In 1950, Pratt was booming. North Elementary School could no longer accommodate all the town’s elementary children and a new facility was built and named in honor of Mattie O. Haskins, longtime Pratt teacher and county superintendent of schools. North School later closed, but in 1962 a new building, called Southwest School, was built.


In 1950, Pratt was booming. North Elementary School could no longer accommodate all the town’s elementary children and a new facility was built and named in honor of Mattie O. Haskins, longtime Pratt teacher and county superintendent of schools. North School later closed, but in 1962 a new building, called Southwest School, was built.
In 2011, population is declining, as is state funding for education. The USD 382 Board of Education has determined that one elementary school will serve its needs and will close Haskins. The building’s future is as yet undetermined.
Its past is rich with memories, shared by several staff members.

Cleo Rucker
Principal, 1979-2000
“I worked with a staff that many visiting administrators said was amazing,” Rucker said. “They worked hard, played hard, and most importantly loved kids and the job they were doing.”
The Haskins Spook House was started as an alternative to children going door-to-door trick or treating. It didn’t serve that purpose, but evolved into the Fun House that is still the only fund-raiser supported by the Parent-Teacher Organization.
Rucker cnnsiders the inclusion of children with special needs into regular classrooms to be an educational highlight of his years.
“We worked on it for a year before it ever happened, and when it happened and we showed that it would work, my staff and I traveled to many workshops and school districts to present the concept. I will never forget a trip to Ulysses with 10 teachers for a two-day training session. The first evening, we all met in one of the bigger rooms to brainstorm how we were going to make it work. I bought 10 pounds of candy, laid it down on the table, and told them were not leaving until the candy was gone.”

Joyce Rucker
Vocal music, 1990-1999
Joyce Rucker’s special memories are of Christmas programs that always ended with “One Little Candle,” end-of-year dance programs and a kindergarten and fourth grade musical.
“It was an incredible amount of talent with which we were privileged to work,” she said.
She credits a supportive faculty, principal, parents and grandparents for the quality of programs they were able to produce.

Jeanne Peters
Title 1 math, 1973
First grade, 1974-2005
Jeanne Peters believes she was the district’s first Title 1 math teacher. The principal told her, “have the teachers want this program.” She thinks she was successful in that.
For the rest of her years, she taught first grade, and for 18 of those years was accompanied to school by Lovey Dovey.
Haskins was a “home away from home,” Peters said. “We were a family.”
Teachers on the “South 40,” the kindergarten and first grade wing, cooperated to decorate the hallways several times a year. Their fun was ruined when the state fire marshal ruled that no more than 25 percent of wall space could be covered with paper.
“It’s so important to display the children’s work,” she still believes.
The teachers also had some fun at Mr. Rucker’s expense. When he was out of town for conferences, they would decorate his office, filling the room with balloons or papers. One time they fixed it up like an old-time principal’s office, with a skeleton sitting in the chair. Although he had never acknowledged their efforts, that time he told them, “okay, girls, I think that’s enough,”
A student once told Peters that Mattie O. (Haskins, whose picture is in the lobby) was in the restroom. He thought the wind rattling the vents was a ghost.
Teachers were supportive. Ann Manes “molded me into the teacher I needed to be,” Peters said, and Marguerite Neidhardt, who taught fifth grade at the beginning of her tenure, shared materials and ideas.
Peters substitute teaches, accompanied by one of Cleo Rucker’s magic doves, who looks like Lovey Dovey, but has a different personality.

Mildred Seyfert
Second grade, 1966-1999
A widowed mother of six children, Mildred Seyfert had to work to support her family. Fortunately, she loved teaching, and taught for a total of 48 years. One of her memories is bittersweet. She had a student with health issues that kept him out of class at least two days a week. His mother would pick up his schoolwork, and when he returned, he always presented it to her as if it were a gift. With blond hair and blue eyes, he was the picture of health, but he died two years later from cancer.
Seyfert said she was known as a good reading teacher, devoting the whole morning to reading, writing and activities to reinforce the lessons.

Delores Goyen
Fourth grade, 1970-1990
President Dwight Eisenhower, Amelia Earhart and a couple of pioneer ladies visited Delores Goyen’s classroom as part of Kansas Day activities. Gary Schmidt portrayed the president and Dorotha Gianangelo and Marguerite Neidhardt were the pioneer women. Goyen doesn’t recall who brought Earhart to life.
The trips she and husband Lester took during vacations enriched lessons in social studies.
Goyen’s teaching days began before the building was air-conditioned and before the library was added.

Carol Tucker
Third grade, mid-’80s to 2007
Carol Tucker started teaching at Southwest Elementary in 1983 and was at Haskins for most of her career. She was known as a storyteller.
She taught a science unit that included a rocket launch. Mr. Rucker or a custodian was usually dispatched to the roof to retrieve rockets that went off course.
In a measuring unit, she always told her students that someone was in trouble. They would measure the distance to the principal’s office with their rulers and convert it to inches, then to yards before she would admit, “oh, wait, he didn’t say someone was in trouble, he said you were the best class ever.”
In November of each year, she and a fellow teacher always had their students cook a friendship meal and invite teachers and staff. She would always print the amount of one ingredient wrong — a teaspoon instead of a tablespoon, for example — to illustrate the importance of accuracy.
She liked to teach with games and visuals, like solar systems made of balloons and papier mache.

Annette Van Blaricum
Kindergarten, 1982-2000
Title 1 reading and math, 2001-2006
Annette Van Blaricum says that teaching children as they took their first steps to education was a challenging and rewarding experience..
The A-Z Friends were welcomed in her classroom: Daddy the Doctor, F for firefighter, G for Grandma, Grandpa and golf, H for hospital, P for Pumpkin Patch and W for Wildlife and Parks.
Her classroom was referred to as Pooh Corner North.

Barbara Shinkle
Kindergarten, 1975-1994
Barbara Shinkle taught first grade for a year at North School; when Miss Downing retired, she hurried over to Haskins Elementary to apply for the kindergarten position.
In her early years, she was the only kindergarten teacher at Haskins, and might have up to 50 students a year in two half-day classes.
She brought Pooh Corner to Haskins, capitalizing on the new popularity of the Winnie the Pooh character. It brought some consistency to messages home to parents, she said, and the children loved it. When a second kindergarten teacher was hired, the school was home to Pooh Corner North and Pooh Corner South.
Kindergarten was more like today’s preschool, perhaps even less advanced, Shinkle said. She knew that many of the children were ready for reading, phonics, writing and basic math skills. There was some resistance, she remembers, but she taught classes to parents to help them help their children.
Shinkle was an early advocate for all-day kindergarten, which began at USD 382 after her retirement, although the state has not yet approved full funding for the program.
“My heart aches a little bit with the closing of Haskins,” Shinkle admits. Pooh accompanied her to a school picnic earlier this month, wearing a black armband. Ever the optimist, Shinkle placed a smiley face on the character’s other arm.
“Keeping a positive attitude is important,” she emphasized.