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TRAVELING JACK

Posted 6/06/17 (Tue)

By Jack Dura
Farmer Staff Writer

If Sioux Crossing School still stands in the Yellowstone Valley, Muretta Levno would like to know.
The 60-years-ago Sioux Crossing schoolteacher lives in Oregon today, but her roots remain in the Fairview area, including her early career at the school.
I had the fortune of interviewing the former Miss Norby last month, a delightful window into the past for my project into McKenzie County’s rural schools and churches.
“I really enjoyed the experience of teaching these kids,” she said.
“They knew what Miss Norby expected of them and they did it. Those kids were great kids.”
From 1956-58, she taught at the school north of Cartwright near the Missouri-Yellowstone confluence.
Her first year, she wasn’t even 19 when she headed a classroom of 11 students in six grades. The setting was like a storybook: The one-room school sat on the flat river bottom, backdropped by the Yellowstone hills.
Kids would play kick the can and dodgeball at recess, and sometimes Muretta would lead hikes into the hills to look for horny toads.
She herself is a rural student, educated from grades 1-8 at Central Grade School in the Yellowstone Valley.
After high school graduation from Fairview, Muretta attended Minot State Teachers College on a $300 scholarship that paid for books and tuition.
“I had a little extra left over for a winter coat,” she added.
After three terms at Minot and six weeks student teaching, she accepted a position at Sioux Crossing School near where she grew up.
She had standards for her students, she added.
“When I assigned them something, I expected to have it done,” Muretta said, telling the story of a handful of students who hadn’t finished their work and had to stay after to do it.
That was the only time that happened.
Her second year teaching, she lost her first- and seventh-graders, but gained two sisters who had been left out and a bit marginalized in their previous school.
Muretta still has the letter from their mother telling her how her daughters “felt a part of the group” at Sioux Crossing.
“It was a community,” Muretta said. “Everybody looked out for everybody.”
After two years, she went back to Minot, later to receive another teaching scholarship and returning a contract to teach in Williston.
She moved to Billings and married her husband in 1960, later moving to Portland, Ore.
As for North Dakota’s rural schools, just four remain teaching.
“They’ve gone by the wayside,” Muretta said. But the community-mindedness remains, she adds.
The town of Cartwright, she hears, just spruced up its community hall. Perhaps Sioux Crossing School is still around too?
She’d like to know.