Chances are that most of the long-time secretaries in Lawrence learned their office skills from Mary Gauthier.
After all, Ms. Gauthier, who is semi-retired now, was coordinator of the office education program at Lawrence High School from 1959 to 1986, teaching about 600 students during that time period.
And now she's volunteering her time to teach typing skills once a week to a whole new crop of students.
Every Thursday, some sixth-graders at St. John's School get to benefit from Ms. Gauthier's 40-plus years of teaching expertise, learning the primary building block of office work -- using a keyboard.
``All it is is just elementary keyboarding,'' she said. ``What we do is run right through the alphabet. They get the right fingering. And they can type 25 to 30 words a minutes.''
EACH WEEK, the students have 20-minute lessons on computer keyboards, using a software program that helps them learn the fingering skills.
``They can do games, they can do geography, they can do language arts," she said. ``The content of this thing is unbeatable.''
She said she isn't teaching them typing skills -- such as how to format a letter or a report -- but the students have the opportunity to progress to that.
``This is our third year and the kids who come back tell us it's a snap when they get to junior high typing,'' she said. ``And that's what we're after.''
Ms. Gauthier said she's also had something of a surprise in teaching the sixth-graders.
``AT LEAST half a dozen of these kids are children of my former students,'' she said, laughing. ``What goes around comes around. It's been a lot of fun.''
Ms. Gauthier grew up in Corning, Iowa, where her parents ran a weekly newspaper, the Adams County Free Press. She worked for the family newspaper as a reporter, bookkeeper and office manager. In 1951, she received a bachelor's degree in business education from the Sisters of Humility at Marycrest College in Davenport.
She received a master's degree from Iowa State Teachers College, Cedar Rapids, and continued graduate studies at Kansas University and Kansas State University.
She taught business education from 1951 to 1952 at Ottumwa Heights Junior College in Ottumwa, Iowa, and taught office education at Corning High School from 1952 to 1959, when she came to Lawrence High School.
``I THINK we've supplied a pretty good labor force,'' she said. She estimated that more than 600 students went through the program while she was coordinator from 1959 to 1986. About 100 students went through the program from 1952 to 1959. And a few hundred have gone through since she left.
After leaving the high school, Ms. Gauthier helped to launch the program at the Center for Training in Business and Industry Inc., where she taught for a year.
MS. GAUTHIER, who currently works part-time for Al Gallup at Northwestern Mutual Life, says she often sees her former students as she does her banking and other chores.
Many of the students from the LHS program were hired by Kansas University, Lawrence banks, the Lawrence Public Library, the Lawrence Paper Co., the school district and many insurance and real estate companies.
``I'm proud of these kids when I see them,'' she said. ``When I talk to them it really pleases me to see their maturity and growth.''
About 20 of her former students from the LHS classes of 1961 and 1962 recently honored her with a surprise 70th birthday luncheon.
``The thing I enjoyed about the luncheon is they were having as much fun as I was,'' she said. She said her former students would like to start quarterly luncheons for students who had been in the LHS office education program.
``If they would like to contact me, we'd like to get the ball rolling,'' she said.