A child of the space age, Donna Monson isn’t a person who likes to be told she can’t do something.
It was a “Can Do” society back then, when teachers would oftentimes roll heavy carts holding black and white TV sets into their classrooms to allow students to watch the latest moon launch or Apollo splashdown.
Determined to outdo the Cold War launch of Sputnik by the Soviet Union, American men — armed only with slide rules and computers that required practically an airport hangar for storage — set their eyes on the moon.
Everyone was encouraged to study math and science — everyone, that is, except women.
But Monson, a 1975 graduate of Kuemper Catholic High School in Carroll, always loved math, pretty much always wanted to be a teacher, and wasn’t going to let anything stop her when she went away to college at the University of Northern Iowa.
“I had a freshman advisor who told me that girls weren’t smart enough to be math teachers… and I was too small to teach,” she recalls.
At 5’ 2”, the petite Monson quickly set about to prove that advisor wrong.
“My determination kicked in and kept me in the field just to prove I could do it,” she says.
After earning her degree, Monson landed her first professional job as a high school math teacher in Forest City. She stayed there until 1986 when she and her husband moved to Boone. As a young mom, she opted to stay home with her children for a few years and began teaching part-time at Sacred Heart Catholic School in Boone in 1990, eventually transitioning into full-time.
Today, she teaches sixth, seventh and eighth grade math and seventh and eighth grade science, encouraging all her students that these are skills they can master.
“What I like about math is that I can get an answer,” she explains. “I wasn’t a (literature) person looking for symbolism and things in a story… I like math and science because it’s more concrete.”
At Sacred Heart, she also enjoys being able to share her faith.
“I like that every morning we start off praying with the kids and asking if there’s anything they’d like to pray for,” she says.