Memories: Steffens’ 50 years in teaching



Simon Steffens would later recall that Lima in the years following the Civil War seemed like the kind of place he wouldn’t want to be caught dead.

“When I first came to this city, it didn’t impress me very favorably. I used to go by the railroad, and few towns look attractive when viewed from a railroad car, and I used to think of it as a town where I wouldn’t want to be buried, and even less to live, ”he wrote in November 1923. reminiscence.

“Since that time,” added Steffens, “I have changed my mind. I am not against being buried here, as I would rather be buried here than where I have no knowledge. I’m not sure whether or not we can take our acquaintances with us, but it’s something to bury among old friends.

Steffens, aside from a short interlude, has lived in Lima for over half a century as the city he first saw through a railroad car window fell by less than 5,000 residents to over 41,000. During that time he was a high school principal and language teacher, working long enough to guide the grandchildren of former students through the education system.

Steffens was born in Germany on March 10, 1847, and his parents immigrated to the United States when he was very young, settling in Wisconsin.

“He received his early education in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, and then attended Heidelberg University at Tiffin,” the Lima News wrote in June 1925. “After graduating in 1874 he came to Lima , where he became a teacher in public schools. He was the principal of the school for many years.

In August 1873 he married the former Emma Bostich in Fort Wayne. The couple were the parents of four daughters, Edna, Charlotte, Helen and Florence.

In 1885, Steffens was chosen as director of the lycée in Lima.

“For twenty years, with a single hiatus of less than a year teaching in his native Wisconsin, he piloted high school students in Lima through the murky waters of learning to the smooth port of the shed. degrees, “the News said. wrote in June 1905 at the opening of the new central high school, “and during all this time no word of reproach or condemnation of his methods has ever been heard.”

Twenty years after starting with “no more than 100 students” in high school, the News added, Steffens guided 150 boys and 198 girls to “the smooth port of graduation” in 1905.

“With a calm and discreet personality, but with relentless perseverance and unfailing energy, he was the man for the job, which is strongly evidenced by the high position occupied by the Lycée de Lima”, added the News.

On September 24, 1898, a severe storm, described by the Allen County Republican-Gazette as a “cyclone,” blew the steeple and most of the third floor of the East School building and left school principal Steffens secondary without a diploma. school.

“The room occupied by Professor Steffens, which is on the second floor of the tower, is filled with debris and everything is destroyed,” writes the Republican-Gazette. Fortunately, the thunderstorm hit on a Saturday.

Lima High students completed the year at Lima College, which was located at the northwest corner of North Jameson and Rice avenues before moving to more permanent quarters in the Holland Block on Main and High Streets in the fall. following.

Steffens’ persistence and energy made him a popular director. In May 1911, the News announced that the graduation ceremony would take place a day earlier than usual so that “Prof. Steffens, the senior high school veteran, could leave New York for Europe… ”The trip was a Christmas present from the Lima high school alumni.

On June 10, 1911, according to the News, “The largest crowd that ever gathered to cheer on an individual in Lima was at the train station (Pennsylvania) when the train arrived this afternoon. There were 13 automobiles filled with happy high school students and teachers, while others came on foot to say goodbye to the high school principal. In October of the same year, Steffens was back in Lima and giving speeches on his trip.

Four years later he was saying goodbye again, this time to the post he had held for 30 years.

“The biggest surprise included in the several resignations recently received by the (education) council was that of Professor Simon H. Steffens, principal of the Lima high school,” the News reported on June 23, 1915. “In a letter on the board, which was read out last night, Prof Steffens said that even if he wished to step down as director, he would be happy to serve the board in another capacity. He was retained as head of the foreign languages ​​department .

Steffens, 72, was still at work in 1920.

“He now teaches the children and, in a few cases, even the grandchildren of his first pupils and his first pupils,” the News wrote on January 18, 1920, adding that “Miss Blanche Andrews, professor of mathematics at Central during over 30 years, received his secondary education under his jurisdiction.

From his home at 1137 Rice Ave., the News noted, Steffens watched Central High football games played across the street at the University Field in Lima.

“He has a special dormitory gable built on top of the house from the front window of which he sits in a chair and watches intently every battle the team has played since the introduction of athletics into the school. “, according to the News.

In 1921 Steffens retired from teaching in Lima schools but did not retire from teaching. In August 1921, the News reported that Steffens, “a competent foreign language teacher”, had opened a foreign language school on the West High Street.

Steffens died on June 3, 1925 at his home on Rice Avenue. In addition to his work in schools in Lima, the News noted, Steffens was an administrator at Wooster University, from which he had graduated in philosophy in 1885. He was also “an honored member and authority. of the Lima Philosophical Club. ”And one of the founders of the Citizens Building and Loan Building Company“ of which he was an auditor for years ”.

On June 7, 1925, the News wrote: “Hundreds of former students and parents of well-known educator Professor Simon Steffens visited Market Street Presbyterian Church on Saturday and paid their final respects to the deceased, who during for the past 50 years has been a faithful instructor in the schools of Lima.

Steffens was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery, among his old friends.

Simon Steffens can be seen in his later years in this portrait. He was an educator and director in Lima for 50 years.

Simon Steffens, shown here in 1886, was well known for his abilities with foreign languages.

East School teachers pose for a photo with principal Simon Steffens in 1878.

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