KOKOMO, Ind. – A small leather-bound three-ring notebook embossed with the IU crest is the only memento Robin DeWitt kept from her time at Indiana University Kokomo.
“It represented the fact I got my degrees from IU,” she said.
It lay forgotten in a box for decades, unpacked as she purged boxes from her shed when she retired from her long teaching career in 2016. She discarded her 1970s-era textbooks from the same box. But for some reason, this notebook stood out.
“It still appealed to me as something special,” said DeWitt, B.S. ’71, M.S. ’78. “I held onto it and threw everything else away. I thought, ‘I’ll just keep it.’”
She remembered seeing someone else with the same notebook while visiting a friend on the Bloomington campus in the late 1960s, and decided she needed one as well. DeWitt took notes in it for her undergraduate classes in education, and then again when she returned to earn her master’s. While most of those notes are gone, a few remain, including a neat, cursive reminder, “need to get application to graduate.”
As one of the first 60 graduates from the School of Education, a favorite memory of IU Kokomo includes founding a chapter of the Student Education Association, a college affiliate of the Indiana State Teachers Association where she served as the student coordinator.
After earning her degree, she moved to Indianapolis where she taught second graders at Bridgeport Elementary School in Wayne Township for three and a half years. After a move and some life changes, she returned to Kokomo – completing her master’s and taking a teaching job with Kokomo schools for eighth and ninth grade students with emotional disabilities.
“That was a different kind of teaching,” she said. “It was nothing like before, with lesson plans you could adhere to. It was flexibility to the max.”
She used her interest in arts to build relationships with students, over quilt making, stained glass creations, and latch hooking rugs. There weren’t a lot of teachers with expertise in her area, so as she grew her skills. DeWitt began mentoring others, including in an internship program with the Indiana Department of Education.
She noted there weren’t a lot of career options for young women when she went to college, and sometimes thinks she might have chosen law if that option had been more viable at the time.
“It was a different generation,” she said. “I don’t know what I would have done. I might have been a lawyer. I can argue now with the best of them. For the time period I was in, education was a good fit.”
In 2016, DeWitt learned she was to become a grandmother and decided it was time to retire after 26 years. Now, she keeps in touch with a group of former colleagues and is working to relearn Spanish in her spare time. She also enjoys sewing, quilting, and is president of the Greentown Research Club.