Ellen Morgan of Buhl, Idaho


Ellen Morgan of Buhl, Idaho

Have you ever met a ten-year-old school teacher? No? Well, meet Ellen Morgan, a pretty blond with a sunshiny smile. Ellen, along with her sisters Anna (12) and Claire (8), set up a summer “school” for children in their neighborhood.

Ellen lives in southern Idaho, right beside the Snake River near a place called Thousand Springs. It’s not easy to organize a neighborhood school when your nearest neighbor lives almost a mile away, but the Morgan sisters were determined to earn money for school clothes. Besides, teaching reading sounded like more fun than baby-sitting or doing yard work. They got busy in the old, one-room schoolhouse that their father fixed up on their property, and they sent out announcements that Thousand Springs Academy Summer School was about to begin.

Eight students came. Three days a week for six weeks Ellen and her sisters taught phonics, reading, arithmetic, and music. They also had nature walks, games, recess, and a nutritious snack every day. On the Fourth of July, the students put on a patriotic play for their families.

Teaching school comes naturally to Ellen. Her parents, Randall and DeAnna Morgan, used to be schoolteachers; now they make educational films. Her grandfather owned a business college, her grandmother and great-grandmother were teachers, and several aunts and uncles have taught school.

Ellen has four other brothers and sisters besides Anna and Claire: Jess (14), Bo (6), Laddie (3), and Jane (1). Everyone has inside and outside chores (Ellen takes care of the chickens), and there are many interesting things to do right on their own property. In summer they ride their horses, raft on the Snake River, wade in ditches, and swim in a nearby hot spring. In winter they cross-country ski, put on plays, and have cozy evenings reading aloud. It’s fun getting snowed-in, because that means having school and church at home.

When Thousand Springs Academy Summer School ended, the old schoolhouse was soon bustling again with the Morgan children’s latest project: the Thousand Springs Rural Community Library. Ellen and her older brother and sister collected hundreds of good books for young readers. When they have finished cataloguing the books, the library will be open two days a week, and it will have guest lecturers, story hours, and plays.

[photos] Photographed by Randall Morgan

[photo] Morning flag-raising ceremony at the schoolhouse

[photo] Ellen with her “class”

[photo] Calling the children in from recess

[photo] The Morgan children in the Thousand Springs Academy schoolhouse: left, front to back—Laddie, Claire, Jess; center, front to back—Jane, Bo; right, front to back—Ellen, Anna

[photo] Preparing the next day’s lessons

[photo] Ellen and Anna helping one-on-one

[photo] Awarding a “diploma”