by Marcia Napier, Grain Valley Historical Society
Essie Matthews came to the Grain Valley Elementary School as a third and fourth grade teacher in the fall of 1951. Mrs. Matthews, along with her husband Calvin and daughter Carol, had moved to Calvin’s hometown of Odessa after spending a few years in Colorado. Those years in Colorado may have been responsible for her lifelong love of horseback riding.
Mrs. Matthews spent a year in the elementary school before moving to seventh grade, a position she kept for seven years. I was fortunate to be in her class during the 1958-59 school year. In the fall of 1959, she became the elementary school principal.
In those days being a principal or a superintendent was not considered a “full-time” position. Mrs. Matthews continued to teach one class of Freshman civics through the 1963-64 school year.
In 1960, a six-room annex was added to the elementary school, doubling the size of the school. The elementary population continue to grow, and new programs were added in Special Education, Art and Music. When school opened in the fall of 1964, she became the first full-time principal at Grain Valley. (The senior high principal continued teaching American History for two additional years.)
In 1974 the R-5 district purchased nine acres north of I-70 on McQuerry Road, and in 1977 patrons approved a $487,000 bond issue for Phase I of a new elementary school. On April 4, 1978, before construction was completed, an additional $75,000 bond issue was passed. The building was completed in time for classes in the fall.
The building dedication took place on December 10, 1978 and was appropriately named Matthews Elementary School. Mrs. Essie Matthews continued to serve as the elementary principal until her retirement in 1980.
The Grain Valley Historical Society Museum is located at 510 Main Street.
Visit the Historical Society’s website, www.grainvalleyhistory.com, and follow the Society on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (@grainvalleyhistory).
Matthews Elementary was dedicated on December 10, 1978 and was named for Mrs. Essie Matthews.
Photo credit: Grain Valley Historical Society
Former students came together to celebrate the Matthews’ 50th Wedding Anniversary: Back Row: Judy Miller Wilke, Celia Smith Jeffers, Karen Beck Barnett, Larry Graham, and Maurice Gibler. Front Row: Calvin and Essie Matthews.
Photo courtesy Grain Valley Historical Society