Biography of Emma M. Stearns
Audubon County, IA Biographies

The peculiar rewards accruing to a person who follows the profession of teaching for a long number of years are not great, but the honor and satisfaction of knowing that one has accomplished a great deal of good and molded many minds to the right way of living and thinking, more than compensates for the lack of large compensation. While it is true that the rank and file of teachers are not paid in the same ratio that those who follow other learned professions are rewarded, yet there are, as in other vocations, high places for those who are deserving. "There is always room at the top," is a tried and true saying, and it might be added that the top is never overcrowded with the really capable. One of the recognized leaders in the teaching profession, one who has risen to a high place in her chosen life work, is Ella M. Stearns, county superintendent of schools for Audubon county.

Ella M. Stearns was born in Oxford county, Maine, daughter of Stephen B. and Mary (Gordon) Stearns, the former of whom was a native of Oxford county, Maine, and the latter a native of Freyburg, Maine. Following the death of Stephen B. Steams, his family, in 1874, emigrated to Michigan, and two years later, in 1876, the sons, Stephen, Sewell and H. Wilbur, came to Audubon county in order to make a permanent home. Mrs. Stearns came on later to join them in making a home and died at the home in Luccocks Grove not long after her arrival in the county. Stephen and Sewell went further west after some years of residence here and Stephen now resides in Kansas City and Sewell is located in Tacoma, Washington. There were nine children in the Stearns family, all of whom but four remained in the East. These children, besides the subject of this sketch, are George, residing at Spring Creek, Pennsylvania; J. C., living at Lovell Center, Maine; Mrs. Carrie Leighton, of Indianapolis; Mrs. Belle Hurlman, of Great Falls, Maine; Mrs. Sarah Stearne, of Lovell Center, Maine; Stephen, a resident of Kansas City; Sewell, of Tacoma, Washington, and H. W., formerly a resident of Audubon county, who recently died, was one of the well known citizens of the county, and left four children, Virgil, Mereber, Helen and Russell.

Ella M. Stearns was educated in the high school of Ludington, Michigan, the Bloomfield Normal School, and the State Teachers College at Cedar Falls, Iowa. She studied in the various schools and colleges while teaching and practically made her own way. Miss Stearns taught her first school in a board shanty in Douglas township, Audubon county. This shanty was put up roughly and was covered with tar paper roofing, a good example of the makeshift school buildings of the time. Her next school was taught in an old granary, which sufficed for a temple of learning in Viola township. She also taught the "Jack Whipple" school in Lincoln township and taught likewise in rural schools in Leroy and Melville township. She became so well and favorably known throughout the county as an able and forceful teacher that her services became greatly in demand and positions were offered her in various parts of the county. While teaching in the Exira schools, a position which had come without solicitation on her part, she was offered a situation in the Audubon schools. She accepted and for a number of years was at the head of the city grammar school, later serving as principal of the high school and teacher of English. Miss Stearns served for twenty three years in the Audubon schools, and it was only natural that she should eventually assume the highest position in educational circles possible within the gift of the people of Audubon county. In January of 1907 she became county superintendent of schools for Audubon county and has since then continuously served in this important capacity. During her administration the public schools have made marked progress and modern methods are in evidence in practically every district in the county.

Miss Stearns is a member of the Presbyterian church. She takes an active part in the affairs of the "P. E. O." and the Columbian Club and the Woman's Club of Audubon and is universally esteemed by all classes in Audubon county for her many excellent qualities and her ability as an educator. Despite the fact that her teaching experience has been longer than most teachers of the county, she has never allowed her energy and determination to flag, or herself to retrogade intellectually or mentally, and she has kept pace with the latest developments in her profession.

History of Audubon County, Iowa
Its People, Industries and Instutions
H. F. Andrews, Editor
B. F. Bowen & Company, Inc.
Indianapolis - 1915

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