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Adella Steiner Oyer, first married woman hired by Bluffton Schools

By Fred Steiner
Bluffton Icon and Ada Icon founder

Adella Steiner Oyer
Dec. 6, 1900 – Nov. 27, 1964
Bluffton High School class of 1920

Adella Steiner Oyer’s teaching career begin at age 21 in a one-room rural Richland Township school, driving a horse and buggy to school each day. By the end of her career she had attained an impressive 37½ years of teaching, which at the time was the greatest number of teaching years accumulated by any Bluffton teacher.

Of her teaching years, three were in Richland Township rural country schools–one year at Hillville school and two at Phillips school. 

Those teaching duties included:

• arriving prior to school to light the potbelly stove
• cleaning the school room after students left for the day
• a combination of miscellaneous responsibilities including playground duty
• teaching eight grades at once–with up to three dozen students in the room



Her remaining teaching years were in Bluffton. There she taught 22 years in the old Bluffton elementary and 12½ years in the original wing of the current elementary.

In her first two years in Bluffton she taught mixed fourth and fifth grade classes, certainly a relief after teaching eight grades at once. Those early classes had up to 35 students. Following those first two years, she taught fourth grade until her retirement in 1964.

It should be no surprise that she explained in an early 1960s Bluffton PTA meeting that students of today have more access to learning than their parents had. She experienced that first-hand.

Beyond her three-decade teaching tenure, she was a Bluffton female teaching pioneer. In an era when only unmarried woman were hired as teachers, she was the very first woman the Bluffton school board hired who didn’t fit that description. Her marital description was unusual, explained later in this feature.

While Adella Steiner Oyer, addressed by her students as Mrs. Oyer, taught two generations – in some cases three – of Bluffton’s fourth graders very few students and parents knew that she also raised five step-children, each one considering her as “mother.”

Here’s her story
She attended Hilty country school, also called Silver Maple School, still standing at the corner of Columbus Grove Road and State Route 696 in Richland Township.

Her first English words were learned and spoken in that one-room school house. She and nearly all other youngsters in what was known as the rural Swiss Settlement west of Bluffton grew up with a Swiss dialect as their first language.

An exceptionally gifted student, in 1916 the Bluffton News reported on her spelling abilities. Sixty-five pupils from Beaverdam, Bluffton and Richland Township competed in a spelling contest. Adella Steiner finished second with 95 out of 100 words spelled correctly. The winner spelled 96 correctly.  

The next month, in another spelling contest, Adella again tied for second. These top placements qualified her as one of Richland Township, Bluffton and Beaverdam students to compete in the Allen County contest. The News did not report the results of that contest. 

At Hilty school, she graduated from the eighth grade in 1916, moving on to attend Bluffton High School, graduating there in 1920.

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