Lewis-Clark State College is commemorating its 125th anniversary in 2018. This occasional feature highlights dates of interest in the school’s history.
Dec. 13, 1980: Born near Albany, Ore., on Aug. 13, 1888, Jessie Lula McGhee began her teaching career soon after graduating from high school, starting in a one-room school in Connell, Wash., in 1906. In September 1908, Washington awarded McGhee her first teaching certificate.
She moved to Idaho in 1914 to teach at Leland, near Kendrick.
McGhee enrolled at Lewiston State Normal School, where she was an editor of the Elesenes, the school yearbook, and a member of the college debate team. Earning an Idaho teaching certificate in the spring of 1920, she joined the Lewiston School District faculty that fall as a second-grade teacher at the old Whitman Elementary that was once located between 10th and 11th streets on Main, the original public school campus dating from the 1870s. The school was razed in 1950. Today, the North Idaho Health District offices are found at that location.
After summer sessions at the University of Washington, McGhee earned her bachelor’s degree in 1936 from Western Washington State College, now Western Washington University. In July 1940, she was elected the president of the Lewis-Clark State College Alumni Association and was among the charter members of Idaho’s Delta Kappa Gamma chapter.
McGhee became the principal at Whitman in 1942 after serving as vice principal since 1929.
When Warner Elementary School opened in the Lewiston Orchards in the summer of 1948, McGhee became its first administrator. The Lewiston Education Association honored her in 1955, stating that “she has become a second mother to 10,000 children in Lewiston. She always has time for an encouraging word for each youngster she contacts.”
She remained at Warner until her retirement in 1958.
Miss McGhee was a vocal advocate for good teaching.
“I feel every teacher’s responsibility to every child is to develop the child’s capacity to the utmost, but with large rooms and enrollment, it is not always possible to do,” she said. “If you don’t like children, you have no business in the school room.”
In 1974, the Lewiston School District renamed Warner Elementary School in her honor.
“I still haven’t gotten over it,” she told a reporter.
Miss McGhee died in December 1980 at age 92.
Branting serves as the Lewis-Clark State College institutional historian.