The Life of Adeline Hill Ostwalt


43 Years of Dedication to Children

Adeline started her career as a teacher in 1941 after she graduated from Belhaven College in Jackson, Mississippi, with a major in home economics and a minor in elementary education. She taught countless children for more than 40 years until her retirement in 1983. She taught in church schools, kindergartens, and elementary schools in Mississippi, Tennessee, Virginia, and North Carolina.

One of her contributions to education in North Carolina is that she helped set up the first kindergartens in public schools in Mecklenburg County. Before 1966, there were no kindergartens in public schools. She trained teachers for kindergartens in public schools because there were no trained teachers for such settings.

After she got her master's degree from the Presbyterian School of Christian Education, Richmond, VA, she did post graduate work at various schools such as Davidson College, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Appalachian State University, and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Since 1972, Adeline served as a principal in Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools until her retirement.


Adeline Ostwalt (left) at gradution from the Presbyterian School of Christain Education

Photo courtesy of Adeline Ostwalt


Helping Teachers and Parents

Adeline believed that it was important to work with parents as well as teachers. She did her best to solve a child's problem with the child and teacher as much as she could, but if the child was being too difficult, she called in the parents and worked with them.

Because she thought that understanding the family situation was crucial in understanding a child, she always visited the child's home and tried to get to know the family. As a principal, Adeline had her teachers visit each child's home too. Her teachers were glad that she had made them do it because it helped them understand their children better, and as a result they could teach their students better and more easily. She was always willing to help any teacher who was having trouble with a child or with any task.  She thought that helping teachers and parents was another way of doing the best for children.


Her Teaching Philosophy

Adeline has always loved children. When she was a girl, she used to go babysitting children in the neighborhood, not getting paid because she just loved them so much. As many of her stories about the teaching years show, Adeline was always very loving and child-oriented and believed in the wonderful potential every child has. She still believes any child can learn and achieve something even if not all of the children are as bright as some are. She respects the uniqueness of each child. If a child was a good jumper, she made him know that he was a good jumper and made him feel good about it. Click on the play button below to listen to Adeline telling how all children can achieve something.

Open school Open school

Teachers and students at the Villa Heights Elementary School (Open school) where Adeline was the principal from 1974 to 1980

Photos courtesy of Adeline Ostwalt


"But your husband is a white man!"

During the first year of integration, black and white teachers were, for the first time, teaching along side one another in the same school. Adeline was sent to Ada Jenkins Elementary School which at the time was a black school in Davidson. When she got there, she was the only white teacher, and all children and teachers were black. However, there was no conflict. While there, Adeline understood how people really feel as a minority, and she learned a lot. As she accepted the children and teachers, she was equally accepted by them. The black teachers in the school were very encouraging and helped her. Click on the play button below to listen to Mrs. Ostwalt telling how her black students thought oddly of her husband.


Principal Principal

Adeline in the Statesville Road Elementary School principal's office on her last day as an educator

Photos courtesy of Adeline Ostwalt


How She Disciplined Children

Adeline was strongly against corporal punishment.  When she was at Ada Jenkins Elementary School, she was shocked by the fact that the teachers used leather belts to punish children. She could hear children screaming, and she felt very sad.

When she taught in Charlotte, there was a girl who was very bright but had a violent temper and would often kick people. The girl was brought to the principal's office and kicked Adeline. Adeline told the little girl, “If you kick me one more time, I am going to kick YOU!” All of a sudden, the girl stopped and asked, “Would you?” Adeline responded, “Yes, I would” when she did not really mean to do it. The child promised,  “I won’t kick any more,” and she never did. Click on the play button below to listen to Mrs. Ostwalt telling how she punished a boy who acted out in class.



Adeline Ostwalt retired from teaching while at Statesville Road Elementary School on June 30, 1983

Photo courtesy of Adeline Ostwalt

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The text, video, audio, and website are the result of interviews conducted by Oh-jin Kwon,
Davidson College Class of 2008, in the Fall of 2007.
© 2007 Kristi S. Multhaup, Ph.D. | Davidson College | Davidson, NC 28035 | Phone: 704.894.2008
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