Meet Your Neighbors: An earth mother and science lover<BR>Retired teacher reaches children with her books

Children have been the focus of Marguerite Hopkins' life.

In addition to rearing three with her husband, George, Hopkins enjoyed a 30-year career in teaching and has published two books geared toward children in grades 1-3.

"Christopher Gaines of the Western Plains" was first published in 1976.

"Chris and Beth" was printed in 1981 and is the second in a series with several other works in the development stages for Hopkins.

"I enjoyed learning about earth science while growing up on a farm," Hopkins said.

"When I got to college I wanted to teach kids about earth science and I enjoyed writing verse."

But things did not fall into place overnight.

Hopkins was born and reared in Greeley, Colo.

During her youth, she aspired to be an actress.

She entered a teacher's college in Greeley in 1947, majoring in drama with a minor in English.

But before completing requirements for her bachelor's degree she met George Hopkins.

They married in 1950 and had their first child one year later.

George was pumping gas during the time Marguerite was pregnant.

She helped make financial ends meet by delivering the Denver Post on a rural paper route for about eight months.

The picture began to brighten when George got a job as a fireman with the Union Pacific Railroad in Cheyenne, Wyo.

in 1951.

He spent a total of 35 years with Union Pacific before taking an early retirement in 1986.

Marguerite also changed jobs in 1951 and was happy to do so.

"A friend in Cheyenne told me I should start (substitute teaching) and I did," she said.

"I was in a building with wind blowing and snow flying outside and said to myself, 'This beats delivering papers.'

Hopkins did not have a college degree, but said Wyoming law at that time did not require teachers in the lower elementary grade levels to have one.

In 1952, she landed her first fulltime teaching position at Valley View Elementary School in Kersey, Colo.

That began her 30-year career and was the only year she spent teaching outside of Wyoming.

Of the next 29 years in Wyoming, 25 were spent in Cheyenne.

She taught first grade the first 25 years and third grade the final five years, retiring in 1987.

It wasn't until 1962 that Hopkins picked up her bachelor's degree in elementary education from the University of Wyoming.

It was around that time that she came up with the idea for writing a children's book.

"I came up with the Christopher character," she said.

"I'm not sure about Gaines, but it rhymes with plains and I've always liked western stuff."

Teaching young children about nature and earth science through rhyme is the premise behind a series of books either in print or under development.

Hopkins added the names of her three children – Louis, Beth and Ginger – as she began writing verse for her first book, "Christopher Gaines of the Western Plains." Patricia Mogen, a niece of Hopkins, drew illustrations for the book.

It was published in 1976 and a second book "Chris and Beth" was printed in 1981.

She is still working on several other books in the series, Hopkins said.

The Hopkins moved to Kingman from Apache Junction in October 1998.

"The air down there was too thick and the traffic too heavy for George, so we moved here for his health," she said.

Two of the couple's three children reside in Wyoming.

Louis Hopkins is a train conductor in Cheyenne and Ginger Erickson teaches kindergarten in Rawlins.

Beth Smith, another daughter, lives in Kalaheo, Hawaii and is a homemaker.

The Hopkins also have eight grandchildren and seven great grandchildren.

In her spare time, Marguerite Hopkins enjoys landscape painting with acrylics and gardening.

Neighbors is a feature that appears Monday in the Kingman Daily Miner.

If you have an interesting story you'd like to share, contact Terry Organ at 753-6397 ext.