School Days Reminiscences of Marsha Ingrao

School Days, Reminiscences of Marsha Ingrao

Welcome to the School Days, Reminiscences series in which my champion bloggers and authors share reminiscences of their school days. It’s my small way of thanking them for their support and of letting you know about their services and publications.

This week, I am pleased to introduce Marsha Ingrao, author, blogger, teacher. Marsha and I hit it off as soon as we met, somewhere in the blogosphere. I think our shared backgrounds in and beliefs about education helped cement our friendship. I was delighted when Marsha contributed a guest post on readilearn about Writing in the lower primary classroom, a topic we are both passionate about, last year. I was also honoured when she entrusted me with reading a draft of her WIP Girls on Fire, which I’m looking forward to seeing in print one day.

Before we begin the interview, I’ve invited Marsha to tell you a little of herself:

Marsha Ingrao and her books

My career in education spanned twenty-five years, first as a classroom teacher, then as a math consultant for Migrant Education, and finally the County Office of Education in the area of history-social science.

Publications include various poems in anthologies, curriculum written as part of my consultant duties, and two published books, Images of America:  Woodlake by Arcadia Publishing and So You Think You Can Blog? by Lulu Press.

Fiction is still on my bucket list. Two manuscripts I have completed, but not published are:

  • Girls on Fire, a fiction novel about three women in their 50s and 60s who are looking for new love and a change in life.
  • Winning Jenny’s Smile, a middle school fiction about Jenny’s first months in a new school.

For the past seven years, I have sporadically kept three blogs, TC History Gal Productions about local history, Traveling and Blogging Near and Far, and Always Write about hobby blogging, writing and photography. I manage social media for several non-profits and am an active volunteer in Kiwanis. 

Welcome, Marsha.

Now let’s talk school. First, could you tell us where you attended school?

I attended five schools in Indianapolis, Indiana through my junior year of high school, then moved with my mother and brother to Portland, Oregon to finish high school at Madison High. I attended one year of college at Portland State University and finally finished my education with a master’s degree and administrative credential over twenty years and two states later from Fresno Pacific University.

Did you attend a government, private or independent school?

Except for the short stint to finish my master’s degree my schooling was all public.

What is the highest level of education you achieved?

Master’s Degree

What work or profession did you choose after school and was there anything in school that influenced this choice?

My career choices, except for education, were as scattered as my education primarily based on how long it took me to finish my degree and my financial constraints in finishing. My mother taught school, and that was my eventual goal as well.

What is your earliest memory of school?

Kindergarten was my first experience at school. My grandmother and mother had already taught me most of the things they teach now in kindergarten, but we played in school and having such wonderful play setups and being with so many children was new to me.

What memories do you have of learning to read?

I remember Dr. Seuss and Dick and Jane. We did not learn phonetically at first that I remember, but somewhere along the line, someone introduced phonetics. By that time, I read voraciously.

What memories do you have of learning to write?

Marsha Ingrao on writing

Learning to write pained me. I couldn’t see well and probably was dyslexic with a graphic disability, so I didn’t learn to write in cursive, which was wildly important in those days, until I reached the fourth grade. I remember my third-grade teacher took my new fountain pen away because I couldn’t write. Grrr

My fifth-grade teacher praised my poetry and my father called me Hemist Earningway. I entered writing contests in magazines. Sadly, they responded that I was too young to show any promising talent. That squelched my professional writing career.

What do you remember about math classes?

I skipped half of second grade, so my mother prepared me over the summer by teaching me multiplication. When I started third grade, we had timed tests in subtraction. I was number one in music memory tests, but a failure at subtraction timed tests. My father was a design engineer and tried to teach me to use a slide rule when I started algebra in ninth grade. I did not do well in either algebra or learning from my father. Geometry was a bust, but I enjoyed and did well in math after the first two years of high school. I also got contact lenses.

What was your favourite subject?

Marsha Ingrao enjoyed learning about the States and other countries

I liked to research, not that I was thorough compared to the kinds of research students can do today. In fifth and sixth grades we did reports on states and countries. Those were my favorite assignments in grade school. I loved the mathematics of grammar and for some strange reason loved diagramming sentences in junior high school. English was my favorite subject. That’s when I joined the journalism club.

What did you like best about school?

Marsha Ingrao liked music and art classes best at school

I loved music and art classes and was thrilled to learn techniques to draw because seeing something and trying to recreate it on paper baffled my brain as much as using a slide rule. I adored reading but hated giving oral book reports.

What did you like least about school?

The bus ride to get there took forty-five minutes when we moved to the suburbs. It wasted time and eliminated after school commitments since my mother didn’t drive until I was in junior high or high school.

How do you think schools have changed since your school days?

This is a great question, Norah. The biggest changes, I think, have been instigated by the Civil Rights movement and technology. The opportunities afforded by computers and the internet for research and to write without constraints of visual or mechanical handicaps are like carrying water during a hike in the desert. The emphasis on equity and collaboration rather than competition prepares students for a working environment. Students in our community receive Chromebooks and free internet they can use at home. When we attended school, public schools didn’t even furnish paper, pens, and pencils. Buying a fountain pen was a third-grade status symbol.

What do you think schools (in general) do well?

In spite of what the public say about schools, the graduating students I interview have so many opportunities to succeed and far exceed my expectations of what a graduate should be able to do. They have so many choices both in and out of school. Boys and girls can participate equally in sports, theatre, mock trials, history, math, reading, writing, and science competitions. There are academies set up for agriculture, science, math, or the arts where students can specialize if they choose. Our schools also add the requirement of community service.

How do you think schools could be improved?

Marsha Ingrao says how schools could be improved

These questions made me think about how much schools have improved. We complain that kids can’t write, and indeed, texting has changed the way kids think. Capitalizing the word I is not important to them but is to educators. Communicating quickly is something kids have taken to a new level. What they don’t know how to do is think beyond the immediate. Just because they can communicate doesn’t mean that they do it well. Schools need to challenge students to step back to imagine the bigger picture and consider the consequences of their actions. This is why teaching social studies and humanities is essential.

thank you for your participation

Thank you for sharing your reminiscences of school and thoughts about education in general, Marsha. It’s been wonderful to have you here. I learned so much I didn’t already know about you. I especially love that your father called you Hemist Earningway and hope that writing is an earning way for you. However, I am very disappointed in the response of magazines that had such a negative impact on your ambitions and potential.

Find out more about Marsha Ingrao on her blogs

TC History Gal Productions

Traveling and Blogging Near and Far

 Always Write

Connect with her on social media

FB Page

Twitter: @MarshaIngrao



Purchase a copy of Images of America:  Woodlake by Arcadia Publishing

or receive a free copy of So You Think You Can Blog? by Lulu Press.


If you missed previous reminiscences, check them out here:

Charli Mills

Sally Cronin

Anne Goodwin

Geoff Le Pard

Hugh Roberts

Debby Gies

Pauline King


D. Avery

Christy Birmingham

Miriam Hurdle

Robbie Cheadle

Look for future interviews in this series to be posted on Sunday evenings AEST.
Coming soon:

Ritu Bhathal

Joy Lennick

Darlene Foster

Susan Scott

Mabel Kwong

Sherri Matthews

Chelsea Owens

Pete Springer

with more to follow.

Thank you blog post

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your comments. Please share your thoughts.




52 thoughts on “School Days, Reminiscences of Marsha Ingrao

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  12. Susan Scott

    Thanks Marsha so much for your interesting reflections. A slide rule? Good grief. Abacus also? Your comment at the end of this interview is wise – and would be wonderful if children were encouraged to see the bigger picture. ‘Schools need to challenge students to step back to imagine the bigger picture and consider the consequences of their actions. This is why teaching social studies and humanities is essential’.

    Thank you Norah 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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  14. Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

    Enjoyed these reflections, Marsha and Norah, and this really raised a smile:
    “I enjoyed and did well in math after the first two years of high school. I also got contact lenses.”
    Oh yes indeed, especially if learning took place via the blackboard, as mine did in those far off days.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you, Anne. I think all classroom learning can be impeded by vision issues, particularly when it is unidentified. Many children don’t realise that their sight is different from anyone else’s.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. thecontentedcrafter

    Another interesting interview Norah. I love reading all these different experiences and takes on the subject of education! Hello Marsha, I loved the nickname your father gave you and sighed yet again at the ignorant adults who pulled the ground from beneath your aspirations. Yet here you are writing with plans to publish and running three (three!) blogs and reaching to make your dreams your reality! More power to you!!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Norah Post author

      I loved that nickname too, Pauline. It has a certain sense of both fun and encouragement. Pity about the teacher though. It seems so many of us suffered back then. I hope it’s not as commonplace now.
      Thanks for reading and commenting. I’m so pleased others are finding as much enjoyment in these posts as I am.

      Liked by 2 people

  16. petespringerauthor

    Thank you, Norah, for continuing this wonderful series. As a retired teacher, I especially enjoy reading the thoughts of other educators. Thank you, Marsha, for being out there in the trenches and making a difference in students’ lives. Teaching was the hardest and most rewarding job I’ve ever had.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you for your kind words, Peter. I agree that teaching is a difficult but rewarding job. I’m pleased you are enjoying this series. I am finding each interview gives me an opportunity of reflecting on both my own schooling and my teaching career. There is always more to learn as far as teaching goes.

      Liked by 2 people

  17. Chelsea Owens

    Pleased to meet you, Marsha. What a mean teacher, to take away your fountain pen!
    I agree with you about both the opportunities available to students these days and the short-term thinking this texting world is limiting them to.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for joining in the conversation with your observances, Chelsea.
      When a fountain pen is a status symbol, it wouldn’t be fun to have it taken away. 😦

      Liked by 2 people

  18. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Norah, thanks for highlighting another fine human being. You keep good company.
    I was struck by the statements about kindergarten; having already been taught at home what is generally taught there now, but having it be a wonderful place for imaginary and interactive (old school interactive, that is with other humans) play. That is a huge change, that readiness and background knowledge that children brought to school with them. And it is important that teachers realize that play is learning.
    Anyway, nice to meet you Marsha.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you for your kind words, D. I’m pleased you enjoyed meeting Marsha. The time to allow children to learn through play seems to be fast diminishing. I wonder how many children now know what will be taught before they get to kindergarten. The importance of play can’t be overstated.

      Liked by 1 person

  19. Marsha Ingrao

    Norah, thank you so much for inviting me to participate in your school memories series. Someone said that schooling differed even across the United States, which was true until fairly recently. Except for common textbooks, of which there were fewer choices, schools were run by the states without federal intervention. That has changed as more and more money now comes from the federal government, with strings. I remember working on state standards for the first time in the nineties and Common Core Standards in 2010-2011. National English and math standards have been pretty much adopted by the states now, which, along with standardized testing nation-wide has been an attempt to homogenize education for our very mobile population. In other subject areas, the disparity still exists, especially in the area of social studies.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for the clarity, Marsha. ‘homogenise’ is a word I don’t like to think of in relation to education. While I agree that we need to ensure children learn, and that there are some basics required for survival in our print-rich environments, I think there could be greater flexibility for both teachers and learners.

      Liked by 1 person

  20. robbiesinspiration

    A most enjoyable post, Marsha and Norah. I have read most, if not all of the posts in this series, and it seems that the education in the USA differs depending on the state. Marsha’s comments and experiences seem to be so positive compared to some of the other experiences of US schools. I agree that our youngsters need to learn to read and write properly. These skills are the basis of all learning but they don’t appreciate that. If you can’t read and write you can’t put together detailed documents, letters, working papers and records and this is a huge problem we are facing with our university graduates.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Norah Post author

      The diversity in US education is interesting, but I think it’s a good thing. It’s a big place with a huge population. You could never have a ‘one-size-fits-all’ and get it right for everybody.
      I totally agree with you about the importance of reading and writing. Life would be difficult for anyone without the skills.

      Liked by 1 person

  21. Jules

    One thing I think I will never understand is how adults seem to want to squelch what a child has interest in. But that interest like writing, Especially for me continued in private. And now I am honored to be able to meet other poets and writers through wonderful spaces like this that Norah provides.

    Continued success, Anne. – I lived in Indy for about seven years. I loved taking my children to what was then billed as the largest children’s museum in the country. Whether it was or not didn’t matter it was a good place to go.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Norah Post author

      I totally agree with you, Jules. Squelching a child’s interests is terribly unkind. Marsha did well despite the squelching, as did you and many others. If we need it to, writing will find our voice.
      Museums are fun places to go. You could never see or learn everything.

      Liked by 2 people

  22. joylennick

    Nice ‘meeting’ you Marsha.Fancy handling three blogs….Like most people, you too had your stumbling block – yours being your eyesight. You should have had more encouragement re your writing, but it certainly didn ‘t stop your career being successful! Good luck with future endeavours. x Thank you, Norah, for yet another interesting ‘schooldays’ feature.x

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you for your lovely comment, Joy, and encouraging words for Marsha. She has done well despite some difficulties in the early years and is now a true champion for education.

      Liked by 1 person

  23. Darlene

    Another great interview. I agree with Marsha that schools have improved in so many ways. Children just need to focus on how to use these new skills in technology and communication to their advantage. Teaching them to step back and imagine the bigger picture is vital.

    Liked by 2 people


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