Laura Kirsch is a teacher. She has devoted more than 50 years of her life to that vocation.
Because of her dedication and commitment to her students over the years, as well as her contributions to church and community, Mrs. Kirsch was honored by the Board of Regents and South Dakota State University as 1979 Eminent Homemaker.
She remembers graduating from Freeman Academy with a first grade certificate in 1926 “when teachers were a dime a dozen and openings were few and far between.”
She finally found a position in Mellette County, and is still teaching after 50 years. Mrs. Kirsch credits the German and Russian children she taught in that first job with molding her into an effective teacher.
“A few of them couldn’t speak English and I had to learn to teach simply and clearly. I literally had to put my hands under their minds and bring them up educationally. They taught me to be a real teacher.”
After 18 years of teaching in the area, her husband Clarence entered politics, and the couple moved into town. However, the White River, South Dakota, school board at that time did not hire married women.
So…she found other ways to teach. She started what is believed to be the first 4-H club in the county, the Happy Farmerettes, 1936 at Cedar Butte, South Dakota.
The honored homemaker organized Job’s Daughters in White River and paid the girls herself for gathering empty beer cans and bottles which started their funds.
She also taught a young people’s Sunday School class, always finding a way to be near and instrumental in young people’s lives.
Then the door reopened for her to teach school.
She has taught everything in high school except social studies and typing, and everyone from Head Start to college students. She also served as a principal, superintendent of schools and guidance counselor. When she taught adult education classes at the Sinte Gleska College on the Rosebud Indian Reservation, her students presented her a gift of a lone-star quilt.
Mrs. Kirsch gave many students the financial backing that allowed them to continue with their education. She has also shared her home with many young people over the years.
In 1964 she was chosen by the South Dakota Education Association as a representative from South Dakota to a regional convention. In 1971 she was chosen as an Honored Homemaker at the Little International Exposition at SDSU.