Louise Imm-Cooper graduated from Millersville in January of 1964, soon after the school was incorporated into the state system. She majored in education with a focus in social studies and minored in history.
Snapper: What did you do after graduation?
Louise Imm-Cooper: For seven years I taught in both public and private schools. In the summer I returned to Millersville to complete courses in elementary education and child development. In 1971, after returning to Lancaster I was hired by the School District of Lancaster to work in a “Model Cities” pilot program in early childhood education. The program was part of Lyndon Johnson’s initiative, the War on Poverty.
Snapper: What did you do within that program?
LIC: I was part of a team of teachers who visited the homes of preschoolers a few times each week. During these visits we would engage each child in activities aimed at enhancing their development. The purpose was to serve as models for the child’s parent so they would continue to do the activities with their child. The main idea was to assist both the parent and child in preparation for the school experience and hopefully success later in life.
After two years of working in the homes, I was appointed Materials Development Specialist/Parent Educator. My role then was to bring together groups of parents on a weekly basis at community centers and later in public schools. At these gatherings information on child development was discussed. We also played games and made games and toys the parents could use with their child(ren). It was a wonderful program that was well-received by both parents and classroom teachers. I loved it!
Snapper: What was your education training at Millersville like?
LIC: In both elementary and early childhood education it was excellent! In addition to the prescribed courses, the Stayer Research and Learning Center conducted all types of workshops and programs. Early childhood education was flowering along with the realization that early intervention in a child’s life was of great value for her/his later life success. A wide variety of resources were devoted to early education.
Snapper: Could you talk about Model Schools a little more?
LIC: The concept for “model schools” evolved from John Dewey’s ideas of an ” experimental school.” “Lab Schools,” as they were frequently called, were part of the progressive era in education in the late 19th and early 20th century.
They were designed to explore the latest and most innovative ideas and methods in education. Future teachers could observe and interact with “master teachers” as they taught at these schools. At Millersville children attended a school on campus administered and staffed by the college. Most of the “master teachers” also taught college courses. I believe that the “Model or Lab Schools” are currently the “missing link” between educational theory and practice. Here at Millersville, it was a “seat of innovation!”
Snapper: What did you do after you left the Model Cities program?
LIC: In the late ’80s and ’90s, I worked as a program coordinator in an early childhood education center. I worked with staff and parents. The goal was for every child to have the best possible experience, emotionally, socially and academically. In other words, they hopefully developed a positive self-image and received skills that prepared them for the school experience.
Snapper: What did you do after that?
LIC: One thing I love is reading to children, because I recognized the importance of literacy. In 1998, after I retired, I worked at Barnes and Noble as the storyteller. I also did reading programs in nursery schools and day care centers, and now I do it at DogStar Books. I’m the Book Witch.
The whole idea is to introduce young children to books and nurture their love of books. Each story time has a special theme. The books I read, as well as the finger plays and songs we sing, are centered around the book themes. As a bonus, the children also make a theme-centered craft. So, their listening, speaking and motor skills are challenged! It is great fun!
Snapper: Why is reading important? It seems like people read fewer and fewer books and are more isolated in our fast-paced, high tech society.
LIC: If you do research in the library, you are exposed to a wider breadth of ideas then you are when you just use the computer as a resource. When people are only engaged with electronic devices it limits communication and conversation to some extent, and diminishes education and critical thinking. So much of learning is the exchange of ideas and debate. This is true across all fields of study.
Snapper: What kind of student activism was there when you were at Millersville?
LIC: Political action was not a strong part of the campus life in the very early sixties. That came to Millersville a few years later when the War in Vietnam became a large focus in everyone’s life. I did, however, hand out leaflets on human rights and peace issues here and abroad. My usual place to do this was by the lake. Its location, at that time was close to the student center, the dorms and the library. One or two leaflet topics caused some rather heated discussions in a few of my classes. One rather conservative prof indicated he thought I was “traveling down the wrong road!” I believe he was very incorrect!
Snapper: What kind of activism have you been involved in more recently?
LIC: Activism has been part of my life ever since I wrote an editorial on peace for my high school newspaper in 1957. I was very active in the sixties and my choice to work in education that was community focused I also consider part of my activism. More recently, I was part of, and still am part of Women in Black, an international network of women who stand against war and the suffering it brings to all especially women and children. I was also part of a group of women that initiated the start of the Lancaster Coalition for Peace, Social and Environmental Justice. I strongly support unions all workers, and I include professionals (teachers, professors, nurses, state workers, etc. etc.) in that group. To support the efforts of workers to receive and maintain their rights in the workplace, I am a member of the Industrial Workers of the World which supports workers in all walks of life.
Snapper: What are your other interests?
LIC: I have a great love for the arts in all forms. In my professional work I initiated and supported the idea that “the arts” were a necessary, crucial and very basic part of learning, school life, and life in general! Although there have been some positive changes recently, the current trend in public education bothers me tremendously. I believe that teachers and developmental specialists should be the ones deciding what form public education takes, not elected representatives, industrialists and other business interests. Education is for a “whole life and as a whole person,” not just for the workplace! I have a great deal of passion for this subject, as you can tell!
I enjoy reading very much and also I enjoy writing… what I term “verse” and short, short stories. I try to write every day, even though sometimes it’s only a sentence or a line or two. I love attending “openings” of new artwork, plays, films… all give me great pleasure and continue to educate me. I enjoy life in general, including morning walks around the track and F & M!