In 1963, when a little girl named Janice Barker skipped across S. Alamo Street to start her first grade at Bonham Elementary, she couldn’t have known that, in 2018, she’d be saying goodbye to Bonham Academy after 38 years teaching.
Mrs. Janice (Barker) Schwab grew up in King William in the 1960s and 70s. Back then, Bonham Elementary had open breezeways instead of hallways, and if it was pouring rain, the kids had to brave the weather to race to the outdoor bathrooms. There was no air conditioning, so they made good use of the large windows and transoms.
In classrooms with 40 students, little Janice had many friends from the neighborhood. Many came from Victoria Courts. Much like today, neighbors walked their kids to school, parents and kids sharing stories on the way. You couldn’t get away with much, because everyone in the neighborhood knew everyone else and the adults looked out for each other’s kids.
Bonham’s legacy of parent involvement goes back just as long. The moms on PTA would arrive in dresses and gloves to meet for their formal tea at 2:00 p.m. led by Mrs. Sandoval, who “worked like crazy for us kids.” While the dresses and gloves may be gone, “the parents of Bonham continue to work hard to support the students,” Mrs. Schwab said.
Young Janice eventually went to Brackenridge High School, where she played flute in the band and graduated in 1974. She and her family stayed in the neighborhood as houses fell into disrepair and many other families fled to the suburbs. In 1980, after earning her degree in Education from St. Mary’s University, she came back to Bonham as a student teacher in the very same classroom she’s in today.
When asked what made her become a teacher, she said, “I love my kiddos. When you see the lights come on, it’s awesome!”
Mrs. Schwab has taught pre-K, Kinder and 1st grade over her 38 years at Bonham. With the exception of this past year, her classroom has always been at capacity. She’s taught kids from all level of incomes, backgrounds, abilities. Bonham served the local Children’s Shelter and homeless shelter. One year she had 42 children come through her class over the course of the year. In the early days there were very few services for the Gifted and Talented or for those with Special Education needs. Her classroom had kids from the entire range of academic needs, and she served them all. She had students whose families had very difficult living conditions, kids with no shoes, kids who had no home. Mrs. Schwab embraced them all.
As she prepares to retire after 38 years at Bonham as a teacher, and even more as a member of the Bonham community, Mrs. Schwab said, “It’s been a wonderful ride. This is home. It’s my home school, my home community.“ Our school will miss her greatly, but we hope young Janice Barker Schwab will continue to skip across S. Alamo Street from time to time.
- Cherise Rohr-Allegrini