Irene Virdelle Jacobson

Honored by:Nancy Sebring
Brick location:G:22  map

Irene Virdelle (Rasmusson) Jacobson

Born: McCallsburg, Iowa, February 11, 1913

Education has always been an important part of the life of Irene Virdelle (Rasmusson) Jacobson, since she first walked through the doorway of the Burkhart school, in the fall of 1918, as a little girl ready for her first day of school. The Burkhart school had opened in 1885, and many of Irene’s aunts and uncles had attended the country school, located in Richland Township, Story County, Iowa. Two of her aunts had taught in the school, and she and her brothers completed all eight grades in the Burkhart school. The teachers there inspired Irene’s love of learning, and following successful completion of the eighth grade examinations, Irene enrolled in the Warren Township Consolidated High School in McCallsburg, Iowa in 1925. It was difficult being a country kid going to school in “town” for the first time. High school meant new faces, different teachers for different subjects, clubs, athletics, and riding the bus! Irene adjusted well, and graduated with valedictorian honors, and a three year perfect attendance record—a proud member of the class of ’29!

Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa offered a two year teaching program, and despite anxiousness over college expenses, Irene enrolled in the fall.  Two years later, Irene was ready to begin her career as a school teacher! Mr. John Baldus, director of Laueson School, Lafayette Township No. 4, south and west of Story City, Iowa offered Irene a position as a teacher. Her first class consisted of 28 students, ranging in age from first grade to eighth grade. One stipulation of the new teaching contract required Irene to have a fire started to warm the building my 8:30 A.M. That first year as “Miss Rasmusson, the teacher” was a challenge just as the first year of teaching is for new teachers today! Irene survived, her students performed well, and she had a year of valuable experience behind her. Irene left the Laueson School to accept a position as a fourth grade teacher in Zearing, Iowa. During this time, Irene met other teachers who would become life-long friends. She also met a handsome young man, Howard Jacobson, and they decided to marry. The Zearing School would not allow young married women to teach, so in 1936, Irene returned to the rural Burkhart School, this time as the teacher! For the next four decades, Irene would perform her role as a wife and homemaker, mother of four children (Robert W. Jacobson, Bernita Irene Jacobson, William C. Jacobson, and Barbara Eileen Jacobson), neighbor, friend, and teacher. Her career would take her to elementary schools in Richland Township, Milford Township, Roland and Nevada schools, all located in Story County, Iowa.

In 1986, at age 76, Irene wrote and published a book about her life entitled Life in the Middle Lane which she describes as "not really a significant book." But in reality it is a rich story of rural life and teaching in and throughout the 20th century; a time period in which more changes occurred in the world than in any similar period. In concluding her story, Irene states "time ticks steadily on carrying us with it as it marks a steady beat along life's highways..." and so it was with lrene's formal teaching career. At the age of 63, Irene retired from teaching and in 1976 closed the chapter of her life entitled "teacher' over 45 years after entering Lafayette No. 4, on that first day of teaching in a little country school.

A school is not a building or books or chalkboards--a school is really students, and the teachers who inspire them to be curious about life and the world around them; to appreciate and care for others; and to be courageous as they face the future. Irene provided that encouragement to her students, friends, and family. She has been an inspiration to many, and truly deserves recognition in the Plaza of Heroines. It is a privilege for her nieces, Linda Saveraid, Nancy Sebring, Nina Dunker, and her nephew, James Rasmusson to bestow "Aunt Irene" with this special recognition. A mother, author, historian, friend, aunt, neighbor, and always a teacher, Irene Virdelle Jacobson symbolizes the commitment of women who have dedicated their lives to the great purpose of education.