Schooling at Mother’s Knee:
Lessons in life from A to Z!
Many in Ballston Spa, NY remember Audrey Bopp Hauprich as a dedicated educator
who set high standards for the students in her classrooms at Malta Avenue
Elementary School during her 20-year tenure.
What few of those young scholars or their parents knew was that before the
teacher they called Mrs. Hauprich
entered her classroom each morning, she had
sent her own 10 children off to a variety of other academic settings.
It was nearly half a century ago that our “Cheaper By The Dozen
” clan moved from
a cramped Cape Cod style cottage in Latham to the rambling Victorian that
remains our beloved family homestead on Church Avenue in Ballston Spa.
At the time we ranged in age from five to 19, and before we had a chance to
finish unpacking our suitcases, we were being tutored in local history as well
as a host of other subjects not mandated by any Board of Education.
It started out slowly enough, with my parents (who celebrated their 68th wedding
anniversary in March 2016) accepting an invitation from Mom’s esteemed teaching
colleagues, Helen and Al Eisenhauer, to dine with them at one
of the village’s
Dressed in our Sunday’s Best, we took our seats at the table set for 14 and
would surely have scored better grades on the Social Studies tests that were to
follow if only we’d been permitted to take notes instead of minding our manners
as per our mother’s instructions. Both she and her mother, Catherine Tiernan
Bopp, could easily have given lessons on such things as the importance of
keeping one’s elbows off the table, but in those days, my siblings and I assumed
etiquette was taught in every home.
Another incorrect assumption was that everyone’s mother and grandmother lectured
on the values of compassion, courage, honesty, integrity, patience, perseverance
and respect. Both my mother,
who celebrated her 90th birthday in 2015
, and my maternal grandmother, who
passed away just before her 100th birthday in 1990, taught far more about these
subjects by example than they did by lecturing – though each did her fair share
Of the nine children my grandmother bore, she saw only seven survive to
adulthood as two daughters died in infancy while a teenaged son perished in an
auto accident. Despite these tragic losses,
Catherine Tiernan Bopp
count her blessings and dedicated herself to enriching the lives of children in
and outside of our family circle.
Not until I welcomed my own three babies into the world could I begin to fathom
the anguish my grandmother had endured long before I was born and to admire the
faith and fortitude that became the hallmarks of her life.
Those same traits saw my mother through the roughest of passages – not the least
of which involved returning to college around her 40th birthday to complete her
Master’s degree -- before the luxury of online courses and Internet searches.
Suffice to say that the standards Mrs. Hauprich was to set for her students at
Malta Avenue Elementary School five decades ago were no higher than those she
set for herself.
Coming home at the end of a long day in the classroom, Mom somehow found the
time to take an interest in our homework assignments and extracurricular
activities before settling down to watch TV beside our father with a red pen in
her hand and stack of papers awaiting grading on her lap!
Some evenings Mom would take the telephone to a quiet nook so she could call the
parents of students about whom she was genuinely concerned. It was during this
time that I first realized that a teacher’s heart – like the heart of a mother
-- is capable of growing in proportion to the number of children in her care.