Educational Life History of Leona Anderson


by Zelda Anderson

        Leona Wilson Anderson was born August 26, 1922 in a small farm house near Mead NE. to Edith & Emil Wilson. Her dad was a recent immigrant from Sweden. She was the 4th of 5 children, 4 daughters and 1 son. When she was 6 years old, in 1928, her dad tragically died of tetanus from a farm accident. This widowed her mom with 5 young children, the youngest being Leona’s baby sister, 6 months old.


        The depression hit within months of this loss. With the help of family and friends her mother struggled to keep the farm and family together. Edith was faithful in taking her children to the local Lutheran church in town. While taking her catechism classes at the age of 15, Leona recounts reading John chapter 6, and clearly seeing that Jesus could be her tender Shepherd. She then accepted Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior.

        In 1939, at the young age of 16 she graduated from the Mead High School as the Salutatorian. This enabled her to receive a scholarship for 2 years of college. Because of the depression, there was no way her mother could assist with any schooling past high school. Her first year after high school, she went to a local college, “Luther College” near the farm and lived with a family in town [Wahoo]. To earn the necessary money, she was their housekeeper and nanny. She said she worked extremely hard for them, as well as kept her studies up.


        After that year she had to drop out of college to care for her ailing mother. She resumed college a year later with the help of that high school scholarship and her older brother, Gilbert, who had finished college himself. He worked extra hard to pay for her room and board at the state teacher’s college in Kearney, NE. This enabled her to graduate with a teaching certificate in 1942.

        Her first teaching job was in a rural school with 24 students from first grade to 8th grade. She was only 20 years old and the sole teacher. She recalls that she had no official training in rural schools let alone teaching that many students with multiple grades. Like all rural schools she was the janitor, furnace stoker and teacher. She successfully made it through that extremely difficult year, but decided that maybe getting a business degree might enable her to choose a different career.


        The following summer she took business classes at a college near by to plan toward this career change. Little did she know that God would use those business credits to put her in the position years later of being the first teacher who was endorsed with a Middle School Teaching Endorsement in the State of Nebraska. That following fall in 1943 she was able to get a job in a public school teaching 1st to 3rd graders and never did change careers to the business world.

        In 1944, she married Sanford Anderson, and they were married for 61 years until his death in 2005. The years following she became the mother of [4 children.] 3 daughters and 1 son. She only took a few years off to be a full time homemaker, and then returned to teaching fulltime in 1957. She continued teaching for a total of 33 years until her retirement in 1987. As a working career educational mother her goal was also to have all 4 of her children go to college. Her encouragement and prayers enabled all 4 of them to successfully finish college. Her only son, Mark, [One child] is presently a PhD student at Trinity Seminary in Newburgh, IN.

        She taught in several rural schools, and then most of her years in the public school system. Her specialty was teaching English and Social Studies. She finished her last few years helping Chapter 1 students who had failed the Iowa Test of Basic Skills.

        Every summer throughout her career she worked on getting her Bachelor’s Degree and eventually her Master’s Degree in Education. Throughout her studies many of her professors and school administrators encouraged her to continue on for her PhD in Education because of her love for education and how intelligent she was. However being the mother of 4 busy young adults and essentially the main income provider for the family she deemed it necessary to not continue on with any further educational degrees. Frequently in her retiring years now she talks about how she wished she could have accomplished that dream of getting her doctorate.

        During her career years she also participated in many volunteer educational activities. She taught Sunday school and Bible classes at her church, the Oakland Evangelical Free Church. She helped many students with their spelling abilities to go to the county and state competitions.

        After her retirement she has helped write Editorials and Commentaries for the local newspaper. She helped work each summer in the Educational Building at the Burt County fair. Teaching Memory Stimulation classes to residents at the Oakland Nursing Home has also been one of her highlights. For many years she has also been a judge for students' essays submitted to Veterans of Foreign Wars, for contests in their small town. She continues even at her senior age in editing papers for students and giving helpful school advice when asked, whether public or homeschooled.

        Probably her greatest educational achievement has been in training herself to memorize scripture. She gladly shares her knowledge of the Word with family and friends; however she will acknowledge that as she ages that she does not always remember the references of the scriptures she is quoting. She has a deep love for the Lord and always seems to be encouraging others to grow in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ and not just in their knowledge of life and books. She is a strong believer that Education is one of the most powerful tools in life to succeeding.

        Many of her students who come in contact with her as she ages have thanked her for the educational help they received from her to graduate and many of these students have successful careers. She literally has helped over 1000 students or more. As a family we are always grateful for her educational help and encouragement with our children’s and personal endeavors. She is a fervent prayer warrior and a constant source of encouragement to all of us.

        In September of 2011 she informally was presented with a Doctorate of Education from Trinity Theological Seminary of Newburgh Indiana, by her family. She was extremely humbled and yet thrilled beyond measure to receive this great honor. In November of 2011 she will officially be honored with this diploma at her hometown church, the Evangelical Free Church of Oakland Nebraska, surrounded by family and friends followed by a time of celebration.


Return to Leona Index