there."
The Canton, Ohio, transplant found herself quickly absorbed in the history and community of Goodsprings. At an Old Timers Reunion in 1985, Newberry met Jane Fleming, a Goodsprings native who was born in 1919. Her family owned one of the few stores in town, and her relatives were miners at the neighboring Yellow Pine Mine. Fleming’s husband, Edmund, taught at the Goodsprings school from 1944- 49. Fleming’s childhood stories inspired Newberry to begin the historical preservation of the small school and the stories of its students.
"Collecting the school history started out as a hobby, but it has become my passion," Newberry said.
From its start in 1913 as a one-room structure built for $2,000, complete with a pot-belly stove and two outhouses, the school is the oldest and smallest school in continuous operation in Nevada. The Goodsprings school will celebrate its 100th anniversary in September 2013.
Newberry is working on a book to commemorate the centennial. It will contain the complete history of the Goodsprings school.
"Every generation reaches a point when they want to know about what has happened before them," she said.
Newberry has compiled boxes of school pictures, drawings and documents. Every year, she displays picture posters at the annual Old Timers Reunion the first weekend in May.
The early history of the school was of children playing on the "tricky bars" and swinging on separate boys and girls swings in the dirt school yard. The community used the front room of the schoolhouse for box lunch socials, dances and school programs.
Newberry incorporated oral histories into the historical preservation project to show a more complete picture of how the school was the heart of the town.
At one of the reunions, two old men stood outside the school talking to each other: "I sure envied that you older boys were allowed to climb up to the bell tower and write your names up there," said one old man. "What do you mean — we were allowed to?" said the other old-timer.
"These stories need to be preserved," Newberry said.
Newberry, 68, has worked with other members of the Goodsprings Historical Society to bring recognition to the school. It was placed on the National Register of Historical Places by the U.S. Department of the Interior in 1992. Probably no school in the country has a more complete history , Newberry said.
Without Newberry, "this important American story would have been lost, like so many others, when those that lived it have passed away," said Stephen Nevada Fleming , a Las Vegas orthodontist and p resident of the Goodsprings Historical Society.
Recently, the school received a grant from Intermec Technologies Corp . It was presented by Troy, Newberry’s husband of 30 years and western regional service manager for Intermec. The grant will be used to purchase Kindles and other needed supplies for the school’s current 14 students.
"So many times history is torn down," Newberry said. Children who go to school in Goodsprings know that they are in a "very special place," she said
The next Old-Timers Reunion is set for May 5-6. Admission is free, but donations are welcome. Activities include a potluck meal.
For more information about the Goodsprings Historical Society, visit goodsprings.org.