Idora C. TuckerJuly 24,2012
Idora C. Tucker
RANDOLPH — Idora C. Tucker, a retired educator who spearheaded special education in Vermont public schools in the 1970s and 1980s, died at her home in Randolph on July 15, 2012. She was 91.
The daughter of Harry H. Cooley, a lifelong farmer and Vermont’s secretary of state under Gov. Philip Hoff, and Gertrude Small Cooley, Idora graduated from UVM and began her teaching career in 1941. Her first job was in a one-room schoolhouse in Randolph Center. In the 1960s, she and her husband, Dr. Ransom E. Tucker, a Randolph obstetrician, served on the board of Randolph’s first special-education class, a local initiative that was funded and supervised by the state at a time when the 1975 federal law mandating a free and appropriate education for all school-age children was a decade in the future.
As an itinerant reading specialist in the Randolph schools in the early ’70s, Idora used innovative methods to help children who were not being served by the standard curriculum. “Working with struggling learners is hard work,” she wrote in an account of her teaching career that she published in 2011, “and sometimes not as successful as one would wish. Add to that the fact that at first I didn’t really know what I was doing or should be doing. Gradually, over a few years, a combination of trial-and-error experience and graduate level training gave me more strategies to use with my pupils and brought with it more confidence in my ability to help them.”
Tucker’s work in Randolph was closely followed by Jean S. Garvin, the state’s director of special educational services, and in 1975, when the Education for All Handicapped Children Act was passed into law, Garvin tapped Idora to help implement the new regulations at the local level. With the Orange Southwest School District as her proving ground, Idora developed an administrative model that would be used by future special education coordinators around the state. “The laws about special education were new and were much resented by almost everyone except parents of the children who needed special education,” Idora wrote. “I was often bitterly attacked in meetings. At first, I felt very threatened. Later, I realized that those who gave me such a hard time were merely venting their frustration at doing something they didn’t want to do, and I was the person telling them that the law required it. After that, I stopped taking it personally and just went about doing my job to the best of my ability.”
In 1980, Garvin recruited Tucker to arrange teacher training around the state; the job required driving some 20,000 miles a year. “In 1980, the federal law was only two years into implementation and there was a lot of groundwork to be laid,” remembered Judy Eklund, a former colleague in the Department of Education, in a phone interview on July 18. “Idora was at the forefront of making that happen. She was a visionary and an organizer, and she knew how to get the job done.” After retiring from the Department of Education in 1986, Tucker mentored young teachers through the Upper Valley Teacher Training Program, then returned to the classroom as a volunteer at the Rumney Memorial School in Middlesex.
She is survived by her daughters, Ruth Tucker, of Bomoseen, Sara Tucker, of Randolph, and Martha Tucker, of Montpelier; her sons, James Tucker and John Tucker, both of Randolph Center; her sister Ruth Demarest-Godfrey, of Brookfield; her brothers, Charles H. Cooley, of Randolph Center, and John H. Cooley, of Baldwin, Mich.; and six grandchildren, Shawn Ingram, James R. Tucker, Thomas Texier, Hannah Phillips, Courtney Phillips and Sara Phillips. She was predeceased by her husband, Dr. Ransom Tucker, in 1972; her sister Marion Stouder; and a grandson, Douglas Ingram.
Memorial services will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday, July 28, at Bethany United Church of Christ in Randolph, with the Rev. Robin Junker officiating. There are no calling hours. Private burial will be in the Randolph Center Cemetery at a later date.
Arrangements are under the direction of the Day Funeral Home, Randolph.
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