The Amish Teacher’s Dilemma is available for preorder in paperback and ebook format. You can learn more about the book, including purchase links, by clicking HERE. Enjoy chapter one!
The teacher next door could be the mother they need…
Will she return to her old life…or risk everything to build a new one?
Taking a schoolteacher position in another district is just the change Amish spinster Eva Coblentz needs. And with her new neighbor, blacksmith Willis Gingrich, struggling to raise his three orphaned siblings, Eva is determined to help them heal. But when her relatives insist she come home, Eva must choose between the life she left…and the one she’s growing to love.
“We are in agreement. Eva Coblentz, the position is yours. Do you have any questions for us?
Now would be the time to ask them.”
Eva gazed at the stern faces of the three Amish church elders sitting across the table from her. She should have a dozen questions, but her mind was oddly blank after hearing the news she had been praying for. The teaching job was hers. She wouldn’t have to return home in defeat.
She wanted to pinch herself to make sure she wasn’t dreaming. The men were all staring at her expectantly.
She gathered her scattered thoughts. “I’ve no questions at the moment, Bishop Schultz. I’m grateful for the job.”
“Very goot then.” He nodded once.”
She inclined her head toward the other men. “I would like to thank the school board for giving me the opportunity to teach at New Covenant’s first Amish school.”
She had the position. One that would support her for many years, God willing. Joy and relief made her giddy. Was she grinning like a fool? She wanted to jump for joy. She lowered her eyes and schooled her features to look modest and professional.
But a tiny grin crept out. She had the job! She could do this.
She glanced up. The bishop gave her a little smile then cleared his throat. “The house and furnishing will be yours to use as you wish.”
“Danki.” A job and a home. A huge weight lifted from her chest. Her brother Gene was going to be shocked. He had discouraged her wild plan to travel to Maine alone as a foolish whim. Only her younger brother Danny understood her need to go. Gene said she would be back begging for a place to live in a matter of weeks, but she wouldn’t.
The bishop gathered his papers together. “I think we can adjourn, brothers.”
The meeting was being held in her future classroom. The building itself was so new it still smelled of cut pine boards, varnish and drying paint. Dust motes drifted lazily in the beams of light streaming through the south-facing windows that lined the room. The wide plank floor didn’t show a single scuff mark, and the black board’s pristine condition begged her to scrawl her name across it with chalk. It was a wonderful place to begin her teaching career.
“You do understand that this is a trial assignment,” the man seated to the left of the bishop said.
She struggled to recall his name. Was he Samuel Yoder or Leroy Lapp? The two had been introduced to her as ministers who shared the duties of overseeing the Amish congregation along with the bishop, but she had been so nervous their names didn’t stick with their faces. They were men in their fifties or sixties with long gray beards, salt- and- pepper hair and weathered faces.
“I do understand that my contract will be on a month-by-month basis until I complete a full school year.” She had the job, but could she keep it? She had never taught before. She wasn’t sure what would be expected of her. Her school days were far behind her. What if she wasn’t any good at teaching? What if the children didn’t like her?
The man beside the bishop sat back and crossed his arms over his chest. “I have taken the liberty of writing out a curriculum.” He pushed a thick folder across the table to her. “We expect modest behavior at all times. You must be an example to our kinder.”
“Of course.” So no jumping for joy. She had the feeling her actions would be watched closely by this man.
“Not everyone is suited to life in northern Maine. Our winters are harsh,” the same man said, giving her a stern look.
She decided he was Samuel Yoder, the newly elected school board president. Well, it got mighty cold in Arthur, Illinois, too, and that had never kept her from her duties.
She lifted her chin slightly, not wanting to appear overly bold or prideful as she had been accused of being in the past. “I plan to remain in New Covenant for many years. I’m not one who gives in to adversity easily. I rely on Gott for strength and He has not forsaken me.”
“That is as it should be. Isn’t that so, Brother Samuel?” Bishop Schultz tried again not to grin, but a corner of his mouth tipped up. She liked him a lot.
Samuel Yoder’s frown deepened. The man to his right grinned widely. He had to be Leroy Lapp. “You may count on my wife and me for any assistance getting settled in here.”
“Danki.” Eva started to relax for the first time during her interview. A loud banging started outside the windows. It sounded like someone hammering on metal.
“Das haus is acceptable?” Leroy raised his voice to be heard over the racket.
“Ja, it’s a fine house.” It was the perfect size for her. A small kitchen, a sitting room with wide windows, a bathroom with modern plumbing and two bedrooms. In the backyard was space for a garden and a large blackberry bush loaded with fruit. She would have a home all to herself. Would it feel lonely? She could always get a cat.
Samuel Yoder leaned toward her. “Our children have attended the local public school up until now. Some will find the change to a one-room schoolhouse difficult. I hope you can handle the situation.”
Was he trying to scare her away? She looked down. “I will pray for guidance.”
“We’ll leave you to inspect your new school.” The bishop rose and the other men did likewise.
Eva realized she had forgotten one important thing. “Bishop Schultz, could some bookshelves be added to this classroom?”
“I don’t see why not. How big and where do you want them?”
She looked around the room and settled on the perfect place behind her desk. She crossed the room. “Here. About six feet long and three shelves high. I want the smallest child to be able to reach them all.”
“It will take a lot of books to fill that much space.” Samuel’s dour expression showed his disapproval. “We don’t have the budget to buy so many.”
She grinned at him. “Oh, you don’t have to buy them. I already have them. My brother will ship them here for me.” A job, a house and with the arrival of her beloved books she would have everything she needed to make her happy.
The men exchanged glances, shrugged and filed out after lifting their black hats from a row of pegs near the door. The clanging outside continued.
Her new school.
Eva savored the words. She had spent the last of her savings to get here, and here she would stay no matter what her brother or Samuel Yoder thought. She got to her feet and turned in a slow circle with her arms held wide. This was her new life. Her new career. Her way to serve the Lord in the newly formed Amish settlement of New Covenant, Maine.
At thirty years of age she would no longer be dependent on her older brother to provide for her. She could make her own decisions now. From the time she was fifteen she had been living off the charity of her brother Gene. Charity he gave grudgingly. She’d kept house and cared for their elderly grandparents who lived in the Daadi Haus, or grandfather’s house, next to the main home, tasks Gene’s wife, Corrine, claimed she couldn’t do because of her poor health. She had all she could manage taking care of her three boys.
It wasn’t that Eva had been treated badly. She hadn’t been. Mostly she had been ignored. Like the extra cots Gene and Corrine kept for guests. Never thought about until they were needed. She hadn’t minded. It gave her more time to read. Books took her everywhere and anywhere. Each evening she would read to her grandparents who had both suffered from failing eyesight. Mostly she read the Bible and the newspaper to them but after her grandfather took himself off to bed Eva would get out one of the novels her grandmother enjoyed as much as she did. Eva treasured the memory of those evenings.
Rather than risk losing Eva to marriage, her brother Gene had steered away every would-be suitor except one persistent fellow. Eva had quickly learned she couldn’t talk to a man who didn’t love books as she did. She wasn’t disappointed when he stopped seeing her.
“Marriage isn’t for everyone,” her grandmother had told her. “Gott must have other plans for you. He will show you in due time.”
When her grandparents had gone to their rest within a month of each other, Eva had been at a loss to fill the void in her life until she saw a newspaper ad for an Amish schoolteacher in Maine. Somehow, she knew it was meant for her. God was showing her a new path. She’d never taught school, but Amish schoolteachers received no formal training. She would learn right along with her students. It had taken all the courage she could muster to answer that ad and to tell her family she was leaving.
Clang, clang, clang.
The hammering outside grew louder. She scowled at the open door. Hopefully, she wouldn’t have to compete with this much noise when she was trying to teach. She moved to the window to locate the source of the clatter. Across the road she saw a man pounding on an ancient-looking piece of machinery with steel wheels and a scoop-like nose on the front end.
The man was Amish by his dress, not one of the Englisch neighbors that vastly outnumbered the Amish in their new community. He wore a straw hat, and a collarless blue shirt with the sleeves rolled up, revealing muscular, tan forearms. He wielded the heavy hammer like it weighed next to nothing. His broad shoulder strained the fabric of his shirt.
She saw the school board members get into their buggies and drive off. They waved but didn’t stop to speak to the young man.
When he had the sheet of metal shaped to fit the front of the machine, he stood back to assess his work. Eva couldn’t see any imperfections, but he clearly did. He knelt and hammered on the shovel-like nose three more times. Satisfied, he gathered up his tools and started in her direction.
She stepped back from the window. Was he coming to the school? Why? Had he noticed her gawking? Perhaps he only wanted to welcome the new teacher although his lack of a beard said he wasn’t married.
Maybe that was it. Amish teachers were single women. Perhaps he wanted to meet the new unmarried woman in the community. The sooner everyone understood she wasn’t husband- shopping, the happier she would be.
She glanced around the room. Should she meet him by the door? That seemed too eager. Her eyes settled on the large desk at the front of the classroom. She should look as if she were ready for the school year to start. A professional attitude would put off any suggestion that she was interested in meeting single men.
Eva hurried to the desk, pulled out the chair and sat down as the outside door opened. The chair tipped over backward, sending her flailing. Her head hit the wall with a painful thud as she slid to the floor. Stunned, she slowly opened her eyes to see the man leaning over the desk.
“I’m fine. I’m okay,” she said, wondering if she spoke the truth.
He had the most beautiful gray eyes she’d ever beheld. They were rimmed with thick, dark lashes in stark contrast to the mop of curly, dark red hair springing out from beneath his straw hat. Tiny sparks of light whirled around him. “You need a haircut.”
Had she said that out loud? She squeezed her eyes shut. She couldn’t see him, but the stars were still floating behind her closed eyelids.
“I’ve been meaning to fix that chair. Just haven’t gotten around to it yet. A haircut is at the bottom of my list of stuff to get done.” His voice was smooth, husky, low and attractive. She kept her eyes shut, hoping he would speak again.